Originally published in the College Voice at Connecticut College.
Getting old is tough. In the course of a week, college seniors juggle the daunting adulthood of targeting resumes with the cheek-reddening adolescence of waking up on the floor feeling like a crumpled can of Keystone. The apparent normalcy of making an impassioned philosophical argument at 8 PM and shotgunning beer at 11 is unique to the maturity limbo of college life. Charged with spending well the last of the so-called best years of our lives and preparing for what I suppose is merely the rest (“real life”) leaves us bouncing across a confusing range of behavior.
The inescapable quotation marks bookending “real life” and “the real world” highlight our all-too-acknowledged sense that life on campus somehow isn’t quite real. Surreal. Unreal. Fake. In fake world, “Dylan passed out in the hall” and “I don’t know where Emily went with that guy” are just good stories, and public drunkenness is a prerequisite for most evenings.
At Saturday’s senior event—the primary selling point of which was free beer—I stood by the wall with a few friends, staring grimly at my Busch Light. What am I doing here? Everything from the tired, cop-out “80’s” theme to the attending senior class whimpered, Same old, same old. My sophomoric homunculus confirmed, You’re not drunk enough to enjoy this.
Not drunk enough is a learned state of frustration, born of the bad-party panacea of alcohol. Beer after beer, life gets more fun. The sober feeling that everyone is watching you half-dance fades imperceptibly, and eventually the first ten seconds of “Beat It” are positively elating. Even disappointing company is captivating.
Maybe it’s about bad habits, maybe it’s about boredom, maybe it’s about trying to make the most of our time here. How much “most” is made of being drunk enough for every event? Of drinking to forget the last time you drank to forget? Perhaps, in fact, we have the opposite problem: we’re not sober enough to make the most of college. Are we sowing wild oats or wasting time?
In most circles at Conn, Friday class is a fate worse than thesis. “Ugh, that sucks!” they all say. I’m torn between sharing the sentiment and acknowledging that it could be worse, and that for most people Friday is a real day.
Opening my eyes on a given Sunday morning, I assess my headache, sit up far enough to reach a bottle of water, and count last night’s drinks. Same old, same old. Some small corner of me grumbles about being too old for this, about my apparent inability to have just one glass of wine with dinner. An adjacent corner cheers, with one eye hangovered shut, You’re only young once!
Certainly, one must wander into the deep end in order understand just how deep it can be. Self-control suggests an understanding of what it means to be out of control. Probably the answer is balance: finding it, maintaining it. As a senior, balancing the uncertain post-graduate future with the boozier, less difficult pre-graduate present. Perhaps the ultimate act of balance is acting like a grown-up choosing to act like a teenager. I don’t know, though; I’m not drunk enough to be doling out advice.