This is Blahsmopolitan, a weekly column about one freshman’s misfortune as he navigates his New Adult Life in Chicago, and the songs that soundtracked it. New stories are posted every Thursday, alongside a curated Blahsmo playlist available on Apple Music and Spotify to complement your reading and get you through the week with some new music. This week, our columnist heads home for the holidays, writes an actual advice column, and repents for his dorm life sins in hopes that you can learn from his mistakes.
I get that it’s super corny to be the person who goes away to college and then can’t shut up about how much they miss home. College is supposed to be the holy Mecca of good times, the cure-all to high school’s nine circles of social hell, the place where you go to become your true self and never look back. Don’t get me wrong, my first semester of college has given me tastes of all of those things, but there is no such thing as an overnight cure to having a terrible and mostly pointless life, and there’s no such thing as a semester-long cure either.
My qualifications to say this are as follows: I’ve gone to a city college with a 60% commuter population for about three months. I’ve made about four friendships that I could see becoming deeper than just someone to get wasted with, I’ve been passed out drunk almost every weekend, and I’ve taken strictly 100-level courses in areas mostly unrelated to my major. Despite all these deeply formative experiences, I am incredibly excited to go home.
However, everyone knows that Thanksgiving is objectively the worst holiday of the year. There is no good music associated with it, cooking a Thanksgiving meal with your family starts more fights than every family game night that has ever happened combined, it is literally impossible for the average parent to cook a turkey without it being dry and kind of sad and not a Turducken, and Black Friday is only cool if you’re looking to buy a TV or to really hurt a stranger’s kid in the video game aisle.
And of course, the stereotypical worst part of Thanksgiving is your actual family. Having to re-introduce yourself to people you’re supposed to love, but barely know. How is school? Are you working? Girlfriend? Oh, sorry, boyfriend? The sensory overload of a family reunion can make you feel pretty petrified, especially as a college student. It forces you to come to terms with the fact that you’ve mostly just been binge watching Shameless and desperately trying to find a time and place to jerk off once a month.
All of my friends have already gone home and I’m writing this on the floor of the laundry room. I’m sitting Indian style (Is that problematic now? That’s what they called it in Kindergarten. I’m serious.) and thinking about all of the things that I might be able to take home to my family, to be a part of that conversation. As it happens, most of what I’ve learned from my first semester away isn’t exactly talk for the dinner table, so I decided there’s no better venue than this column to share all the things I’ve “learned.”
REALIZE THE SORT OF LOSER YOU ARE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE
Cut out a block of time one of these days and write out everything about who you are, like you’re a character on a TV show. What are your goals, and are they stupid and gay? Who are you at your best, and who are you after two Four Lokos and tiny sip of molly water? Pay close attention to any extreme proclivity to brands that are expensive despite consisting of literally plain shirts with things like whales or trees on them. If you’re a business major because you saw The Wolf of Wall Street once, take a step back and rethink who you are at your core. If you’re undecided, think about whether you’re in the process of deciding or if you’re in the process of drinking a lot of fruity vodka on Tuesday nights and giving sad, silent handjobs behind Taco Bell.
I handwrote four pages about myself and showed them to nobody so I could be truly honest. This way, I realized the parts of myself that needed fixing, so I could rebrand appropriately before I met too many new people. You’re welcome.
FIGURE OUT WHAT SONGS ARE ACTUALLY COOL RIGHT NOW AND NOT JUST COOL AS A JOKE
There is no worse person to be at your first frat party than the person who goes too hard at the meme song. If you’re a person like me, chances are you aren’t keeping up with urban radio hits that permeate the college party scene. All of these songs that people think are good tend to have one portion where the rapper does something either genuinely good or really gimmicky- learn that part and be able to scream along with the crowd, and you’ll be fine. A really good example is “No Problem” by Chance the Rapper- that part where he just goes “HUH! HUH!” Know that part of every song. You’re welcome.
EVERYONE IS A LIAR AND NOBODY HAS A NAME
When people you meet in college say things like “I’ve totally given up,” or “I’m not going to any of my classes or doing any of my work,” they are lying and it’s only you who isn’t going to their classes. We live in 2016 where people complain when they have nothing better to say to fill the silence, so just because an acquaintance says they’re having the worst day ever and caved and bought Wendy’s to keep from hanging themselves, you are not justified in doing the same. People make things up to avoid silence all the time. Learn to read it. Class-to-class small talk means nothing besides “no good songs were coming on shuffle and human interaction is the next best thing.”
On a similar note, it is totally okay to scroll through your contacts and find a sea of names like “Blonde Anthropology Girl,” “Probably Sells Weed,” and “Guy I Hate But Goes to Lecture.” You are going to meet tens and tens of people during your time in college, but maybe five of them are going to matter. Don’t go burning bridges just because you have to look over at someone’s paper every once and a while to remember their name is Ashley and not Alexandra. Other people exist to be used, just as you do. You’re welcome.
DO NOT DIVULGE ALL PERSONAL INFO JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
If there is anything I have learned from my Drunkself, it’s that not everybody deserves to know your life story. I used to do this thing where the second liquor touched my lips, I gathered a powwow of strangers to tell them every deeply personal and intricate detail of my past. This applies all the same, if not more in college, because of the fact that 98% of the people you get drunk with on any given night, you will never see again. And it’s not cool to send strangers away with the knowledge that you lost your virginity to an anime soundtrack.
Remind yourself throughout the day that it’s acceptable to just be cool with some people. Not everyone has to be your friend or your enemy. You can just see people around and give them the most neutral, noncommittal head nod the world has ever seen during the day, and dance and sweat all over them at night and go about your business. There is an ethics code to college acquaintanceship, and it is most easily summed up by Ye Olde “go with the flow.” If you click, you click. If you don’t, just make out with them once and never talk to them again. You’re welcome.
LIVING WITH A COLLEGE ROOMMATE IS LIKE LIVING IN THAT DISNEY MOVIE WITH THE SMART HOUSE… I THINK IT WAS ACTUALLY CALLED SMART HOUSE: YOU WILL BE PETRIFIED TO MASTURBATE
Maintaining even the simplest degree of privacy whilst living the dorm life is a losing battle. There is no perfect solution to this issue, but just like you must create a safe word in the world of sadomasochism, you have to open up to your roommate about your needs and preferences as a person who lives in the same world as them. There are a few types of roommates you can get, and they all require very different approaches to better your experience.
Some will lay down the law right away, stating exactly what they need and when they need it- the eHarmony single forty year old mother, cynical about love and careless about her hair of the roommate world. You will see this roommate coming from a mile away- stunning handwriting, intricate and symmetrical arrays of sticky notes within the first week of class, more binders than credit hours, and a few defiant eye rolls and scoffs at your behavior before they correct you verbally. With this roommate, you are the misbehaving dog, and they are the tyrant with the spray bottle. The best way to deal is to get a new roommate, or see if you can get them to start smoking weed. These people will never change, but neither do the long-term effects of recreational drugs. You’re welcome.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you have roommates like mine, who are so relentlessly and aggressively chill about everything, you are left to wonder what parts of your bedtime routine make them hate everything else about you. This roommate has no clear tics- never a joke about how loud you crank your earbuds at night, never a passing comment about you leaving your socks on the floor. You will never know if this roommate actually likes you, so you should stop trying and just be your best self. Or take a Xanax every once in a while. You’re welcome.
For those in-betweeners, catch them in a moment of boredom or silence with a question. Who doesn’t like to talk about themselves, especially when someone is actually asking to hear it? “What can a person do that pisses you off more than anything?”, you ask. And they will say “When they can’t read situations well.” And you will be back to square one, but you can try again tomorrow. You’re welcome.
EVERYTHING IS EMBARRASSING
People go to college for a lot of different reasons, but what unites most of them is the desire to get away from the people who pigeonhole them by simply existing. This is the real problem with the public education system- you go through all of your formative years with the same faces and minds, so by the time you get to high school, it’s just an inbred, incestuous, hormonal cesspool of people who have very rigid ideas of what every other Cesspool Member is like, and do not take kindly to any sort of change. Really, think about it. Whenever someone changed their hair or like, got a new boyfriend in high school, you genuinely and truly cared, and were maybe even angry about it. Those are crazy things to care about, and clinically insane things to be angry about. College is freeing because you don’t have to know anybody or their stupid hair.
What I mean to say is that the best part about college is that nobody has any idea who you are. This separates the men from the boys. For those who peaked in high school, the idea of starting from scratch is terrifying, and it should be. For those with room to grow, college is in many ways, their shot.
Let’s say you want to be the person who only wears pastel colors and has a neon green pixie cut from now on, like a person from Whoville. Do it. No one cares. Except me if you don’t have the personality to back it.
Let’s say you want to read up on some stuff outside your major in your free time but you’re worried that people will think you’re lame. Do it. No one cares, and honestly nothing is less sexy than having no passions or interests, so you’ll probably get laid.
Let’s say you want to write and produce a film, and you need actors and people with technical expertise, and someone who’s willing to make out with you on camera for multiple takes in your dorm room for the sake of art, and you need to be the person who is comfortable asking for all those things. Do it. No one cares. No really, probably no one will care. People are always looking for some to take initiative and lead for them. Go Dostoevsky on ’em.
Let’s say you want to be a person who tells it like it is, comes off rude to some people, but reveals themselves to be a deeply caring and loyal person in the end? Do it. No one cares, except maybe people who write Lifetime scripts.
The truth is everything worth doing is embarrassing, so you should just run with whatever you’re feeling. You only have four years to do it before you have to bankroll your floundering and flailing on your own. That time will fly a lot faster than you think.
If you ever do get nervous to try something new, or to add a new facet to your brand, just think of me. I write essays about throwing up in the street, taking a grown man’s virginity, throwing parties in my dorm with zero soundproofing, and stealing drinks from dive bars in college towns for the world to see, and send the link to my parents and grandparents every single week, and I am the most anxious and neurotic person I have ever met. If I can do it, you can do it too. So go invest in a new wardrobe, take about nine shots of Fireball, slam your fists on the Thanksgiving table and demand your seat!
Have I ever steered you wrong?
This is the last Blahsmopolitan of 2016. I have had so much fun writing this, and even more fun hearing all of your reactions and feedback. Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Finals Week, and Happy Later Holidays… See you next year!
Nick Malone is a writer and filmmaker with a secret… and he’ll never tell! Find him on Twitter @VLRTUALBOY and find him on Grindr at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he studies Creative Writing and Art.