Miss Independent By @poppy_scarlett
By Poppy Cumming- Spain
On Wednesday, I went to my Great Aunt Gloria’s funeral. It was a somber day, as is to be expected, but she lived to the ripe old age of 94 and was suffering badly with dementia, so her death was a relief in many respects.
Dealing with death always gets you thinking. About life, about family and what matters most. She was the last member of her generation in my family to pass, and she left no children behind. Save her marriage; she spent most of her life as somewhat of a loner. Until we moved her into a care home two years ago, she’d looked after herself and lived alone. We’d pop in to visit and get her food shopping, but she was otherwise independent, and comfortably so.
I like to think that I’m fiercely independent. I’m not. To be honest, I don’t think anyone truly is, but we rarely admit it. Relying on other people is scary. It makes you vulnerable. And, when those people aren’t around, you feel lost.
My lack of independence has become increasingly apparent in the past few weeks. Two weeks ago, my housemate and close friend, Maeve, headed off on holiday to Cuba with the rest of our girl group. I knew I was going to struggle without her. Since we’ve lived together, she’s been my rock. I’ve gone to her every time I’ve felt broken by school or life, and she’s put me back together again. Unfortunately, this has been a fairly regular occurrence in the last six months. So, naturally, I was dreading her leaving; particularly given the weird headspace I found myself in post-D&AD. The day she left I had a pretty severe hangover. A regular weekend occurrence, during which I usually slope down into her room where she’ll make me a tea, console me and, if I’m lucky, stroke my hair. I was off to a very bad start and have been counting down the days till she gets back ever since. Thankfully, on the promise of a super short commute to school and, of course, my excellent company I was able to enlist a replacement for at least the first week – Ben. Poor old Ben may have got more than he bargained for, as he too became my Agony Aunt and, sadly, my hangover nurse on one day too. But, we did have some fun, didn’t we Ben?
Just as he bid me farewell, so too did my partner, Meg. She headed back to Birmingham for some much-needed family time. With my other housemates away with their boyfriends, I was all alone in a 5-bedroom house. As an only child, being alone should be something I’m used to. Unfortunately, perhaps because I spent a lot of time on my own as a child, I hate it. For me, ‘alone time’ is pretty torturous. It means too much time with my thoughts and some arbitrary navel-gazing. I don’t understand how people do it by choice and feel for those who feel lonely every day. Thinking about it, this is probably what got me into working with the elderly. But anyway…
Yesterday, I spent the day with Meg and admitted to her that it was the best day of my half term. The hours flew by as we chatted, giggled and bounced ideas off each other. It was great. I’d never have that much fun on my own. And we both agreed that, although we can produce ideas individually, they morph into stickier, blurrier entities when we’re together. Safe to say, there’s no way I could be a single.
In a way, I envy people like my great aunt Gloria who are comfortably independent. It shows strength of character. Both my parents are single and live alone happily. My dad, in particular, often prefers being on his own. It means he can do exactly as he pleases, which is undeniably appealing. I, however, lived alone briefly and spent as little time at home as possible. A busy house full of people trumps a quiet night in for one any day.
My experience over the past few weeks has made me wonder if I’m weak. Should I be able to cope on my own? Particularly as a woman, I have an overwhelming urge to fight against relying on other people. So admitting that I’m not as independent as I like to think I am smarts a little. I could definitely do with toughening up a bit (I’m a bit of a sop) but I’ve concluded that it takes guts to allow yourself to depend on other people. It’s risky. There’s a chance it could end in disaster. Death. A breakup. A fall out. A change of heart, perhaps. But depending on others is a risk worth taking. It’s how great relationships, friendships, and partnerships are built.
So, after spending most of today alone, I’m undeniably excited to have Meg back, Maeve scheduled to arrive home before this SCAB goes live and term 3 with the other 33 members of John beginning tomorrow. Until then, I’ll try to enjoy my last moments of independence, with Ne-Yo and Destiny’s Child as my soundtrack.