Last Halloween weekend, I went Uptown with my boyfriend around 11 p.m., headed straight for the corner of High Street and Poplar where crowds of other students were also making their way toward BrickStreet.
Except, instead of getting into the line of people waiting to go inside, the two of us went over to the opposite corner of the intersection and sat down on the long wooden bench facing the bar.
We weren’t there to get drunk or go dancing; we were there to eat day-old bread from Jimmy John’s and people-watch as our fellow students celebrated the holiday.
I hadn’t spent much time Uptown late at night before that weekend, and it was one of the most eye-opening experiences of college I’ve had thus far. I knew, of course, that people go out on the weekends in college.
I’d heard all about BrickStreet before coming to Miami, and I knew about the drinking culture here. I just hadn’t been prepared for actually seeing it, especially on a night as active as the Saturday before Halloween. Girls stumbling around in heels, guys yelling drunkenly at their friends across the street, the music and the chatter coming from the groups conglomerated around the bars.
It was all so strange to observe this different world from the sidelines. I was there, in the middle of it all, but I wasn’t really a part of it, either.
Although the prominent drinking culture at Miami creates this idea that all students like to spend their Fridays and Saturdays at frat parties or bars, or drinking with friends, there’s an entire subculture of people here that don’t participate in those activities at all.
There are people on the floor of my residence hall that take turns hosting movie nights in their rooms, complete with popcorn and microwaved s’mores. In my boyfriend’s hall, there’s a group of people that spend almost every night sitting in pajamas in the communal TV space, watching movies or playing video games and talking.
A few girls in the group even spend their time knitting while watching the movies. These are the people I spend my weekends with, and I have arguably as much fun as anyone that spends theirs drinking at BrickStreet.
I have nothing against the people that partake in Uptown nightlife or enjoy going to frat parties. College is a time when you have freedom from your parents and fewer responsibilities than “real” adult life calls for, and, for some people, the way to make the best of these four years is to participate in that kind of lifestyle. I’ve simply never seen the appeal in drinking or going out when I can easily stay in with friends and still enjoy myself.
I still experience that all-too-typical “fear of missing out” when I talk to friends from high school who question why I haven’t embraced the partying lifestyle in college. Am I wasting these four years by not getting drunk every weekend or hooking up with random guys? They seem to think so, and even if the thought sometimes crosses my mind, that worry goes away whenever I remind myself of what that would entail.
I know myself well enough to know I wouldn’t be comfortable at a crowded party or bar, and I’d much rather invest my time and energy in creating a solid relationship with my boyfriend than in casually dating or hooking up with random guys over the next four years.
I started dating my boyfriend at a time in college when most people are breaking up. We met the second week of classes and began dating about a month later, just as I was watching on Instagram as friends from my hometown broke up with their significant others or heard about people in my residence hall experiencing the same thing. I am the antithesis of the first semester breakup and bingeing phenomenons.
I don’t think that my new relationship and my aversion to drinking are necessarily related — I believe I likely would have still avoided Brick Street and frat parties even if I hadn’t met my boyfriend. But I can see where the volatile combination of a breakup and access to alcohol could create a recipe for disaster for those first-years experiencing it.
My transition into college was surprisingly smooth, and I attribute a lot of it to my low-key weekends and my relationship. My boyfriend became a huge part of my support system in dealing with the smaller changes that college brings and talking through daily stresses. By staying in most weekends, I had a chance to make friends in more low-pressure situations, and I didn’t let my weekends distract me from schoolwork as I tried to adjust to college classes and homework.
I can only imagine the kind of toxic environment someone in the exact opposite situation would be experiencing — dealing with change, losing the support of their significant other, experiencing heartbreak and being distracted by alcohol and its effects.
I’ll never be a first-semester college first-year again, so I’ll never have to go through a breakup while experiencing both the freedom and challenges of college for the first time. Of course, the drinking and hook-up culture of college will never go away, and I’ve got another three and half years on Miami’s campus. I’ve navigated that culture so far, and I’m perfectly content to spend the rest of my time in college on the sidelines from it.
There may be a crowd of people trying to get into Brick Street every weekend, but I’m much happier on the people-watching bench outside it.