Recently I've been having a bit of an internal struggle and after reading a few posts over on Kate's blog, I figured it was time to share.
(I really don't have many pictures of me drinking!)
In the interest of full disclosure, I feel as though I should start this post with telling you my age (20). I'm a Junior/Senior in college (graduating a full year early), live exactly 1,763 miles away from the home where I grew up, and go to a college known for its film program (though I'm studying marketing).
When most people think of college, they assume it goes hand in hand with binge drinking experimentation with drugs, sleeping with strangers that you never call again, and skipping class whenever possible in lieu of more "fun" activities. What most adults and parents of college (and high school) aged kids don't realize is how much pressure young people are under to partake in these activities. And yes, some of the pressure even comes from our parents (you're staying in again tonight? Why don't you go out with your friends?) I feel like sharing my story (I've shared bits and pieces in the past) may help someone else who is struggling with this pressure.
In high school I never touched a drink. In fact, as I found out that each of my close friends had started to drink, I used to cry (yup, dramatic. It's all that teen angst I guess!). My reaction was even stronger when I found out that those same friends were smoking weed and, in some cases, trying harder drugs. In middle school I had a huge group of friends but as they all started drinking on the weekends, my group diminished to almost nothing. I could never understand why underage drinking was such a big deal to me but didn't phase anyone around me. I feel extremely blessed that I met some great people through my church--all of whom I am still friends with today--because they showed me that social gatherings didn't have to surround alcohol. Something about making friends while drunk seemed artificial to me. I wasn't sure that lasting relationships could be built over a stolen bottle of rum. While I knew it wasn't my thing, I still struggled over my decision to abstain. I lost a LOT of "friends" and people frequently made fun of me for being the girl who didn't drink. I also got a LOT of shit for being a virgin (whaaaat?!). In high school the easiest answer was "I've never had a boyfriend". Though that wasn't my reason for holding on to my virginity, it seemed to put a quick end to the taunting. Even though I knew I thought I was way too young for sex (good call mal!) and didn't want to experiment with drinking and drugs, I frequently considered giving it a try. It's difficult to lose most of your friends to a bottle of booze and there's always the part of you that just wants to fit in--especially in high school. I have to credit my ability to refrain from my extremely supportive parents, my best friend Kristina, and my kick-ass determination to just be me. I'm happy to say that I graduated without ever touching alcohol and never sleeping with a boy just because I knew it would make me seem "cooler".
The first time I got drunk was the summer after I graduated. One of the most frequent taunts about my lack of drinking was that I had "never tried it" so "how did I know it wasn't for me". I also knew that I did want to try out the party scene in college so I figured getting drunk with the people I trusted was the best way to go. I have no idea what I drank (it was electric blue and I'm assuming it was some sort of flavored vodka mixed with koolaid or gaterade) but after my first few sips I started to feel it. I ended up getting somewhat drunk and feeling like it was kind of dumb. My head was spinning, I felt pretty sick, and I really just wanted to go home but I couldn't drive so I ended up sleeping at my friend's house till like 5 in the morning then heading home. Really, it was an okay first experience with alcohol. I didn't throw up (woo!), but I also didn't really enjoy myself. I was confident that I had made the right decision by avoiding the house parties of my high school years.
Moving right along to college... I drank a lot my first semester of college. I was 18/19 and you wouldn't believe how easy it was to get alcohol. All of my friends were underage (except for one) but many of them had fake ID's. I went out pretty much every weekend (Thursday-Saturday night) and drank enough to be staggering on my walk home. Thinking back now, I really can't pinpoint any one particular night that was a ton of fun. None of my favorite memories from that first semester involved alcohol in any way. In fact, I often went out with my friends and didn't drink anything except for water. I hated that when I got drunk the whole next day was spent sleeping and feeling groggy. I hated wasting my money on alcohol (which was SO SO expensive). I got to a point in about November when I realized that I genuinely wasn't enjoying these parties. There was constant pressure to try weed. I made the mistake of telling my friends that I had never done it before and it became a challenge for them. I was also taunted MERCILESSLY about my virginity. My new group of friends didn't care that I had never been in a caring relationship. One exchange I had concerning this topic will always stick with me...
"Yeah, my family went to Church every Sunday...But let's be real. None of us are virgins."
"What? Really? Wow...that's kind of...pathetic"
The pressure to sleep around is INTENSE, people. The idea of abstaining is a great big joke to the vast majority of young people and as women are trying to close the gender gap, they're taking their sexuality with them. Many of the girls sleep around "without feelings" because that's what men do. Why is making a decision to be a virgin not considered strong? I think it takes a lot more strength to say no than to say yes. It became a game to my friends whenever I liked a new guy "Malori! Would you have sex with him!?". At some point, it got easier to just say yes so the questions would stop. Am I the only one who thinks that's sad? Anyways, it got to a point last year when I decided I was done giving the party scene a try. I was confident that I had seen what it was and experienced it and knew that I was not interested. I started staying in a LOT more. I got a gym membership and when I was bored I would go ride the bike for a while. I started knitting a LOT and blogging more consistently. I put a lot more effort into school and made friends with the people I met that weren't really into drinking. Not too long after that, I started spending a lot of time with a cute boy that I met and I was happier than I'd been during my party phase (as short-lived as it may have been). I put some pictures of my favorite parts of freshman year below--none of which involve alcohol.
(building a fort with my roommate)
(road trip to the Grand Funk Railroad)
(My brother's rugby games)
A year later and I still rarely go to parties. When I do, I have one or two beers and call it a night. And you know what? I'm really happy with my life. I have a ton of hobbies, I get straight A's in school, I'm graduating a FULL YEAR early, I keep up with my blog, I have time to write and exercise, I've learned how to cook (still learning!), I save my money, I read a ton of books, and I am exactly the person I want to be. The friendships I've made that don't revolve around parties and alcohol are the ones that have lasted. I don't have a huge group of friends and the people that are closest to me are scattered across the U.S. but that's alright too.
This has been a LONG post, so if you've made it this far, I commend you! All of that writing brings me to my point. I struggle with my decision to stay away from the party scene. With that choice comes a lot of lonely nights. I spend a ton of time by myself and I really do have trouble meeting people. But, I know that the friends I make when I'm not drunk out of my mind are generally going to stick around. The relationships I have will be more meaningful and my overall satisfaction with life will be much higher. I guess I just want to say that even though its been a struggle for me, that being "malori" has been the best thing I've ever done. You should do it too. Be who you want to be. If you aren't the girl/guy who likes to go out and get drunk on a Tuesday night, then stay home. If going to clubs and bars makes you uncomfortable, there are other social gatherings. You'll be lonely sometimes. People will probably make fun of you, call you boring, refer to you as a grandma (my friends call me Phyllis), or tell you that you're "missing out". But if I've learned anything in my 20 years here on earth, I've learned that the only things you miss out on are things you actually want to do. When I go to a party and get wasted, I feel like I missed out on a night of reading or sewing or painting. Do what makes you happy.
I'll be back later today with my weekend update. This week I'll be sharing my Happiness Project resolutions and doing some projects that will hopefully cross a few goals off of my 20 before 20 list. I also have some pictures to share with all of you :).