It is the first Thursday night back at college for the semester — syllabus week — and the halls of the freshmen residence hall where I am a RA are buzzing with the sounds of students getting ready to go out, filled with the smells of burnt hair and too much cologne, and crawling with residents hurriedly opening and shutting their doors in fear of a RA walking past. It is a scene all too familiar in our halls, and the sounds and smells can send the RA on duty into a fit of fear, worrying about having issues or documentations when they are finally out of the office and able to get some sleep. I happen to be a RA in the very same building where I lived my first year of college. These halls were the ones where I met my best friends, cried on the phone to my mom, stayed up way too late watching movies and eating any kind of chocolate we could find. This building is the first ever “home away from home” I had experienced. It is where I grew from a nervous, anxious freshman, fresh out the high school womb, into a calm, confident (although still anxious at times) junior, knowledgeable in more than just academics, confident in who I am becoming and where I am going in this world. However, living in this building brings back a flood of emotions sometimes, and I am often reminded of that timid, nervous freshman, unsure of how to remain true to herself while still making friends in the fast paced world of college.
I’ll be honest, I am not a drinker. My diabetes puts some limitations on that and, while I can enjoy a few drinks safely with proper insulin and blood sugar testing, I usually do not like to push it. I have been 21 for over a month now, have consumed 2 glasses of wine since becoming legal, and was only slightly tipsy for the very first time a full month after my birthday. I don’t know how to mix drinks, I’m still not really sure what some drinks are, and didn’t even know I was tipsy until my boyfriend pointed out that the reason the room was spinning was because I drank a large glass of wine on an empty stomach in a short period of time. It’s safe to say I’m not very good at this stuff. My three best friends have a goal to see me drunk before we graduate (three semesters to go!) and when I told them I was tipsy I was met with texts of “OHMYGOD I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS DAY!” and “THIS IS THE GREATEST TEXT I HAVE EVER RECEIVED!” with a plethora of emojis.
Freshman me dreaded the party scene of college for this very reason. I feared that the only way I would be able to find and keep friends was if I went out with them, and I feared the idea of going out in a social situation where I would be unfamiliar with the location and the people, most of whom would be in a compromised state. Even more so, I feared the people coming back into the halls after their wild escapades out. I was blessed to be paired with two roommates who were just as unfamiliar and uninterested in the partying scene as I was, so strange people ending up in our room was never an issue. I feared drunk people though. I feared the bluntness and sudden courage and loud voices and lack of control over actions that seemed to accompany every drunk person I had ever encountered. I feared what they would say, what they would do, just their presence in general. Becoming an RA helped me to overcome this fear for the most part. My hands still get clammy and my voice still waivers a bit any time I am faced with an alcohol documentation, however I know I am doing my job and some kids need to be stopped before things get out of hand.
Nights like this though, where every single person in the building seems to be going out, always strike a chord with me. Perhaps it is because I know, somewhere on my floor, somewhere in the building, there is a girl that is just like freshman me; anxious about fitting in while avoiding the party scene, unsure of what could happen to someone who drinks too much, and wondering if they are really missing out or are going to regret not riding Cabbie D at least once in their college career. To that girl, I say, keep on doing what you’re doing. Keep on making friends and memories in the ways you are. You will find friends, best friends, like I did. If they are your real friends, like mine are, they won’t care if you don’t want to go out. They’ll invite you to be inclusive, but they’ll say, “I know it’s not really your thing, and I totally respect that. I just want you to know the offer is there.” and then when you politely decline, citing a massive load of laundry, a movie you’ve been dying to watch, or just simply, “I don’t think I can do it,” they’ll understand. They’ll give you a hug. You’ll help them curl their hair or pick out an outfit. You’ll tell them to call you if they need help, which they know they always can. Then, they’ll head out, with their flasks in their purses and their “Gatorade” bottles filled with mysterious smelling liquid. You’ll go on with your plans; watching a movie, doing laundry, whatever you decide to do. As the year goes on, you’ll realize there are plenty of other people who don’t enjoy the party life, who are staying back while their friends go out too. You and these people will bond. They’ll become your safe zone, your weekend people, always up for a movie night, a board game tournament, or an evening spent talking and laughing, sharing stories. You and these people will make your own kind of memories and share your own nights. And then, in the morning, you’ll drag your hungover friends to the cafeteria with you, where you’ll load up on hash browns and swap stories. They’ll have tales to tell of the fun they had, and so will you. And the best part is, only one of you will have a headache. So, to the non-partiers out there, keep on being true to yourself. The real friends you make won’t care how you spend your nights, as long as you have fun and are there to share the stories the next morning.