“I wish I could go back to college. Life was so simple back then.
What would I give/To go back and live/In a dorm with a meal plan again
I wish I could go back to college/In college you know who you are
You sit in the quad/And think oh my god
I am totally gonna go far.” — Avenue Q by Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx
Every once in a while I see a meme that has some variation of “I’m glad I was young before we had camera phones and social media”. I always chuckle when I see that, thinking of all the crazy stuff that happened when I was younger.
It turns out the even if we didn’t have camera phones, there were a lot of photos being taken when I was in college. I know this because recently someone from the class ahead of me in college created a Facebook group for those of us who were at my college in the late 1980s.
It’s been a frenzy of uploading old pictures on the site and there’s one thing I can say for certain: we all drank A LOT back then. I mean seriously, almost every picture includes alcohol. The photos are particularly concentrated on fraternity and sorority events, and time spent at the local pubs in our college town that turned a blind eye to our obviously altered IDs.
Seriously it was so easy back then; our drivers licenses were laminated and all you had to do was very carefully peel it open, change the year of birth, and re-laminate it again. I was born in 1967 so it was easy for me to turn that 7 into a 4 and make myself instantly three years older. Not that I ever did that (wink, wink).
I remember one of the bars had a ladies’ night with “two for one” drinks for “the ladies”. We would of course get Long Island Ice Teas because that was the most alcohol bang for your buck, especially drinking them two fisted. Ah the good old days. It’s a miracle our livers survived.
One of my former classmates and fellow introverts posted on the page that she couldn’t believe she had missed so many great parties. I have to admit, I felt the same way. Don’t get me wrong, I partied a fair amount in college (see previous Long Island Iced Tea story) but not as much as I wish I had.
I’ve never been one for a huge crowd so I was never completely comfortable at a big party, although I went to quite a few in my time. I had no parents to help pay for college, so I worked multiple part-time jobs to cover the difference between my loans and scholarships and the actual cost of college. And the rest of the time…I studied. I studied a lot. And periodically got a couple of hours of sleep.
If I knew then what I know now, I have to say quite honestly I would have studied way less. It turns out absolutely no one has ever asked me for my undergraduate GPA; even my graduate school program admission wasn’t dependent on my GPA. I busted my ass to maintain an A average in college when I could have got along in life just as well with a C average. And done a lot more living.
Who knew that was the last time I’d have such a high alcohol tolerance? Who knew that was the last time I’d be able to travel around the globe with only a backpack and a few dollars? Who knew that was the last time I would be surrounded by so many people my age, and have so many friends? Who knew that some day I would be in my 50s and wishing I had dated more, partied more and had more adventures when I was a kid?
Don’t misunderstand. College was awesome. I had a blast. I made some great friends. I studied and backpacked in Europe. I edited the newspaper and interviewed the visiting Queen of Sweden. I drank Long Island Iced Teas and did test tube shots of tequila and danced until the wee hours. I was kissed under the bell tower. I ate Thai food for the first time. I went to football games and art exhibitions and political events. I smoked pot — and I inhaled.
But if I could go back to that bright-eyed little freshman who moved into the dorms in 1986, I would tell her to do all of that and much, much more. I would say, “Young Rose, relax and enjoy these four years before you have to be a grown up. Live large. Say yes to every adventure. Go to more parties. Push your boundaries. Be a little sluttier. And for god’s sake, use less toxic Aqua Net.”