The Freedom Effect


It’s the first weekend back at school since vacation and everyone knows what that means: Frisky Friday, Slutty Saturday, and Sorry Sunday. The college years are shorter than most students imagine and the mental concept is that they must cram as much “fun” into those four years as they can.

When I go to the convenience store and see another kid buying three Gatorades and five gallons of cranberry juice I’m gonna assume it’s not cause he just really likes his Ocean Spray. Especially at 4pm on Thirsty Thursday. On campus, I don’t even give that kind of thing a second thought.

I think back to high school when I went through my “alcohol will send me to Hell” phase and think, “when did this become normal?” I was adamant about never drinking until I was of age and frowned at my friends that were experimenting. I would get an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach when I knew the people around me were intoxicated. I would assume one sip of anything would make me go crazy and jump off the bandwagon of sanity. I watched too many friends test the water and assume it gave them free-range to act like dumb shits. I didn’t want to be one of “those kids.”

I didn’t know what alcohol did to you. I didn’t know drinking could be a social aspect of adult life. I didn’t know that bad decisions didn’t always have to be bad decisions. I didn’t know there were shades of grey, just like everything else in life.

And now here I stand, comfortable. Sober on a Saturday night, unphased by the sight of under age students drinking way more alcohol than their poor little livers can handle, and realizing this doesn’t scare me anymore. My stomach doesn’t flop, my nerves don’t race, and my face isn’t stuck in that permanent wince.

I’ve grown up. The Boogey Man doesn’t live in the bottle anymore. My understanding has expanded and my self-expectations have been set. I’m laughing with the goofs I love and enjoying life the way I want to, while they enjoy it the way they want to.

Some people believe drinking in college is a right of passage, a pressured necessity, a sport, a contest, a foot in the door, an excuse to act like a [insert anything]. But truthfully? No one gives a shit what you do. You wanna drink? Okay the packy is down the street. You wanna sleep around? Okay, the front desk has free condoms. You wanna do homework on your weekends and live in the library? Okay, have fun. You do you and I’ll do me.

Your parents aren’t hovering like helicopters over your shoulders. No one’s telling you to go to bed or shower or clean your room. No one’s explaining the consequences anymore – those days are over. Suddenly, you’ve got opportunities at your fingertips and endless possibilities to explore. Some kids take this and thrive, others probably couldn’t tell you how they took it cause they’ve blacked out one too many nights in a row.

This epiphany all college students come to (some sooner than others) is when the growing up begins. I’ve decided to call this revelation of power the “Freedom Effect.” If you’re smart about it, college can be the best investment of your life. But if that power and freedom goes to your head, like it does to many college students, then you might leave with a degree (if they let you stay that long), probably a few bruises, and most likely no different than the kid you entered as.

You are your own boss. You call the shots. You play the game how you want to play it. Cause honestly, outside of those books you paid an arm and a leg for, college is the game you’ve chosen to take part in before the real world swoops in to steal you away.

But the bottom line is: you decide if you win, cause it’s your game and your future.


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