I remember being a freshman in Chautauqua Hall on St. Patrick’s Day. March 17th, 2006. It was a Friday.
Some time mid-morning the guy across the hall walks into my room and says, “Are you being a loser and going to class instead of going out?”
Today I would be baffled by such a question: “Are you going to work instead of going drinking?” Thankfully that never happens to me, but if it did I would be gravely concerned about the person asking the question. I would wonder if the person was struggling with alcoholism. I would suggest the person seek help from an addiction counselor, and I would be confident that going to work is the right decision for me.
But when you’re 18-years-old you don’t have that perspective yet. Your brain is still craving acceptance from your peer group. If the group wants to skip class to go out it takes an enormous act of courage to do the opposite. Loneliness looms in that act of courage.
Granted, the United States has an unusually high drinking age. In most parts of the world it–where the drinking age is 18, 16, or even 14–it’s normal to drink. It’s normal to go to a pub and have a pint with your professor. It’s normal to walk into that pub and see people of all ages having conversation and listening to music. Binge drinking is much less common.
Here, binge drinking is a huge problem, and it creates situations where courage is needed to avoid it. Some people don’t get around to acting courageously until they’re in their 40’s. Some people never do.
Better to do it while you’re still in college.
[PS–I went to class that day. There ended up being plenty of students there.]