“It’s going to be difficult, Casey,” My mom said to me in the months prior to my first semester of college, “the path you have chosen is definitely the one less traveled by the typical college student.”
Eighteen and completely apprehensive of the adult world, I considered my mother’s words. Despite my overwhelming effort to turn a blind eye to this terrifying subject, I realized that the movies and the overall hype surrounding college life only ever focused on one thing: an abundance of parties.
It was then that I noticed this truth everywhere. I read it in the books. I saw it on my Facebook timeline. I heard about it at work from my older co-workers. They all preached the same message that college is a party and nothing else. Your dorm room decor will be red solo cups and your Saturday mornings will be filled with headaches and hangovers. Your future best friends will be made on the dance floor and the guy who goes to fetch you a drink is definitely boyfriend material.
But what if I had never partied in high school? What if I simply didn’t enjoy parties? Will I even make friends? These questions and more swirled around my head as college neared and neared.
During my first semester of college, I would wake up every Saturday morning to the exact same Facebook posts from my graduating class. I would see pictures of boys and girls, obviously at parties, with their arms slung over each others shoulders and a red solo cup in each hand. They all had the widest smiles, the brightest eyes, and the most genuine look of happiness on all of their faces. They all looked so fulfilled. They all looked like they had found their niche. I just wondered, desperately, when I would find mine.
For awhile, I honestly believed that I was a defective college student. Here I was, now 19 years old and two months into college, and I still had not even thought about attending a single party. I was often told that I was essentially “doing college wrong” and that “you’re not a real college student unless you go to a party”. Although I appeared to brush these comments off with a laugh or an eye roll, these words truly stung. I was already so unsure of myself, unsure of this whole college thing, unsure of how I would ever make friends, and hearing such ridicule simply tore me down.
I wanted to be happy and surrounded by countless friends like my classmates were in their Facebook photos. I wanted to fix up the seemingly “broken” part of me that wasn’t attracted to the idea of parties like a new toy. I wanted to go back in time and further appreciate my mother’s words. I wanted to find my niche. I wanted to belong. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any of those things that I so desperately wanted during my first year of college. I thought it was because I didn’t like parties. I thought it was because of my defective self that I kept tearing down.
Until I realized that it wasn’t. And that’s when I changed.
There aren’t many moments in life where you can exactly pinpoint change. You usually look back on a year, or maybe even a month, where you can confidently say that you experienced change during that period of time. As I curiously (and somewhat forcefully) entered my first college party on Halloween during my sophomore year of college, however, I knew this experience would either change me completely or inspire me to stay exactly the same. I had never been more right.
The music was deafening, the dancing was insane, and the smell of booze infused the crisp fall air. All around me people were smiling, gripping red solo cups, and snapping an endless amount of pictures to capture the memories being made. It was as if I had crawled inside one of the Facebook photos that I often saw on my timeline. I danced, I screamed a little too loudly when my favorite song came on, and I snapped a few pictures. When all was said and done, however, at the end of the night I felt….bored. I felt exhausted and cranky and my throat hurt from screaming and I….didn’t really have that much fun. As I riddled all of these complaints off to myself at the end of the night, I realized that I wasn’t defective. I realized that parties just weren’t my thing. And, most importantly, I realized that that was okay.
You see, the only “defective” piece of this puzzle was my narrow minded thinking. It wasn’t me. With a world full of unique people where no two personalities, desires, and feelings are exactly the same, how can we expect one stereotype of college life to apply to every single person? How can we think that every college student will immediately become an avid partier when their interests may pertain to something else? I realized that night that I was deeply interested in quiet nights in, dancing alone stupidly in my room, and drinking a tall glass of something strong; coffee, that is. That was my idea of “fun” and there was nothing defective about that. The people I watched at the party loved socializing, having a drink, and turning up the music as loud as the speakers would allow. That was their idea of fun and that was okay, too.
Since the movies, the books, and maybe even the people you know don’t tell you this, I am going to tell you now: a non partier lifestyle in college is not a defective lifestyle. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. What you do need, however, is to cultivate your own personal interests and defend and participate in them as much as you want. If you find solace in a yoga studio, visit it. If you prefer the party scene, go live it up. If you just want a quiet Friday night to eat cookies and cuddle your dog, count me in, too. I’m so there.
College has the power to be frustrating, wonderful, eye opening, and demanding all at once. Above all else, however, college is unbelievably short. I wish I had spent more time believing that I was totally, completely perfect the way I was instead of telling myself that I was defective. I finally realized that, in the end, my mom was right. The non partier path I chose is definitely the one less traveled, but I now enjoy every step of the walk I take on this path.
This me is sincerely wishing that you enjoy all of your steps too, no matter how big or small.