About 11 months ago I was an 18-year-old kid about to take a huge step into the next chapter of my life: college. Living away from my family and not seeing the friends I had grown up with on a daily basis were fears that I had while my new life in Boston awaited me, but none as big as the expectations people had set on what college life would be like.
I would need to have a high tolerance for alcohol. Be willing to experiment with drugs. And of course, have a fake ID for bars (which I do not have thank you for asking). These are all standards set by adolescents living independently for the first time and attempting to go all out wild like it’s often pictured on the big screen or on MTV.
After a year in college, I can honestly say that myth could not be farther from the truth. I won’t lie, there’s parties almost every weekend. Drinking is a part of the culture for sure, but it does not have to be for people who are hesitant or just plainly do not want to do it.
The beautiful thing about this “independent” life I spoke of before is that all the decisions lie in your hands. There is no one else to blame or lean on when a tough choice stares you in the face — mom and dad live hours away, trusting you to do the right thing.
Some nights, you let loose a little bit and indulge in the party scene. But other times, it is completely OK to abstain and just hang out. There is never just one sober person in the room. Saying “no” because that’s what feels right is the bravest thing an 18-year-old can do when they are first set free and, while that can be a frightening and daunting task, it can also ease your own mind and set a tone that you will not let the environment around you dictate the type of person you are or will become.
There are plenty of other opportunities to fill your time while you are living on campus, anyway. You can delve into a passion you have or something that interests you and get involved in the multiple activities or extracurriculars your school offers.
I have one friend who loves nothing more than print journalism and worked his way to editor of the school newspaper while sacrificing his days and nights from Monday to Thursday making sure every story is covered and done properly.
I have my own radio show, got involved with the school’s television station and do play-by-play from time to time for the school’s sports teams.
The point here is that there is more to be had in college than a large bottle of alcohol every night. I’m not here to tell you not to drink, and I’m also not here to pressure you into the party life. But what I am saying is that it does not have to be one or the other. College is a time for you to figure out who you are, make friends for life and find that passion that will drive your career in the future.
So for incoming college freshmen who are nervous about the journey that lies ahead, don’t waste the little time you have trying to be someone you’re not and succumbing to peer pressure. Enjoy the next four years, it can be magical if you let it be.