I knew when I picked my school that it had a reputation as a party school, but I did not really know what that meant until I experienced it firsthand. The yelling. Cheap beer sprayed around in the air by rowdy frat boys. Running into someone who was so sweaty it felt like they had jumped into a pool with their clothes on. Falling off of alcohol-drenched tables while dancing to hits from 2006. I lived for that my freshman year, and in fact would feel disappointed in myself if for some reason I missed an excuse to take shot after shot and join in what everyone told me was fun.
My sophomore year, I was prepared to keep up the same routine: end class on Friday, go home, eat a large dinner solely so I did not vomit that night, and drink until I could no longer remember what drink I was on. And I did keep it up for some time. I would go out, meet new people, and engage in that same routine I had become accustomed to during my freshman year.
Then I hit a point where it was too repetitive. Too expensive. Too... boring. As an introvert, I would use the power of alcohol to make me more comfortable in social situations. It was the reason why I made friends. It was our common ground, something we knew we could always do together at our school where students worship the feeling of being drunk.
I started staying in more to get work done. I would skip the day drinks and then continue to skip the party later that night. I would spend time with my friends while they got ready or pre-gamed in our dorm room then remain behind as they bid me farewell in their already very drunken stupor.
It scared me as I watched what I had been for the past year and a half -- that person that felt they needed to be drunk to have fun on campus. That person that came home from class declaring "I cannot wait to get plastered!" even if it was only a Tuesday night. I realized I was that person who had become dependent on a drink that would supposedly make me far happier than if I were sober.
Now, I am not against drinking. Quite the contrary, actually. I still enjoy going out or even having a glass of wine while I watch a movie, read a book, or work on my writing.
But I am against the mentality that drinking is the only way to have fun while at college.
I understand that a lot of people drink to make memories, but there are other ways to do that as well. Most campuses have hundreds of student organizations that you can join. Go on an adventure somewhere near your campus. Or take a road trip with your friends one weekend. You're in college. You have more freedom than you will ever have again in your life. Alcohol will always be there, but the adventures that you can take and the memories that you can make will not always be there.
Recently, I took up a leadership position within a student organization that takes up a lot of my time. I am also taking more upper-level and challenging classes as I finish up my time at school. I write novels that need to be worked on and marketed. I write for three online mediums including The Odyssey. Now my decision to stay in is not so much about not wanting to drink as it is about not falling behind in school or forgetting to get something done. And because of this decision, I was recently told by some that they believed my lack of drinking caused and would continue to cause them stress. Because I chose to make memories in a way that did not involve alcohol, I was in the wrong. In that moment, I -- a human being -- was placed at a lower value than a night out.
But, you know what? I have never been happier than when I stopped drinking so frequently. I used the alcohol as a mask of who I really was, and I felt that when I saw the people I met drunk when I was sober, I needed to be more energetic, lively... fake. It was not until I joined organizations and made friends who I felt comfortable around while sober or who understood and accepted my reasoning for staying in that I knew college was about far more than having shot after shot.
So go on blacking out every weekend. Go on trying to piece together those memories that you are so desperately trying to make with the help of that drink in your hand. But I can promise you, that it is okay to not be drunk all the time in college. I promise you will survive if you stay in one night. And I promise you that memories can be made in so, so many other ways.
I would not trade my college experience thus far for anything else -- sober moments and all.