I had always been a bit anxious about move in day, especially as my last summer before college drew to an abrupt end and September rounded the corner. What worried me were things most incoming college freshmen worry about; leaving important things behind (like a fan if your residence hall doesn't have AC), making sure everything fits in your vehicle and the actual moving in process itself. But what worried me the most was just how much stuff I actually had to bring with me. Here I was on a hot and muggy September day with a Suburban full of my life's contents waiting to be transplanted into a room I had never stepped foot in before... and I had no idea if it would all fit.
... what worried me the most was just how much stuff I actually had to bring with me.
Now that I look back on move in day, I realize that most of my anxiety came from my fear of being without things I thought I "needed." Since September, numerous things have found their way back to my home on weekend trips to see family and friends, returning to their natural habitat in my much larger 14'x16' room. Things I decided I didn't really need in the context of a small double occupancy dorm room. But what really surprised me about my experience thus far with dorm life is my change of mindset.
Like most things, dorm rooms can have good features and they can have bad features; but most of all, they can be downright tiny. The last six months of my life have been exciting and sometimes a little overwhelming, but above all, they have been very insightful. Here are some things I learned about myself, and myself as an American, by making the transition from house to dorm.
1. America: Land of Materialism
America may be affectionately referred to as the 'Land of the Free', but underneath all of that red, white, and blue is a whole lot of stuff. Americans live to shop, hoard and collect. They love to buy houses and fill those houses with stuff and then acquire more stuff and pass along all that stuff to their children when they die, so that the cycle continues until great grandsons and grand daughters inherit so much stuff, they wind up on the next episode of "Hoarders."
... underneath all of that red, white, and blue is a whole lot of stuff.
Sure, I might be over generalizing, even stereotyping - call it what you will - the fact still remains that the United States is a very materialistic country that breeds a materialistic culture. This being said, it's no wonder why my mind went into panic mode when I tried imagining a scenario in which all of my material goods were condensed down into the back of a Suburban.
2. Knowing What You Need and What You Don't Need
Anyone who has witnessed the new fad for tiny houses in the US, especially in the Pacific Northwest, has either thought one of two things: 1) that would be interesting to attempt, or 2) oh hell no. The mindsets of Americans seem to be very much black and white when it comes to materialistic ideologies and tendencies. Either you have them or you don't. And to be clear, just because one exercises these tendencies, does not mean they are happy in doing so. I've wished many times that I could lead a more simple life, without the ridiculous amounts of possessions I currently own. In my heart I know that the world would be a far more selfless place without such intense needs to own and acquire, but yet, I continue to live as I have for the last eighteen years.
... just because one exercises these [materialistic] tendencies, does not mean they are happy in doing so.
Realization of your own tendencies may not always lead to change, but it does give you a lot of insight into who you are. That is why moving into a dorm was such a crucial stepping stone in my journey of self awareness. Had I never been forced into such a tiny living space, I would have never been confronted with the blatant reality that most of my "stuff" was pretty darn useless. Living in a dorm has shown me what I need, and what I don't need, to live happy and comfortably.
[I was] confronted with the blatant reality that most of my "stuff" was pretty darn useless.
3. Old Habits Die Hard
They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, so it's lucky for all of us incoming freshmen that we are only just starting this journey we call life. There's still some malleability to the way we live. Perhaps living on our own, independently, for the first time in a setting such as that of a cramped college dorm is one of the more beneficial things we can do as a generation growing up in a materialistic setting. Perhaps, in time, America may learn the actual value of material items and start realizing its potential as something greater than just a nation full of shopping malls and hungry consumers. But, as they say, old habits die hard and a nation surely does not change over night. Even my own tendencies were not altered until I spent almost half a year in a college dorm with another person and both of our possessions closing in on top of us.
... old habits die hard and a nation surely does not change over night.
Choosing to live in a dorm my freshman year of college was, unsurprisingly, a very beneficial decision. It has forever altered my idea of what it means to live and what living requires; it has acted as an insightful look into who I am as a student, an American, and a human being.
Lead image redit: Alexander Diedrick