Oftentimes when I’m lying in bed, contemplating my life as we all do in college, I remember how selfish I am. Not in an overt way. I love sharing my food so others can experience the pure and absolute joy that comes with every bite of a Cubano sandwich. I love sharing advice and experiences with friends and strangers alike, making personal connections and gaining knowledge along the way.
One thing I really love about myself is my ability to empathize with others. My friends come to me when they want to let their feelings explode out, because I not only weather the storm but thrive in it. My priorities look like this: friends, family, staying up-to-date with the pictures of my cat my sister sends me, Game of Thrones, school, work and self care.
Despite all this, I find it impossible to comprehend when other people’s priorities don’t match my own.
When my friends bailed on my birthday celebration to study for midterms, I found myself drunkenly dripping salty — both in composition and sentiment — tears into my margarita pitcher. To me, it’s unfathomable that I would ever put some dumbass midterm before my friend’s birthday margarita bash. It’s a disconcerting paradox; I have a high level of empathy but can’t understand — and have a hard time forgiving — people who have a different worldview.
This is, unfortunately, a symptom of narcissism. Narcissism is rampant, almost endemic, among college students as we all try to “find ourselves” and “be ourselves.” During my first semester at UC Berkeley, I tried so hard to “find myself” and to be a “cool college kid” that my behavior over the course of those few months looked like something out of “Spring Breakers.” I, of course, identify strongly with James Franco’s character Alien.
Not only was I drinking volumes rarely seen by those outside of a middle-aged white lady’s afternoon pinot grigio binge, but I had no regard for anyone besides myself. I would knock on the door of my Clark Kerr triple at 4 in the morning and wake my roommates up because I forgot my key (a favorite pastime of mine — losing my key). I would forego hanging out with my friends from CalSO, who genuinely liked and cared for me, in favor of going to frat parties with my super chill homies in Greek life because they were in cool houses and went to cool parties.
This persisted until the most devastating Halloween of my entire life. I don’t usually get really into Halloween costumes — this past year I just wore regular clothes and a white beard — but freshman year I dressed up as Regina George. I even cut out the boobs of one of my tanktops to capture her signature look.
My mind has permanently blocked out the details of this night because of the massive emotional trauma. All I remember is that everyone bailed on me and I ended up quietly sobbing in my lumpy bottom bunk stuffing my face with Sour Patch Kids and watching reruns of “Grey’s Anatomy,” wailing, “Why, oh why, did Derek have to die?”
This humiliation still haunts me, not only because I had to lie to my roommates about the hella fun night I had with all my definitely real, 100 percent not nonexistent friends, but also because it reminds me of how much effort I was willing to put in to prove I was a cool party girl.
It’s hard for me to come to terms with how selfish and exclusionary I was. My narcissism manifested in my attempt to morph myself into what I thought my roommates and their friends would think of as cool. I would recount high school shenanigans such as smoking codeine-soaked blunts after senior prom to gain chill points from the California stoners. They would say, “Cheers, that’s hardcore,” and I would glow inside because Weed Willy thought I was swell.
But this was the old me. I’ve moved away from this try-hard, embarrassing, selfish version of myself into someone who’s completely comfortable with the boundaries of my coolness.
I am not very cool.
I’m reportedly pretty funny and my glasses are the perfect shape for my face — that’s what I’ve got going for me. I’ve hopefully shaken off the narcissism that’s partly to blame for the existence of college alcoholism and the presence of fuckboys.
I know I will spend the rest of my college life attempting to shake off the selfishness and self-interest that comes with the process of understanding myself. I’ll have many more cringe-worthy moments and there will be many more Weed Willys to impress, but at least I’m self-aware enough to stop myself before I go full Alien again.
“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the Summer semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected.
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