There’s only one time in your life where you can shitshow yourself to the hilt, and no one blinks a goddamn eye. The glitziness of three o’clock parties, cigars on dirty balconies, and shots of gasoline liquor is so attractive to young, stupid people who earnestly believe in invincibility. Yes, college is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life—I’ve met incredible, random people, experienced the euphoria of straight A’s and straight drugs, and collected enough debauched content for a thousand novels. But underneath the crop tops and mascara, the sweaty holding of hands and midnight jaywalking, there’s a fine line between experimental shenanigans and a messed up reality. “Balance” is a foreign, unthinkable word when bedtimes don’t exist and parents are hundreds of miles away. I’m not talking about the doe-eyed cutie that goes crazy the first week of college. I’m referring to a semi put-together student that gets sucked into a cyclone of drama, drugs, and tricky professors in the midst of their college years. The midlife crisis of college—around Sophomore/Junior year—is a very real thing. The shyness and rooky craziness of 18 has slipped away under dorm room foundations. Friends aren’t a scary concept of ice breakers and false smiles anymore; we’ve ensconced ourselves within a pretty clique—it’s all the complicated relationships that develop once we’re comfortable with showing our true colors.
So how does a barely-adult navigate this rat’s nest of intense emotion, questionable decisions, and a splintering seesaw of sanity? Of course, it’s impossible, but here are a few tips to transform this Beautiful Stress City into a manageable suburb.
- Diversify your friend group
This first category wrecked my October and muddled my thoughts for a long while. I became entranced by this one particular “clique” and fancied myself part of their extraordinary lifestyle. I was fooled by their wild snap stories, Jordanian hookah pipe, and thriving sense of vitality they exuded—at least I thought. At one point, I was spending nearly every day with these people, a feverish kind of dependency that left me lonely if I wasn’t with them. However, I was the extra girl on the fringe, one that stuck around because of a boy but wasn’t part of the inside-joke group. To get happy again: I stopped crashing their apartment and started befriending people that weren’t as false, hypocritical, and judgmental.
- Stay true to your interests
Don’t ditch your talents—whether they be drawing nudes or cooking traditional Bangladeshi food—to hang out with people that add zero value to your life. For a solid month, I didn’t write a SINGLE DITTY except the required articles for my University’s satire magazine. I was spending my burning days and simmering nights buzzing around outwardly extravagant, inwardly bland people and doing nothing worthwhile. Without words, half of my fiber was missing, like a t-shirt with nearly every thread seam-gripped out. To get happy again: I learned to say “hell no” to people and block off time to type my boiling thoughts on a dusty screen.
- Be weird with your alone time
Words aren’t meant to be jabbered at all hours of the day. Alone time is almost as necessary as alcohol in college. Because I’m in a co-ed fraternity, I spend oodles of hours with 100+ people every week—being truly “alone” is a foreign concept for the forced socialite. Between community service, pretending to study at the library, and four a.m. adventures with hesitant males, I was a body of conversation and little thought. It’s tiring having to constantly entertain, even with a natural personality like my own. To get happy again: Random, pointless walks around campus became my best friend. One night, at 8:00 p.m. I trekked to the deserted baseball stadium. Everything was still and weirdly silent—my angsty thoughts were louder than the crickets and the October breeze rustled my ponytail. I did not have to amuse or impress the darkness, which in college, is a rare oddity for a weekend night.
- Find happiness with the organizations you are in
As with any organization of fucked up students, there is bound to be hampers of bullshit no washing machine can scrub clean. I’m in a co-ed service fraternity, and the monotony of chapter, Boys&Girls Club, and the required events did nothing to Harrah! me about service. The same people, the same drama—I worshiped the “clique” over service, temporarily forgetting why I joined in the first place. To get happy again: I did a different service every week and katana-ed (just kidding) the negative hypocrites from my too-short life.
- Don’t lose your grip on schoolwork
Cramming is not glamorous at all, despite what Starbucks advertisements and cheesy teenager movies might preach. My ingrained motto was “Everything gets done…. eventually.” But in the messy cake batter of drugs, stupidity, unending nights, and cheap beer, that simply is not the case. Everything might get done at 11:59 p.m., but I’m a straight A ho trying to reconcile my wild strain with the domestic, button-up one. The exam might be two weeks away, but study until your eyes fall out so you can party hard the day after it’s over. Also,
- Don’t do illicit activities right before exams
This doesn’t need an explanation. I’ll just remind everyone to tuck themselves nicely into bed when there’s a stressfest exam the next day. Trust me.
Despite the easy spiraling, the loosening grip on yourself, and the daily bipolar emotions, I wouldn’t give up college for anything. This time of my life is so peculiar and ineffable, like every night is a giant question mark ending the random sentences of my days. There will be no other time when abnormality is considered so normal, welcome even. It’s the aching of thousands of students, each of us running with the ideas of a future we can’t really fathom in this unrealistic world, this unrealistic university town. The Cheshire Cat summed us up perfectly: “We’re all mad here.”