掌控人生,从一个人住开始 Living on My Own, and Taking Control of My Life
“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”
—Michel de Montaigne
◎ By Sian Norris 译 / 杨锐
I always wanted to live alone. When I was a teenager I had a fantasy about living in my own flat, wearing a Japanese kimono and drinking lapsang souchong1) (I read a lot of Colette2) novels at a formative3) age). But when I moved in with my boyfriend at the age of 23, I started planning for a new future—one with other people in it.
This all changed when I turned 30. Like Colette in my paperback novels, I had arrived at my “age of reckoning.” I left my boyfriend, went to live with my mum and her partner, and a year later finally moved into my own place. Alone.
Those first few days of being by myself in my flat—decorated with my choice of colours, with my books on the shelves and my pictures, hung by me, on my walls—were disconcerting4). I walked around the few rooms, wondering what to do now. With no one to move around, no one to talk to, no one to ask me how my day had been, I didn’t know where to put myself. The life I had once assumed—the one with a partner and a house and a family—had vanished. Here I was, facing a new future, living by myself.
That trepidation5), that anxiety, soon turned into a feeling of liberation.
Living alone gave me a sense of freedom I hadn’t known I’d craved. In my own flat, with my own space, I started to write with a renewed energy. I’d spent years writing the first draft of a novel—years filled with interruptions and squeezed space. Within months, I had finished a book.
By taking control of my physical space, I opened up a new emotional space for myself. I was working harder and better than I’d ever worked before. My self-image changed with the move, too. I started calling myself a writer. In Woolfspeak, I had found my “room of one’s own6)” where I could carve out a space for my creative self.
Despite the fact that I’m a radical feminist writer and activist, my ex-partner and I had easily slipped into gendered roles in our shared home. I was convinced that I was rubbish at anything technical, and I hate talking to people on the phone. He took on those jobs, while I did most of the cooking and cleaning.
Moving into my own place, this was no longer possible. I had to call the gas company; I had to learn how to programme my central heating, and tune my TV. No one else was going to do it for me. All these things I had been convinced I couldn’t do, convinced I didn’t understand, I was forced to learn. I had to become more capable, and fast. I had to become independent.
There is something blissfully selfish about living alone. In a society where women are expected to take on so much domestic and emotional labour, where we are typecast7) as nurturers and carers, living purely for myself has been both a joyful and liberating experience.
Living alone means I am my priority. It feels quite subversive8) or transgressive to say so. And yet, there’s something really positive about putting myself first. Everything is designed for me, around me, by me. My space is my own space, and my time is my own time. I don’t have to answer to anyone.
Of course, it also means that I am responsible for everything. It’s up to me to take out the bins as well as do the cooking. Again, in a world where women carry the burden of domestic labour in relationships, there is something liberating about cleaning up for myself and not after other people. I keep my flat tidy because I want to live in a pleasant space, not because I’m carrying the domestic burden for a partner, parent, or child. Taking ownership is empowering.
It would be a lie to say that life doesn’t sometimes get lonely. However, I believe we can reframe the way we think about loneliness. We can transform the state of being alone into one that is motivating and empowering. When I start to feel lonely, I go for a walk, watch a film, read a book or take a bath.
Most of all, I write.
Moving into my own place proved to me that I can be capable, independent, and in control of my own space and my life.
And yes—I do have that Japanese kimono, and I do drink lapsang souchong.
1. lapsang souchong：正山小种(中国产上等红茶，有明显的烟熏香味)
2. Colette：即西多妮·加布里埃尔·科莱特(Sidonie Gabrielle Colette, 1873~1954)，法国国宝级女作家，代表作为小说《琪琪》(Gigi)。
3. formative [ˈfɔː(r)mətɪv] adj. 有助于形成(或成长)的
4. disconcerting [ˌdɪskənˈsɜː(r)tɪŋ] adj. 使人不安的
5. trepidation [ˌtrepɪˈdeɪʃ(ə)n] n. 惊恐
6. 此处指英国著名作家弗吉尼亚·伍尔芙(Virginia Woolf, 1882~1941)的一句话：“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”伍尔芙是意识流文学代表人物，被誉为20世纪现代主义与女性主义的先锋，代表作包括小说《达洛维夫人》(Mrs. Dalloway)、《到灯塔去》(To the Lighthouse)及随笔《一间自己的房间》(A Room of One’s Own)等。
7. typecast [ˈtaɪpˌkɑːst] vt. 一成不变地看待
8. subversive [səbˈvɜː(r)sɪv] adj. 颠覆性的
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