Among the clever pranks and late nights of freshman year, I obtained three fish, none of which I actually bought. I enjoyed caring for these fish and often observed them as they swam frantically in their makeshift fishbowl perched on my desk. Even so, my time with these pets came to an end after my friend accidentally killed my two goldfish and my betta fish while petsitting them on winter break.
In the wake of the murder of my fish, I ruminated over what might bring me joy after this tragic loss.
I considered buying more aquatic friends until the thought of purchasing an even better pet came to mind. Rather than paying attention in my incredibly dry lecture, I thought about getting a few hamsters. Thinking about calling a pet hamster my own had me bursting with excitement, and I looked forward to bringing it up to my roommates.
After class, I rushed back to my closet-sized, gloomy dorm to share my idea. When I told my roommate about it, she sat straight up, her eyes practically popping out of her head. “I was thinking the same thing while you were at class!” she exclaimed.
We began researching pet stores to visit when our RA, who lived next door, entered the dorm. He asked about our research and we informed him of our plan to get hamsters. Though getting hamsters definitely broke the rules, our RA encouraged an even larger breach of protocol; he suggested we get guinea pigs.
The next day my roommate and I did just that. We hitched a ride in the rare, pouring LA rain to the nearest pet store and bought two adorable guinea pigs along with a cage to call their home. It fit perfectly inside our already cramped dorm. We placed them in two fragile boxes, which all disintegrated as the rain-soaked pets scrimmaged through the cardboard.
As my roommate and I returned to our building, we dodged several members of residential life and cleaning staff. We swiftly slipped into our dorm, releasing the guinea pigs into a makeshift corral. Excitement radiated through the room, as my roommate, friends and I looked forward to the wholesome memories we would create with these fuzzy friends.
Fast forward three months. While we still loved our guinea pigs, we realized we had not properly accounted for the work it would take to care for them. With assignments piling up over the quarter, our original dedication and excitement faded. We realized the hours of work a week to properly care for the guinea pigs including cleaning the cage, play, dinnertime and more, was too much. We sadly became familiar with the dank smell they produced, the expansive mess they made with their bedding and hay and the shrill squeaks they made at 6 a.m.
Frustrations grew as our belongings became covered with hay and the guinea pigs kicked food and waste from their cage onto the ground. We even realized that the employee we bought our guinea pigs from incorrectly identified one of the pigs as female. This became a major problem, as the risk of one of the guinea pigs having a litter of babies seemed imminent. What originally seemed like a fun and exciting adventure turned into a major stressor in our lives. Not to mention the fact that we felt incredibly guilty about not having the resources to properly provide for this pair of guinea pigs we absolutely adored.
Our fun impulsive adventure turned out to have negative consequences down the line. The mess in our room persisted, as did the unpleasant odor originating from the cage. The frustrations from this put an unnecessary strain on me and my roommate’s relationship. My roommate and I ended up having to sell our guinea pigs to a loving family in our hometown of Sacramento. The pair of pigs also had guinea pig babies, which we eventually donated to PetSmart.
While this may seem like an insignificant anecdote, I’ve carried the lesson I learned from this experience with me. Sure, college represents a time when people notoriously let loose and make stupid decisions for the first time in their lives. But whether spending a drunken night out, spending too much money on concert tickets or skipping class too many times, these silly decisions do have long-term consequences that you can avoid with a few moments of careful consideration.