The Wild, Wild UF: Remember to Stick to Your Guns

When I reminisce about my freshman year of college, I can’t help but compare it to the Wild West in those old Western movies. You know, the ones where the law barely exists and a bunch of cowboys just go crazy all over town?

We are the cowboys, finally getting freedom from the lawmen *cough* our parents *cough* with basically no rules to follow except to pass classes and get jobs after we graduate. Pastel scooters are our horses. Club fliers blow past like tumbleweeds while “Old Town Road” plays in the background. We can hang out with friends and order Midnight Cookies at 2 a.m., sleep in twin beds at our SOs’ dorms or wake up five minutes before class starts if we really want to. This is all part of the college experience, so if this is your first year here at UF, then go crazy.

However, it’s important to not get wrapped up in all the freedom and lose sight of what makes you who you are. It’s very hard. Trust me, I’ve been there. This is especially true if you feel like you have to act a certain way to truly have the “college experience.”

This is where personal boundaries come in. There are a lot of technical definitions for boundaries, but I like to explain it as trusting your gut. If your gut is relaxed or excited while hearing about something, then that’s your gut telling you that you are good to go. If an event or situation makes you feel anxious and scared, then that’s your gut telling you something’s off. This shaky feeling is a red flag that alerts you when you’re about to violate what you believe in. While what you believe in will change with experience and personal growth, everyone has their deep core values that root them in who they are. This is very difficult for people who do not self-reflect and recognize these uneasy feelings. It’s like that feeling you get while walking by dark alleys at night. Your gut is your most trusted ally that often gets put on mute in everyday life. You have to enforce your values with proper personal boundaries.

Now when I say enforce, I don’t mean putting on your spurs and playing sheriff; I just mean that sometimes you need to say no. You don’t have to avoid everything, just learn when and how to say it to best serve your needs. I struggled with this my first year at UF because I always pictured college as the time to live it up. Instead of declining invites to parties or dinners when I was exhausted or not in the mood, I would go out in fear of seeming uncool. Time and time again, I forced myself to go out just to end up being miserable when I should’ve listened to my gut. Don’t get me wrong — I love to be with my friends and let loose, especially after a hard week at school; however, I also recognize that I am the type of person that needs some time away from people to recharge. I used to feel guilty about this and had a chronic case of FOMO. Once I accepted that it’s just how I am, I became able to be more present with my friends and feel more at peace with myself. Boundaries aren’t just a necessity in friendships; they are also essential to romantic, roommate and familial relationships. Who wants a significant other or family member that you have to pretend to be someone else around? If any of these people gripe about your boundaries or base your value on how far you’ll bend over backward for them, they’re not worth your energy. Create and reinforce your boundaries. You know who you are, how you operate and what you need to maximize your happiness. Trust me, it’s way cooler to stay true to yourself rather than be everyone’s doormat.

With this in mind, don’t lose yourself to the lawless lifestyle. Step out of your comfort zone and explore who you are, but don’t get lost on the trail. Go crazy, go stupid, just don’t go without your boundaries.