All photos: Emily Tatum
You know how sometimes you just know? How you just know that someone is the one or how you just know that you chose the right major? When I stepped out of the car and I was walking up to my dorm at the University of Florida, I just knew that something didn’t feel quite right.
I could already feel the small town suffocating me like I was a mime stuck in a box. Except this box wasn’t imaginary and I wouldn’t be free at the end of the act. People don’t just choose wrong colleges, do they? Especially when that college has the lowest acceptance rate in your state, right? I knew these answers, I just didn’t want to answer them for myself. And for a while, it was okay, really. I told myself I had great friends, intelligent professors and good grades. Who wouldn’t be happy?
But all along I knew I was playing a character in someone else’s story and my story didn’t involve UF, wearing blue and orange or having the main interests of my life be date functions and excessive drinking- it never was. I have always dreamed of a big city and simpler things, and to be inspired by the community around me while I did them. But to uproot my life and tell people I wanted to leave a prestigious college was too complicated and at the time, for me, was something that I held a great deal of shame about.
After complaining for about 30 minutes about not wanting to go back to UF, my friend Becky looked at me and said, “OK, don’t go back then.”
Five short and sweet words that caught me off guard. The moment I stumbled over my own words telling her I could just not go back was the moment I realized I could.
It was the moment I realized that sometimes people make mistakes within their own choices, especially so young. To swallow your pride and admit you were wrong is something you will never regret. Not returning to UF has shown me how important happiness is and more importantly, how important it is to take the reins within your own life and live purely for yourself because nobody will do it for you. If you read this and you’re thinking of something specific to your own life that you wish to change, I hope you have the courage to change it as well, because living a life out of complacency isn’t nearly as rewarding as one perfectly curated for you.