After being born and raised in Canada, lifestyle and beauty blogger Estée Lalonde followed her heart to London in 2010. But after a recent break-up, Estée found herself living alone for the first time in her life.
Here, she reflects on the challenges she’s not only faced, but risen to since embracing singledom, and how some time getting to really know herself has been incredibly well-spent
I have always lived with someone. My family, my boyfriend; someone was always there for me to bounce ideas off, comfort me, wake up to. But now, at the age of 28, I have found myself in a position where I don’t have that soft place to fall. Although I was looking forward to the independence, a big part of me was terrified. Could I actually do this?
Going through a break-up comes with its own challenges. The heartache, leaving behind a life I had known, understanding that I wouldn’t see my beloved greyhound, Reggie, everyday… But I was determined to make my new life worthwhile, and I was going to take on the good, and the not so good, with a new energy.
If trying to find a flat and arrange utilities was any indication to go by, I was starting to realise that patience and perseverance would be two things I would require for this new phase in my life.
The physical move went well and I threw myself into unpacking my things. I didn’t want company. I wanted to carefully unpack my life, taking time to absorb my past and how it was going to fit into my future. I was unwaveringly dedicated to putting things in their rightful place so I could wake up to familiar surroundings. Items that I had, in a past life, thoughtfully chosen to help uncover my new, future self.
At 3am, exhausted and satisfied with my progress, I prepared for bed. I turned the music off (Fleetwood Mac, obviously) and crawled onto my mattress on the floor, under my fresh sheets that still smelt of that new, plastic smell from their packaging, and waited to doze off.
It was dark and my body was exhausted, but my mind had other ideas. I lay there, wondering why I didn’t take the time to hang up some blinds. The city lights poured in and I listened to one solo heartbeat pounding away and the tears came down. It was confusing. I was yearning for space, but I had so much of it I could hardly move.
Like my apartment, with its naked windows, I had never felt so exposed. The loneliness and sadness was overwhelming. It was something that I hadn’t felt before. Reluctantly, I called my mom. I didn’t want to wake her, but I needed someone to tell me that it was going to be OK. We all need a cheerleader; someone on our side, to lift us up. It was, and still is, comforting to know I have someone like that in my life.
Build your sanctuary
After that call, and about a week into the move, I started choosing furniture and items I wanted to fill my apartment with. I tried to visualise in my mind how I wanted my life to look.
Am I a modern, cool girl, with clean lines and pastel colours? Or perhaps super laid-back surrounded by vintage furniture and modern lighting? In the end, all I wanted to do with the space was to make it feel like home. A place where I could turn the key and let the day wash away. My happiness seemed to depend on it, and I spent my down-time making lists. It was such a great distraction and led me to some standout pieces, including my camel-coloured leather couch, and decorative pillows for my bed (they do serve a purpose, damn it!).
As the days passed, I had organised my physical space, and began to hit my stride. Rather than retreating in fear, I made a decision to keep up with the day-to-day routines that would ground me. I threw myself into my work, attended regular yoga classes, took baths and found relief in new friendships and family. I was starting to feel the ground below my feet slowly come back, and sometimes, when I passed a mirror, I recognised my confident, happy self in that reflection. I was starting to feel joy once again.
There are still lonely moments of course, but they’re fewer and far between. Last week, a note was slipped under my door; my neighbour asking that I come to her door as soon as I had a minute. It appeared that Reggie had exceeded our balcony boundary and had “watered” one of her flower pots. She insisted that I come in and take a look so she could figuratively rub my nose in it.
Of course I apologised and offered to replace her plant, and left with my tail between my legs, but months have passed and I realise now that this is life, my life, and it doesn’t have to be so serious (take that, neighbour). Humour really is the best medicine, and little things, like tending my plants or making a home-cooked meal, matter to me so much more.
Learning to live alone has been truly transformative. It has forced me to look deeper inside myself. It has facilitated growth and change within me that feels more like reconnecting with my roots and core. I have learned so much about myself. It has been such a trying and beautiful journey to experience.
I’m learning to go easier on myself. Going through this has taught me that there is something within me – a fight, a desire to succeed, not just during tough times. That life is good. And I am so thankful for this experience. I’ve carved out a life for my dog Reggie and me, and I think that he and I can both agree, we are happy. Mostly.
I highly recommend living alone at least once in your life. Get to know who you really are. Realise that you’re tough and fearless and vulnerable and scared, but that this is what makes us all better people. Get to know you. It will serve you well.
‘On the Line with Estée Lalonde’ is available on all major podcasting platforms from 14 September; the Estée Lalonde for Daisy London jewellery range is available exclusively from daisyjewellery.com from 19 October. Follow @EsteeLalonde on social media.