I grew up on movies and TV shows that painted college as four years of amazing, wild, adventurous, and reckless fun. And during high school, I bought into those stereotypes of what my life would be like when I finally left home. While I had a great time with my friends at homecoming games and dances, I abstained from really going out. I skipped the typical house parties and spent most of my time staying low-key, which, looking back, was mainly the result of being raised in a strict household. I told myself that college would finally be my opportunity to go wild and try all the crazy things I'd only seen on TV. But that dream quickly died about four months into my college experience, when I discovered that I hate partying.
On any given night for a large chunk of the year at my university, you can walk outside and see the fog from your breath in what feels like below freezing temperatures. You'd think this means people spend most of their time indoors, but it never stops anyone from going out. For the first few months of my freshman year, I tried my hardest to hang with the "in crowds," chugging cans of Four Lokos and walking to parties in the bitter cold in nothing but black jeans and a crop top. On game days, the stakes were even higher. The pregaming would start around 10 a.m., followed by the tailgate at noon which lasted pretty much all day, before people finally asked each other, "Are you going out tonight?"
The question then became, how would I survive at a party school if I'm not a party girl?
After a semester of forcing myself to binge drink and cram into packed bars while dancing to loud music, I finally gave in to the inevitable truth that I am not a party girl. The question then became, how would I survive at a party school if I'm not a party girl?
What I learned early on freshman year is that the easiest way to make friends in college is by going out. For some reason, bonding with random girls in the bathroom of a frat house over how pretty and drunk they all are forms lifelong friendships. When I began to take a step back from going out, I found myself seeing less and less of people I thought were my friends. The bright side to this was that the people I did spend time with became genuine friends that I could bond with on a deeper level. It took me a solid semester to become content with my new lifestyle and not feel a wave of FOMO every time I went on social media after a weekend of staying in. And in that time I developed my own ways of having a blast without having to party and binge drink. Every once in a while I would gather a few of my friends together for a wine night, where we would stay in and talk about everything from school to boys to future baby names. We'd still get kind-of drunk, but we didn't have to leave the warmth and comfort of our apartments, which made it that much more fun.
Most schools don't advocate for their entire student body to go out partying every weekend, and instead will host things like game, movie, or craft nights. This helped me realize that partying definitely wasn't my only option for having fun — I just had to look a little harder for the more low-key alternatives.
I'm finally at a place where I've figured out a balance for myself by setting boundaries. I don't go out on weekdays, and on weekends, when I'm not staying in or just hanging with friends, I'll sometimes go to a party, making sure to leave if I start to feel drained or uncomfortable. I surround myself with friends who understand that I'm not a party girl. They don't pressure me to go out, and they make the effort to spend time with me outside of large social settings.
Some nights I still opt out of any activities that require me to leave my room. I curl up in bed and browse through Netflix and Hulu until I find something to fall asleep to. And it's nights like this where I feel most content and at peace. I've always been a homebody at heart, but I expected college to turn me into someone new. And while these four years can definitely be transformative, it doesn't mean you have to lose the best parts of yourself or change the things that make you happy. Your idea of fun doesn't have to look like everyone else's — it just has to feel right for you.