It was around 1:30am on a Friday night when I ran into my old flame. We hadn’t spoken in months, since the huge fight in the basement of my building. He saw me and gave me his sly smile, asking me to wait so he could speak to me. I waited.
When he came over and began asking how I was, apologizing, discussing life, I realized how much we had both changed in the few years we had been in college. I knew him, better than most people, and I could read his eyes. When I told him about my parents divorce for the first time, they grew wide, and he began apologizing harder. The shock in his eyes increased when I described the emotions I had felt discovering my father’s gorgeous younger mistress.
Then, my old flame looked at me and raised his cup. He told me that alcohol was a depressant and, even though I didn’t always drink much, I would soon learn to start.
In that moment, as we raised our cups to the indescribable mess that is my family, I realized we were raising cups in honor of so much more. When college students drink, we aren’t always doing it to have the greatest night of our lives–those can be planned and reserved for particular evenings or occasions. In that moment, like so many other students, we were raising cups to the end of another hard week, to asshole professors with tenure who don’t give a shit, and to engineering majors who think they’re smarter than everyone.
In that moment in particular, we were raising our cups to the hours my old flame had spent in the library to maintain his 3.8 GPA just so he could make his parents proud, himself proud, and end up in a job like the one my extremely successful lying father has. We were raising our cups to the confusion that was my previous semester, as I sat in huge lecture halls and small, intense classes, trying to get my bearings for what the hell this place was. We were raising our cups to the question my old flame proposed, like “Do I suck for not wanting to be friends with my little sister?” We were raising our cups to the hysteria that our relationship was, and is, as many relationships in college are.
That night, we raised our cups to the depressing turmoil that college is. It’s hard, which everyone tells you before you leave, but who the hell actually listens? What no one fucking tells you is that it’s hard in so many different ways, and some of those ways will take you to the home of your lowest places. It’s about the decisions that a warped place like college makes you make. The experiences you go through that will steal your innocence, emphasize your innocence, or just make you feel plain dirty.
But without college, without those forced experiences, without making those decisions every goddamn day of your life…who would we be? That is the real depressing question.