A Few Pointers From an Alumna on College Social Life

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When I went to college I wanted to explore myself, my environs, and my activities and interpersonal relationships. I wanted to take risks and get a better idea of who I really was, and what my strengths and weaknesses really were now that the family wasn’t around to put me back in that same old rut. I decided I had been living afraid and it was time to break out. That’s how I found myself one night in Illinois saying, “I’ve never been to Texas.
I wanted to venture forth boldly as easily as trying on a new hat.

I mean if you want to squander these halcyon days sitting in gloomy bars drinking too much and having the same old “What’s your major?” conversations, no one is stopping you. Or you can watch TV and movies at the dorm or the union, but you could do that at home. I just elected to spend my personal time having adventures. So I am advising you to make your own college social life-one that you won’t regret.

I wasn’t a jock and not involved in any sports, but I sure did enjoy my quiet times at the new recreation center’s sauna and steam bath. And if I didn’t have someone to go with me, it did not faze me one bit to go there or anywhere by myself. Sometimes I just took myself out to dinner and I enjoyed the peace and isolation.

And I just kept it up. I pretended I had forgotten past failures and social experiments that hadn’t quite worked out as planned. One beautiful July morning, I said, “Take our bikes and go pick blueberries? Yeah! I’ve never done that before.” It was a remarkable blueberry smelling and tasting laid back day that reinvigorated me to get back to the books.

If you’re not sure who you are, then anything is possible. I had no money when I started college. I literally went from welfare to college because I read in the local paper that the Democrats had made that possible with more school grants and loans. “We’ll see about that”, I reckoned. By God, it was true. But I needed money or something to support myself and have some sort of housing. I saw an ad in the school paper that a quadriplegic woman was looking for a live-in attendant to help her. Sounded good to me, and off I went to make many new friendships and get active fighting for the rights of the disabled. It was news to me that I could be an attendant. Shame on the people who treated me like I was just a flake and could barely care for myself.

I had always been a strong feminist, but it wasn’t until I saw another local ad looking for live-in domestic abuse and rape crisis counselors at the local woman’s center that I really got involved. I found out that wet T-shirt contests did make me want to protest, and that I didn’t lose study time writing letters to Congressmen about ratifying the ERA. And I got to know so many wonderful women. I never knew I was together enough to be any sort of counselor before that, and counseling is what I later ended up doing for my career.

Now you probably are wishing I’d talk about your social life on campus. I’m trying to. I’m saying get out there and mix it up. Read the bulletin boards at the dorm and at the union. Join a club you never imagined yourself being a member of. Get some free campus counseling and unveil even more of your wild old self no holds barred. Life is for living and there are no better years than these.

Sure you have to hit the books. We all know that. But you do a better job of it when your refreshed and restored by some unlikely adventure. I got a little part time job typing for one of the first professors to file a sex discrimination case. I learned a lot from her that helped me as a woman and as a feminist. She and her husband were from Spain. Every afternoon they brought me the most delightful glass of wine with some tapas of some kind or another. It was such fun I never felt that I was working at all.

I went on my first hunger strike protesting inaccessibility for disabled students. I had never thought of myself as someone who would go on a hunger strike. I was starting to like the new me.

I was invited to parties that were mostly made up of professors, and I went because that was something new to me. I’m still embarrassed about having one too many and calling for the Rolling Stones to replace Vivaldi on the stereo.

I met the love of my life and fell madly, passionately in love. I don’t regret a single minute. I ended up following him first to Florida and then to Europe while putting my education on hiatus. Absolutely it was worth it.

One lonely night around Halloween I was a little down and went to a bar by myself. A kid started to try to pick me up with the old “What’s your major” and “Where’s your Halloween costume?” An evil notion was spawned. I convinced him that I was wearing my costume because I was a cross-dressing gay man. It cheered me up the rest of the night when I thought of how fast he had run out of that bar.

These are all college stories. A person should do their best to accumulate thousands of them to keep them warm in the aging lonely winters to come.

Discover who you are and have a wonderful adventure.

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