I was wandering around a party one evening when a girl, presumably a freshman, commented on my near full cup of clear liquid.
“Just drinking water tonight?” she giggled.
I had to stifle my laugh. I gave her a whiff so she could smell that the cup was filled with pure 80-proof vodka, decidedly not water. Suffice it to say, I think this helps to illustrate the disconnect that a lot of freshmen have to face when it comes to the Stanford drinking scene. Now a lot of debate has surfaced about drinking topics, and there are few perspectives I could take that wouldn’t be rehashing what has been said already. Safety, for yourself and others, is paramount. That’s obvious and I am not going to hammer home a point that’s already overstated. I’ve made mistakes in my life, as have most people. You’re reading a column by someone who has seen good and bad ends. I will stress a point about self-discipline, and before you stop reading, it’s not going to be the type of self-discipline you’re thinking.
Generally speaking, I think discipline comes down to whether or not you want alcohol to control your life. What most people don’t realize is that this happens on both ends of the spectrum. If you feel you need to drink to have fun, or you frequent the same scenes every weekend, then there’s a problem. Your social life should be varied and you should seek to have fun sober, with or without friends. Shows, recitals, museums, lectures: All these things are wonderful occasions to go out and enrich your mind on the weekends. These programs should be taken advantage of.
Yet, the converse is also true. If you abstain from alcohol, or let your fears and misunderstandings of spirits drive you away from them, then you’re losing out on a fantastic part of the freshman experience. Partying with friends and having adventures — read: misadventures — is a fantastic opportunity. People lament, “I feel like I’m being pressured to use alcohol to have the totality of the freshman experience.” I’m sorry to break it to you, but alcohol is a component of the freshman experience. It’s not the largest component, and your life doesn’t end without it, but you’ll miss out on a lot of cool social experiences if you choose not to use it. Fraternities suck without alcohol, as is epitomized by what my good friend Ed Ngai posted on Facebook: “You’ve never seen a shitshow until you’ve sober monitored at Full Moon on the Quad.”
Now, this isn’t a warrant to go out and drink yourself into submission, but it is a warrant to use the time and space of Stanford to experiment with your life. Try differing and unique ways of socializing, because safely expanding what you do and who you do it with can, at worst, expand your view of the world.
Discomfort can be a fantastic catalyst for change in our lives. What I am requesting is that you use the ample information Stanford has given you about safe drinking, and the safe forum provided by fantastic staffers and good friends, to experiment with your life. Push your social boundaries and inhabit a world you’re not entirely familiar with. If you try it and discover it’s not for you, then stop; there are plenty of other fantastic things to do on this campus.
The same can be said of frequent drinkers. Go to one of the Cardinal Nights events. They run their programs well, provide food and offer good entertainment options for a quiet evening. Just because you can rage doesn’t mean you have to; those opportunities are far more plentiful than people will have you believe.
As far as university drinking scenes go, Stanford is fantastic. There’s a mix for everyone here, combined with lenient rules, safe environments, staffers who care and an administration concerned with our well-being. True discipline, to which we should all aspire, is using alcohol at the right times, and in the right amounts, to have fun. There’s absolutely nothing wrong in that.