What Being A Nerd In My Teens Taught Me About Adulthood

When I was in high school, it was kind of my whole world.

I was in the marching band, concert band, musicals, plays, choir, newspaper, had an after-school job and took AP classes. That was just how it was. I was in the building of the high school from about 7:30 each morning, many times until 8 or 9 at night (or later if it was tech week, amirite theatre nerds?).

The arts kids had our own part of the building and, aside from normal classes, which I many times got out of, we lived down there. We were all friends, we dated each other, we went to dances together, we hung out after it was all over together. We were kind of like a family.

I didn’t really see anything wrong with my high school experience until I went to college. Obviously, with all of these things I did, there wasn’t any drinking or drugs happening. I’m not sure how I would have navigated 8 a.m. Saturday morning set-build days with a hangover or hours spinning my flag on Friday nights drunk. My friends and I never really even came across it—I waited tirelessly for a guy in a leather jacket to offer me a blunt like in a health class video for nothing. We kind of lived in our own little bubble. We made a lot of dinners, we had costume parties, we watched a lot of movies. And I honestly wouldn’t trade it for the world.

But, in college, it’s a totally different story. Drinking is not just something you do occasionally when someone’s parents are out of town; it was everywhere, all of the time. I think people who knew me and my friends in high school expected us to be kind of shell-shocked when we hit college. Like, somehow the more “popular” kids and their years of training had prepared them to balance getting hammered and still showing up to class. In everyone’s version of college, I should’ve gone absolutely insane, rebelling from my years of pent-up aggression, missing out on all of the times I should have been sneaking through windows or puking out of cars instead of sewing costumes or designing our school paper.

I’m happy to say, however, that that isn’t the case.

I picked up pretty much where I left off when I got to college. I made a ton of friends (albeit not without challenges), got involved in tons of clubs and jobs and shows and still remained in school buildings until all hours. The only difference was that yes, I started drinking.

Pause for gasps.

This is where my friends will probably call BS on me if I start acting like I don’t like to go out. I do. I’m a social person and my first glass of wine is an experience I rank up there with my birth and the future buying of my pug. But, I’ve learned my way of partying is a lot different than a lot of other people’s.

See when I go out, I like to go OUT. I like to talk to people I normally wouldn’t, play games, go see movies, dance, scream, run around, anything. But, that’s what I like to do anyway.

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Because of my insane control issues and a recent bout of stomach pain this past year, I wasn’t able to drink or feel up to partying like I used to. I’ve many times been the only sober one at a party and I can tell you it’s definitely interesting. I know people who, if they’re not totally hammered with everyone else will immediately complain and leave. While it’s definitely not my favorite thing to do, I honestly don’t think anyone can tell if I’m drunk or sober at parties sometimes because of the years of experience I had in high school.

Years of being a “nerd” totally got rid of my shame and majorly cut down on how much I care what people think of me. All the times my friends and I drove around sober for hours screaming the “Grease” soundtrack or laid in the grass eating ice cream on Friday nights made me content with the quiet moments. It forced me to be loud and social and fun without the crutch of alcohol.

I don’t judge people who get out of hand with drinking—lord knows I’ve had my nights. I just call total BS on the idea that people need years of teenage rebellion to seem like an adult. Years of hard partying and funny drinking stories can also be placed next to years of climbing the light board, watching your friends sing their hearts out, going on trips to Disney World with the band. Both experiences can be valid.

We all make mistakes, but I call BS that everyone’s mistakes and careless decisions have to mimic those of a terrible teen rom-com or some listicle about being young and reckless. So what if my mistakes in high school revolved less around getting sloshed and more about letting my friends wax my eyebrows, and making out with someone who doesn’t believe in birth control rights?

I’m really proud of my younger self; I hope you are of yours, too.

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