My First Week Living in Student Halls (Postgrad Edition)

Michael J. Vowles
8 min readNov 25, 2021

When I didn’t get either of my preferences for student accommodation, I decided not to worry about it. So long as I had a place to sleep near campus, I didn’t care what that place looked like. My thinking was that if I spent energy trying to micromanage my living situation to make it as comfortable as possible, that would already be giving in to an anxious mindset. Whenever I worried about what my life in halls would be like, I told myself that trying to control the uncontrollable was a fool’s game. I told myself that whatever my living arrangement looked like, I would deal with it. In general, I’m trying to be more comfortable with the unknown. I think if I can learn to embrace uncertainty, I’ll be happier.

It’s an ongoing process. I’m trying to get into the habit of not imagining too hard what the future will look like. I know from past experience that my imagination has no fucking idea what it’s on about. Usually, it can only conceive of extremes- things going either unrealistically perfect or comically terrible. But real life is rarely so polarized. I always come back to the example of my student exchange at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire in the United States; it’s far and away the best decision I ever made, but it wasn’t an unmitigated success. I still had moments of weakness, doubt, and sadness. Everything that happened there- both good and bad- was completely unexpected. So with that in mind, I prepared for my time in halls at Kingston University by expecting the unexpected. I had a strong conviction that the desire to control comes from an anxious mindset, and I wanted to foster a confident mindset.

Confidence to me involves being loose, flexible, spontaneous. But true confidence- healthy confidence- involves striking a balance between that kind of openness and being authentic to oneself. I thought about how I feel whenever I say “yes” or “no” to something, whether it’s communicated verbally or simply implicit in my actions. Sometimes yes can feel empowering, and sometimes it can feel disenfranchising. It’s the same with no. For example, saying “yes” feels like an act of courage when you’re confronting yourself, but it feels like an act of weakness when you’re confronting others. And vice versa: no reinforces our worst self-images in the context of confronting an opportunity to test our…

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Michael J. Vowles

Freelance writer, occasional traveler, full-time ice cream taster. I run a blog at https://tumbleweedwrites.com where I ramble with enthusiasm.