Penn State is a college well-renowned for its reputation as a party school. During the first week of school (commonly referred to as “sylly week” in the Penn State community) most freshmen crowd the streets of frat-row in search of a top-house rager to kick off the school year.
This wasn’t the case for me.
I hauled the entirety of my bedroom into my supplemental dorm on move-in day. Typically freshmen begin the evening raiding their wardrobes in search of the perfect party outfit—but not me. Instead, I spent the night turning back and forth in bed, trying (and failing) to block out the drunken shrieks that traveled all the way to my fifth-floor window.
Somewhere around 2 a.m. I successfully managed to drift into sleep. Then the clatter of stumbling feet pulled me out of my slumber. The silhouette of my roommate stood overhead on unsteady feet before collapsing flat onto the bed directly across from me.
Scenes from stereotypical college movies like Neighbors raced through my mind. I imagined she spent her night with keg stands, deafening EDM music and sweaty bodies packed tight into a frat house way over the capacity limit.
I scrunched my nose up at the images that flashed through my head.
But still, a small part of me wanted to join the excitement.
Coming from a small private Christian school, the party atmosphere intimidated me. I became somewhat envious of everyone else’s ability to navigate through it so easily. I looked at other girls as they stumbled down Beaver Avenue in packs. They always squealed, throwing their heads back in laughter even while tripping over patches of uneven sidewalk in five-inch stilettos.
I hated them, and at the same time, I wanted to be them. I wanted somewhere to go instead of settling for another night trying to mute out the sound of a party that I wasn’t invited to.
Then at the end of my freshman year that I finally got a taste of the experience I craved all along.
The clock read 10 p.m.—prime pregame time—and the night started following the same formula it had all year. My roommate finalized her outfit for the night. She stood half-way out the door when I called out to her.
“Can I come too?” I asked. As soon as the question left my mouth, it was too late to take it back.
A look shock crossed my roommate’s face as my words registered to her ears. She’d long given up on inviting me out after I turned down her many requests in the beginning of the year. It came as a surprise, even to me, that I dared to ask the question.
She shot me a look that exclaimed the word, “Finally!” as she nodded her head in excitement.
I dove straight into the closet, tearing through a slim selection to find something party-worthy. I settled on a midriff top and jeans. Then I followed her out the door and into the scene that forever altered my college experience.
Gone was the girl who spent her Friday nights upping the volume on Netflix to mask the sound of everyone else’s fun. I swore to myself that I’d never go back to that girl again.
I entered sophomore year as a different girl. One with a time and place to go every weekend. All of a sudden, I threw out invitations to parties and stumbled along Beaver Avenue with a group of friends by my side. I became finally the girl that I always watched with envy on the sidelines.
In a way, I felt like I cheated the system to become her. Without the liquid courage, I would still spend weekend nights sitting in my dorm room. I spent 19 years without so much as a sip of alcohol, a magic potion that cured me of my miserable lonely nights.
I started to believe that the only time I could only be who I always wanted to be when I partied. The liquor washed away the timid and awkward parts of myself that seemed to stick out like a sore thumb when sober, reminding me of why I spent so many nights alone.
Each weekend slowly started to become a carbon copy of the previous one. My fear of missing out fueled an unhealthy need to attend parties every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I was so afraid of wasting the best years of my life that, ironically, my fear came to pass.
Torn between two different lifestyles, I didn’t know which one I hated more.
I came to the sad realization that I still wasn’t happy even after getting a dose of the “college experience.” I somehow convinced myself that if I didn’t make plans for the weekend, then I didn’t have much of a life at all. I wasn’t going out because I wanted to, but because I needed the validation.
Freshman year, I was lonely. Sophomore year, I was afraid to be alone.
I sought to make a change in how I lived last year. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my college years waking up with a pulsing headache after spending a night with my head in a toilet bowl. Just because I attended a so-called party school, didn’t mean that I needed to be a party girl.
With only one year left, I’m learning Netflix binges on Saturday nights can be just as fun as going out with a group of friends. In the end, I should feel happy with who I am regardless of how I choose to spend my weekends.