Lessons From a College Frat Party: The Problem With Societal Ideals.
My hope in sharing this personal anecdote is to demonstrate the harmful nature of ideals—especially in college: a time renowned for overflowing voices and opinions from diverging directions. And even more specifically, my genuine desire is that this anecdote can reiterate how, once tested, those same ideals can quickly fall short of what is most beneficial for our individual well-being.
Prior to attending college, I was entirely unaware of the sheer number of converging college “ideals” people frequently hold. But as I conversed with an array of people over the past two years (some of whom were not college students), I was shocked to discover that many people hold polar opposite ideals or expectations for what a college experience should ultimately provide. Some people emphasize the importance of traditional academic success (most frequently in the form of a high GPA or rigorous major), whereas other people emphasize personal connections or real-world experience. Some people emphasize community involvement or building a stellar resume, whereas others emphasize that college is for discovering yourself and relishing in being an irresponsible teen for the last societally acceptable time. And the list goes on….
And although I was beginning to broaden my awareness of the converging college ideals in society during my introductory two years of college, I now realize that I had my laser focus on one aspect: academic performance/GPA. I knew with every ounce in my body that I wanted to go to Cal Poly, and so I (some may say fortunately—others unfortunately) knew that I would have to toil and sacrifice many other college ideals in order to reach that ultimate goal.
But then it happened: I conquered my challenge head on, and I got accepted into Cal Poly.
And after the overwhelming shock of being accepted into my dream school began to subside, other college ideals that I had previously dismissed as irrelevant began to have a stronger voice and more prevalent influence on my perspective of college. And so, much to my demise, I let my mind, which was no longer confined to a particular goal, run rampant in the presence of my own insecurities. I began to question what a “college experience” really meant.
And I wrestled with the possibility that maybe attending Cal Poly would be my chance—my chance to fulfill other ideals of being a college student, like being irresponsible, excessively social, etc.
I still have no concrete explanation for my new fascination with these other ideals. But I can speculate that maybe it was the well-intentioned remarks I received about how living at home was not the “real college experience;” maybe it was the amusing Instagram posts or stories I heard/saw every weekend from college peers; maybe it was simply my own insecurities—or maybe, it was a detrimental combination of all the above.
Nevertheless, six months ago I decided to attend Cal Poly with two diverging college ideals: the first being that college is a time to focus on expanding your intellectual abilities and building a strong community, and the second (primarily hidden, but internally brewing) being that, in order to enjoy a true college experience, I would need to adopt a spirit/demeanor that aligned with society’s expectation for the “college experience.”
And here is where we finally reach the climax of this post: a Christmas frat party. In all honesty, I had no real desire to go to this particular party—I didn’t know a soul in attendance except the dear friend I went with, and I was exhausted from a stressful week.
However, at the same time, I desperately wanted nothing less than to attend this mysterious frat party and test the alluring unknown of a college ideal that I previously dismissed.
As my first quarter was coming to an end, my pride was stirred after I realized I had failed miserably to pursue my second (again primarily hidden, but internally present) college ideal to be more irresponsible and social. So, on that Saturday night in November, I over-analyzed what to wear and quickly texted my parents that I was going to a party (yes, I know—they are so cool/wise that I can do that) before heading out to my first official Greek party.
When I arrived, like a curiously intrigued kid at a candy shop buzzing with energy, I took a jello shot and impatiently waited. I waited to feel something new or meaningful.
I waited for the half-clothed girls dancing on guys, vulgar music, and alcohol I consumed to transport me to a new and exciting place—a place that I thought I knew based on my previously tiny and inaccurate glimpse into society’s distorted understanding of fulfillment.
Mind you, I do not have any deeply rooted aversion to responsibly drinking, dancing and relishing in the rare company of some kindred pals. However, neither my aversion or favor for said activities is the point of this post. Instead, the point of this post is to express how this particular experience ripped a deceiving blindfold off my eyes and revealed my ignorance in so many areas. As I proudly grandma-danced with my sweet friend, my mind burst with raw reflection—reflection on the undeserving love and fulfillment I already had.
I scanned my surroundings only to come to the deep and painstaking realization that so many of my peers were desperately trying to fill a void—a void that I filled the same day I let Jesus into my heart; a void that I have filled by a Christian community who mutually challenges and encourages me – spiritually and emotionally.
In the midst of a blaring stereo, pulsating disco lights and excessive alcohol, I was forced alas to genuinely examine the voices and ideals I had allowed to swarm around my mind for too long.
I wondered if it could possibly be that the same people who so adamantly proposed their college ideal as the end-all and be-all for personal fulfillment, also experienced a similar void as the one I vividly observed that night.
My newfound recognition of the voids around me in no way removes my own voids. As anyone who knows me is aware, I have real, raw voids of equal or even greater degrees. I have voids from insecurities, control issues and an endless array of other things. But what God so graciously revealed to me in this unlikely circumstance was my OWN stupidity. Yes—I mean it, my stupidity
My stupidity to doubt or belittle, even for a second, the peace, fulfillment and life that God has graciously provided me. And, my stupidity to fall victim to certain college ideals and let the voices around me question my own judgment of what is the best college experience for me personally. And ultimately—my stupidity to question whether or not what the world has to offer me is more fulfilling than God’s undeserved grace and love.
Well, before I completely lose you, dear reader, I want to leave you with my overarching hope in sharing this anecdote: I hope that my story will in some way inspire you (whether you are a college student or not) to courageously confront the ever-present pressure to blindly conform to societal ideals. In a world filled with wanderers searching for fulfillment, I truly believe that only we, individually, can determine what fulfills us.