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Becoming That Girl
Becoming That Girl
Ashley was the stereotypical good girl. She had A’s in high school and was the track, volleyball, and even power-lifting star. She was heavily involved in her church and worked at a Christian camp over the summer. Her family is close to one another, her parents are happily married, and her siblings all serve the Lord. She didn’t drink or do drugs, and she had only dated a few boys casually. Her life as a whole was pure and happy. No, she was not perfect, but she was Ashley, your cliché, all-American good girl. Everyone expected great things out of her- high grades, a good sorority, med school, a Christian boyfriend, and an excellent reputation. She would be that girl, that “Baylor approved,” beautiful, sweet girl.
However, a few weeks into college, she became that girl, but not the girl that everyone had predicted. During Welcome Week she went to a few fraternity parties and had a little to drink, but nothing serious. She kissed one boy, but just in a drunken stupor, nothing serious. The next weekend she had a little more, and the next, even more. Ashley quickly spiraled out of control. She now drinks constantly, whether at a fraternity party, a friend’s house, or even in her dorm room by herself, with a cup of Ramen and a movie on Netflix. She has smoked weed, but she says, “It wasn’t a big deal.” She has been with twelve boys in a mere three months, and now has a reputation with the fraternities as that freshman girl. She has made a fool of herself time after time in public places, and is blacklisted from several major sororities. Her grades are horrible, with D’s and F’s in the majority of her classes. Does she see the error and problems in her ways? Does she agree it is time for a change? No. She is in college, the time of her life, so she is “just having fun. It is nothing serious.”
The above “Ashley” is my roommate. She is the sweetest, most funny girl you will ever meet. Our personalities mesh perfectly and I love her during the week. However, when it comes to the weekend, she transforms into the one stereotypical person I did not want to room with. Her wild side comes out and it is unbearable. This is not what I signed up for. I signed up for that girl, who loves Jesus and her family. What happened to transform her into that one freshman girl, who boys love for a night and sorority girls instantly dislike? This problem is not just a personal problem with my roommate; nearly every college freshman knows someone like this. People who lose control of themselves and their bad habits are common. What can we, as friends and family, Baylor University, as the school, and authority, like professors and CLs, do to help reduce good students losing themselves in the freedom of college?
In order to find a solution, we must know the causes, and this problem has several different origins. Some students are too sheltered or protected. When they get to the “real world,” they cannot handle it. The newfound freedom overwhelms them, and they want to do everything. One Baylor student told me, in regards to one of his friends, that “Jimmy went wild because his parents were way too strict on him prior to going to Baylor, thus he never got to experience the things he is now doing in college.” Protecting your children from the evils of the world is a great idea, but a general education is still key. That does not mean that giving your middle school kids vodka will help them control their future alcohol consumption, but to send a child into college completely naïve of their future independence is a common and foolish mistake. Other students greatly desire popularity, friends, the title of being “cool,” and a place in the right crowd. They will do anything to ensure that. Unfortunately, they appear foolish and immature more than they impress others. For a while, “Ashley” would bring alcohol into our dorm room. She would get beer from friends, and even stole some while babysitting. She made sure everyone knew she had it in the room. She once lied to a guy about having vodka mixed in with the cranberry juice. Her ploy to impress him did not work, which was evident by the confused and even slightly repulsed look on his face. The last cause seems to be an invincible mindset, where nothing bad can happen to you. It is just alcohol and a little pot, right? This is college, with no parents, no responsibilities, and all opportunity. We are young, free, and wild. It is just having fun and this is the time to experience everything. “Ashley” has said several times, “What’s the worst that could happen?” She’s driven drunk, ran from several busted parties, and fooled around with many, many guys, only to have her heart broken. Each and every day she is living the repercussions of the “what’s the worst that could happen?” mentality, yet she is still blind to her errors. Media reinforces this lifestyle all the time, but very rarely does it show the realistic consequences.
Excessive drinking and partying can lead to various devastating effects. The students see partying as more valuable than studying, homework, or waking up for classes, and thus their grades greatly suffer. One anonymous student told me a typical story about one of his friends, whom I’ve named John. “John assumed he would be maintaining a 3.9 GPA. As the semester progressed and he started to party more, he cares less and less about his grades. This is sad because we both want to join the same fraternity, which requires a 3.0 GPA, and moreover med school, which requires above a 3.5.” John is ruining his future plans for fun nights, alcohol, and the “time of his life.” There are numerous possibilities of things that could happen while under the influence. Unwanted sex, which could lead to a pregnancy or STD, embarrassing photos, videos, text messages, or calls, blood alcohol poisoning, severe hangovers, or even just developing an extremely poor reputation are a few of many possibilities. “Nothing serious” can damage your future career and life, your present relationships, and your past positive image.
What can be done about this problem? Is there a one step, cure-all solution? I do not think so. This problem is so vast and so diverse that I believe there is no flawless resolution. This does not advocate giving up, however. There is always something that loved ones and friends can do to help.
The audience I wish to focus on is us. You and I, as the friends, roommates, or classmates of these students, can make the biggest impact. We cannot control them or keep them from their foolish mistakes, but we can always do our best to help prevent them. No one likes to be preached at by others or feel judged, so thus doing either one would be counterproductive. What I have learned is best is to protect them, love them, and gently remind them of their true self. Through these three small steps, we can help produce a big effect.
First, and most important, is to protect them. You must be their better judgment when they cannot judge for themselves. You must be their mother, telling them no when they have had too much or gone too far, and be their chauffeur when they cannot drive themselves to the next party. You must pry them away from the creepy guy that promises to drive them home and be the friend to pull them off of the table. You must try your best to protect them from themselves. This is no easy task. It is draining and can even lead to your own bad reputation. Of course, you cannot do this every time. Sometimes our friends must learn on their own. As harsh as that sounds, they will eventually fall to their lowest point, where through pain, embarrassment, or shock they see their mistakes. It is then, when they can sink no lower, that they will be ready to change on their own. This is where my second solution, loving them, is key.
Every time “Ashley” leaves for a night-out, I tell her the same thing. “Call me, if you need anything. I’ll turn my phone up, so if you need a ride I will pick you up. I’m serious; don’t hesitate. Be safe! Think about what you’re doing and be smart with your choices!” Typically she laughs and says, “Yes, mother.” The next morning I slip into our standard routine: a glass of water, two blue Advils, and a cup of coffee. I do my best to remain patient, kind, and quiet. Showing love, even though she knows I disagree with her choices, helps our relationship. Sometimes I get extremely bitter towards her. She does this, yet has no guilt putting a scripture on her Facebook as soon as she is sober enough to work her computer. I daily work on understanding and coming to terms with the realization that one sin is not worse than another. Everyone is a hypocrite, in one-way or another, so who am I to judge or condemn her? Love, not your overly righteous spirit or condemnation, will help her. Helping our friends with true love is a simple way to usher them out of their foolishness.
Lastly, we can remind them of what and who they truly are. “Jimmy” is that funny, smart guy, not that one guy who cannot remember what he did last weekend. “Ashley” is the artistic, innocent girl, not that one girl who kissed three boys at one party. How can we do this without being overly confrontational or condemning? For me, it is simple reminders for “Ashley.” It is encouraging her to choose the right thing, to stay away from certain boys, and to appreciate herself. It is through short Scriptures, quotes, or everyday kind words. It is helping her realize the positive potential, the beauty, and the treasure that she is. Her personal realization of her self worth that will lead to a change. Our misguided friends are worth more than what they show themselves to be. They should get to experience everything college and Baylor have to offer, but the right way.
Yes, this is college. I am not going to tell you to never, ever go to a party. To tell free college students to never drink is pointless, because very few would listen. However, students must be smart about their decisions and never let the freedom control them. When they lose their self-control, they quickly lose respect. It is then, when the parties, alcohol, and promised popularity has supremacy, that we need to step in and do our best to help the ones we love.
Sometimes this slips out of our control. It is too much for peers to handle. This is when we most make the best decision for our friends, even if they disagree with our choices. Parents, Community Leaders, professors, or other authority figures need to be contacted. Friends might not understand in the present, but one day, when they look back, they will be grateful for our interventions.
Has “Ashley” changed? Not really. She tells me after an acute hangover that she is done partying and regrets the previous night, but forgets her newly found resolution by the time the next party opportunity comes around. She continues to make poor decisions when it comes to guys. I doubt she will be able to rush, due to her poor grades. I doubt she’ll be able to keep up with her biology pre-med major. But I do not doubt that she will eventually find her way back. This is not her, and her true self will eventually return. When she does, when the true “Ashley” that I know and love is back, it will partially be due to my help, love, and seemingly insignificant interventions.