I was lucky in college. I fell into it without nearly enough research, and I ended up at an amazing school that was a wonderful fit for me. I started in a major because I thought it was what I “should” do and quickly realized that it was something that not only did I not love, but I was ill-prepared for it. I fell into another major by chance that I absolutely adored. No one told me about professor office hours; I was it as being a pain to the professor when really it was so much more, and professors would happily have welcomed me. Putting off choosing my dorm meant that I was placed wherever they had room, yet that’s where I met my best friends and created so many amazing memories.
I learned so much during my four years there. I wish I had known half of it going in so that I could do things so differently. I’m lucky that some lessons took quickly – like for the first time in my life, I had to study. I am still grateful to this day that I learned how to study quickly and didn’t flounder. Some lessons took longer to sink in, like the way that sororities and fraternities truly work. I didn’t rush my freshman year because of the stories my mom had told me, and not belonging to a sorority is one of my biggest regrets from my college years.
That isn’t to say that my life in college was perfect or that I did everything well. No one does, and I certainly made my share of mistakes. Going into my freshman year, I had never tasted alcohol at all. I wasn’t interested, and I have a ton of family history that kept me wary of alcohol, as well. I turned away my friends’ offers for awhile, but the scent of peach Schnapp’s tempted me in the middle of that first quarter. I didn’t drink much – not enough to get drunk or even tipsy – but I enjoyed it. Fortunately, I discovered that I detest beer, so I never drank at the majority of parties I attended, since that tended to be the only offering.
At Northwestern, we have finals week, where the time and day of your class determines when your finals will be held. Finals start on a Monday and go through Saturday. I was “lucky” that first quarter, and my last final was on Saturday morning. Not surprisingly, all my close friends had finished their finals before then. Friday night was a card party in a dorm room. Sitting around and chatting and playing Euchre made for a fun night.
And of course, someone had rum and Coke. The problem is that I don’t like rum. And I don’t like Coke. Rather than doing the smart thing and turning it away entirely that night, I decided to go with the theory that if I drank it fast, I wouldn’t taste it. The theory worked… except that I, of course, didn’t think about the consequences. Empty cup means refills. And drinking quickly through a straw is not the way to go. By the time I walked home to my dorm late that night (early the next morning?) I was not happy with myself, but oh so grateful to a friend who walked me home that night and stayed sitting in a chair by my bed all night long until I woke up.
Somehow, I managed to wake up about 20 minutes before my final, so thankfully I didn’t miss that. It wasn’t a great final, but I passed. And I was scared that I wouldn’t. I was scared beyond belief that I had gone from being an academic star in high school to almost blowing it my first quarter in college – and that Friday night was my final red flag.
I learned a lot that night – or the next morning, rather. I learned that I wasn’t comfortable operating in panic mode. I learned that drinking through a straw is never a good idea. I learned that drinking the night before finals wasn’t smart. I figured out that I had to stand on my own when it came to my friends – that means I can’t drink things I don’t like and that I have to respect my schedule, which may be very different from theirs.
That isn’t to say that I never drank anything again, but I quickly learned that I didn’t like the feeling of being out of control in any way. I was smarter, and I never put myself into a bad situation after that. I don’t do sloppy drunk. I don’t have fun just because my friends are if I have other obligations. And I most certainly don’t drink something I don’t enjoy, even if that means that I drink nothing. I’m ok with that, because it isn’t the alcohol that is my fun. It’s the people I surround myself with – and thank goodness I learned that lesson early.
This is a post inspired by the book “Bittersweet” by Miranda Beverly Whittemore. I received a copy of the book as part of the From Left to Write book club so that I could write this post, but I was not otherwise compensated. As part of this book club, we write posts inspired by the books we read rather than traditional book reviews.