As the chaos of Camp Yale and the opening weeks of school slowly recede into the past, I find myself left on a shore filled with empty red solo cups and stale beer. For many freshmen, the experience of partying is new, fresh, novel. Yet, for others, including myself, it’s been a mere extension of the past few years of our lives — but now I find a deep sense of emptiness as I stare down into the abyss of another shot of vodka.
Around this time freshman year the routine is the same. You hunt for a pregame, do a meet and greet, learn and forget people’s names, go out to a frat house, go to another frat house, get late night pizza you really shouldn’t eat, stumble home, repeat. This is what college is supposed to be, right?: the girls, the partying, the alcohol. Yet, once the novelty fades away, what worthwhile substance are you left with? What personal growth truly comes from it?
Nietzsche was fond of the saying “become what you are.” But as Camp Yale’s drunken revelries continue through September, I find myself constantly asking — who am I, and who are “we” supposed to be? Before Yale we were valedictorians and published authors. But on coming to Yale we now find ourselves utterly dazed and completely normal in the company of equally capable peers.
This new environment has its negatives, many of which I’ve personally felt: a feeling of loss, confusion, dejection, rejection. Yet many of us are soon liberated by the realization that we are, in fact, average. Our normalness seems to authorize and even obligate many to partake in the trappings of the “normal” college experience: heavy drinking, Toad’s and the occasional random hook up. There’s no such thing as being too nerdy to party in a school filled with ex-honor roll students.
And as I see my once-inexperienced peers drink themselves to oblivion, I ask: why now? What has changed in that former straightedge, straight-A student? Yes, college is a time for new things, self-discovery and growth. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a time for learning the subtle distinctions between dark and light rum, or how to shotgun a beer.
That may be the best path for some, but there seems to be an overreaching on-campus atmosphere that preaches partying should be everyone’s path. It’s hard to stay in for a night finishing that essay when all of your friends are going to Woad’s. Yet, after 18 years, there’s no reason to abandon your principles (or even just your preferences) because it’s what you’re “supposed to do” in college. After the whirlpool of alcohol and inebriated dancing, all you’re left with are a hangover and a pocket filled with empty stories.
It’s only after years of partying that I am beginning to see this reality. It’s only after countless half-remembered nights and toasts and booze runs that I wish I’d focused on something more meaningful over the past few years. That’s not to say parties should be avoided; in fact, they’re usually a fun and interesting way to socialize and meet new people. But they aren’t necessary. Partying should never be the thing keeping you from going to the meeting for the club you’re interested in, or writing the essay you need to finish or doing what you really want to be doing with your friends.
Find what you love, because that beer will only fill you up for a few hours, and on those dreary weekday afternoons when everyone has work, that spare handle you have sitting in your room won’t do you much. Find people with similar passions and interests that lie beyond mutual love for Jack Daniels.
With the titan waves of liquor battering your every being left and right, it’s easy to forget these lessons. It’s easy to ditch your friends and go out for fear of missing out, it’s easy to alienate your suitemates by waking them up in the middle of the night with your drunken ramblings and it’s easy to forget that drinking isn’t the only thing to do with a Saturday night. But college isn’t about the easy way out. It’s about becoming what you are, and despite the temptation, another shot won’t help. And the moment that idea is forgotten is the moment you miss the shore and drown in the tormented ocean that’s known as freshman year.
Leo Kim is a freshman in Trumbull College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.