I spent my 20s living with multiple roommates in multiple neighborhoods in New York City. I’d never picked out a bathmat or been able to identify all the food in the fridge.

On the cusp of 30, I decided I was ready for a “room of my own” before fate or family tied me to a life of compromising on couch color. With two months to go until my birthday, I decided to embark on a year of self-discovery and cooking for one.

Sure, I had done my homework on the pluses and minuses of single life. Studies show that living alone can potentially lead to a shorter lifespan and poor eating habits. But weren’t all those TV depictions of single women who  while bathed in light from their open fridge just a cliché?

I quit a long-term job and moved into my sparkly new studio on the same day. I was terrified of starting at a new company but eager to take on new challenges. Plus, after five years of writing my ass off every morning, I had a literary agent and an almost-complete book manuscript. And while my last couple of relationships had ended badly, I was excited about a close friend who was becoming something more.

As I began to pack up my belongings, I let myself soak up the last month of my 20s. I was living in the age of Beyoncé, and I was feeling myself.

A Wake-Up Call

The move went well, and my “close friend” became a fixture at my new place, helping me hang photos and put together furniture. I shared my first few meals with him there, and we spent those early weekends exploring the neighborhood together.

I was happy—independent but partnered, side-stepping the stereotypes I'd feared. My new job and apartment were big steps forward in my life, and having someone to share them with made them seem that much more real.

Then that someone became a no one to me: After six months of dating, I went to his house and found my toiletries hidden and another woman’s toothbrush by the sink. Stunned, I retreated to my apartment.

But the place I had envisioned as a sanctuary felt like anything but. The studio that was supposed to be a blank slate on which I’d write my way forward in life was crowding me out with memories I now wanted to forget.

I was single and about to turn 30—a birthday that happened to coincide with the five-year anniversary of my mother’s death. While I had expected this anniversary to feel like the others—sucky but bearable—something about this one stung acutely. At 30, my mother was married and on her way to having me. What would she think if she saw me now, pacing my apartment in mismatched socks?

That’s when I decided it was time to take charge of this whole living alone thing. I set out to consciously experience what was happening within my own four walls—and came to some pretty freeing realizations.

Read the full post on Greatist.