Crouched in the grass behind an apartment complex hosting far too many parties to keep track of, one of which I had run out of crying, I stare face-to-face with a slug. As I observed the small creature, I couldn’t help but wonder how fragile it was in this big world. One speck of salt from one of these college students’ tequila shots could take the small fellow out. Quite frankly, no one would particularly care as they aren’t the prettiest or most prominent of organisms like the bees that everyone has been raving about lately. These realizations only made me cry harder as my friends found me and inquired what was wrong, only to have me frantically yell at them to be careful to not step on the little guy.
I found myself in that unlikely position that Friday night during my sophomore year because of a stream of even more unlikely events that began my freshman year of college when I tried to be the good, partying college student everyone expected me to be. In fact, they have led me to this point as a junior, sitting in my room alone on a Friday night writing to myself with a cup of chamomile tea and the same boy band tracks playing on repeat. It sounds pathetic on paper and almost elicits a laugh, but this is what brings me joy, as Marie Kondo would say later when I binge-watch “Tidying Up” until I fall asleep.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not the stereotypical college student that loves to party every weekend until the sun comes back up, though it took me a long time to accept it. I tried to play the part. The desire for a picturesque, Hokie-centric freshman year kept me put.
Under the impression that partying was the key to an Instagram-worthy, Pinterest-perfect and real-life VSCO-filter freshman year, I felt that I had to partake in the shenanigans my peers were. I was bearing through the week awaiting Friday night to go out, make friends in the girls’ bathroom that I would never meet again, add a boy on Snapchat that I would never message and then end the night in the lounge with people that I didn’t really like eating Taco Bell that would make me feel awful later. Then, once I was alone, I would let out my exhaustion and cry from the stress of being in sensory overload. Being an introverted, shy kid trying to fit into the role of a typical, socially accepted freshman had tired me out, mentally and physically. Eventually, I realized I wasn’t going to be that alumni that would rave about all the crazy things I did back in the golden days of college.
I wish I could say I stopped when I realized I hated partying then, but I kept trying to make myself love it until finally, in the fall of my sophomore year, I didn’t have it in me to keep going. That night when I befriended the neighborhood slug, I realized that the partying had come to take more of a toll on me, and subsequently the people around me, than I enjoyed it. From then on, I found myself going out less and less. I completely stopped in February after I went to a party where people started line dancing and decided that was the last straw. Of all things, it was finally line dancing that made me give up.
Going out should feel like a choice, not something you’re pressured into doing. What I wish I had understood earlier was that I wasn’t expected to party just because I was a college student. There are plenty of other students who opt out of that aspect of college, and still enjoy their time here to its fullest.
Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with partying. I don’t look down upon people who do like to do it because I enjoy it myself from time to time as well. However, as I remind myself when I put avocado on my toast, everything should be done in moderation. Partying is fine until it becomes the purpose of your life, leads you to dangerous, immoral behavior and excuses wrong doings under the notion that it was the alcohol, drugs or party.
That’s the problem with college. Once you step foot on some campuses, excessive partying is the norm, binge-drinking is something to boast about, drug-usage is praised and any mistakes you make under those influences are void. There is no accountability for these actions as it is expected, even encouraged as a college student.
The reality is we have a problem and we know it. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, college drinking results in 1,519 student deaths, 696,000 assaults and 97,000 sexual assaults. The detrimental impacts of reckless partying are evident.
In fact, they occur right in front of us. Our university has a drinking rate of 56% while the average for American universities is 42%. Blacksburg itself is known as Virginia’s most drunken town with 18% of adults admitting to drinking excessively, while Virginia as a whole has a rate of 17.4%. We just look the other way.
If that isn’t enough, just check Instagram or Twitter. There are countless pages dedicated to chronicling college partying. Intoxicated brawls, public indecency and embarrassing moments are permanently available on these accounts for all to see, and often people’s faces are clear to identify, if their friends haven’t already tagged them endlessly in the comments. A legacy to Virginia Tech for your children suddenly isn’t the only thing you’re leaving behind, but also your dignity.
Just as we can’t expect partying to stop, we can’t expect these problems to go away if we don’t acknowledge them. The first step to alleviating a problem is to fully recognize it, its severity and all its impacts.
College partying is inevitable. We’re young adults tasting our first bouts of freedom and in some cases, our first stouts of beer. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is that we succumb to the stereotype that society has constructed of college students who are reckless, mindless and morally irresponsible from alcohol, drugs and partying. We let it become the focal point of our lives and our identities, robbing ourselves of our depth and individuality.
We’re here in college with an opportunity to learn that some can only dream about, master a subject and become the world’s next professionals. Yet, we become so engrossed in a party culture glorified by social media, film and television that paint college students so poorly. We feed right into it, allowing it to influence wrongful actions, limit our livelihood and overshadow our capabilities.
We can change the party culture. We’ve already started taking the steps, literally. The walk-out against sexual assault, which sadly is a prevalent component of reckless partying, exemplifies that our tolerance for wrongful behavior has run short. We expect better, and we’ll do something about it if our standards aren’t met.
College partying doesn’t have to live up to the portrayals of the subpar movies in the deep, forgotten corners of Netflix. How you spend your weekends as a college student should be as you please without any pressure or expectations placed on you by others. Whether you want to watch a movie and go to bed at 9 p.m. or stay out partying until 4 a.m., one does not make you better than the other. After all, come Monday morning, we’ll all be in lectures wondering what we need to get on the next exam to pass the class, not what the person next to you did over the weekend. What does matter is the responsibility we hold as a community to promote and maintain healthy standards. We have to learn how to party responsibly and encourage others to do the same so that we can reduce the statistics and in turn the amount of lives that are hindered at the expense of a “good time.”