Editor’s Note: Views expressed in guest columns and letters to the editor reflect the views of the author, not the views of The State News.
Picture this: The work week officially is over. Your last classes for the week have been completed. All homework and quizzes have been finished, papers have been revised and submitted and lecture notes have been recorded.
As you eagerly log out of Angel, a few assignments for the following week appear, but the truth is, you are mentally drained — or at least you trick yourself into believing that. With that being said, you are totally fine with procrastinating until Sunday, maybe even Monday. But tonight, you just want to spend a nice Friday evening with friends.
You and a few others go over to a friend’s place to relax and rid yourselves of all the stress accumulated in the preceding days. Quickly, a small gathering turns into outright chaos. Music banging, people swarming, liquor pouring — the party could never be more alive. Your friend, stumbling erratically due to impaired vision, walks over to you and offers you a drink. He extends his arm toward you — a red, plastic cup in hand — awaiting your reaction.
I am sure many of us have been in this type of scenario before. In some way or another, we all have been pressured by our friends. It might have been something as minor as convincing us to buy a pair of jeans or as idiotic as doing cartwheels in the middle of Brody Square. But in this case, the pressure can be a little more serious.
I found myself in this situation just the other day. I was gathering with a few of my cousins I had not seen in a while. The room filled with laughter as we recalled old memories and debated details of unforgettable moments from our childhood.
Almost magically, alcohol appeared out of nowhere. They started taking shots — one after another, shot after shot — guzzling a substance I could not even pronounce. Eyes promptly settled on me. The prodding began.
“It’s only one shot.”
“It won’t hurt or anything.”
“You won’t even taste it.”
They all yelled such encouraging phrases. A shot glass, filled to the brim with alcohol, sat beneath me. Its clearness, crisp and pure, magnified my hesitant reflection. Its fragrance, strong and dense, invaded the core of my senses. I looked into the small glass and froze. In it, I saw images of my father.
My mind took me to those dark, troublesome nights when he would stagger into the house after work, his drunkenness ordering his every step, word and motion.
He used to scream at my mother for no apparent reason — verbally abusing her, throwing vocal hooks and jabs to lower her self-esteem. My older brother and I would stand at the top of the stairs, trembling in silence. My younger sister could be heard crying from the noise and confusion.
My mind took me to the days when I would ride in the car with my father. I would sit beside him, holding on to my seat belt with all of the strength I could muster. I vividly remember making subtle, yet anxious glances at the speedometer, praying that the small pointer would fall between numbers that resembled the speed limit. I remember thinking about what would happen if we were pulled over.
What would happen to him? What would happen to our family? The thoughts were drowned out by the sound of empty beer bottles rattling behind me every time he swerved from lane to lane. The clanking of glass would be etched forever in my mind.
My memories took me, finally, to a more recent image of my father — a father I have not talked to or seen in what seems like forever; a father who lives alone, straddled by misery and regret; a father still tussling with alcoholism, and a father who has been absent in my life because of it.
I thought about how much I love my father despite his absence in my life, and how much it hurts me to see him that way.
I looked up and pushed the shot glass away. I gave them a firm “no.” Of course, they proceeded to ridicule and mock me. But it didn’t matter.
They were not aware of the flurry of images crowding my mind. I was content with the joy of making my own decision instead of letting others make it for me.
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Now, I am not trying to sound like your parents or anything. I am not saying that people who drink are bad or that people who choose to stay sober are good.
Everyone is entitled to pursuing his or her own conception of happiness, and it absolutely is necessary to have some fun in between studying and schoolwork.
In the midst of school, the partying and the fun, however, I just want to urge you all to make sure the decisions you are making are your own.
Live your life — do not let others live it for you.
Rashad Timmons is a guest columnist at The State News and a journalism sophomore. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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