I don’t think I’m very good at partying. Through all of high school, I had never been to a house party. For all of freshman year, too, I had skirted anything that resembled socializing in a group setting. By the time sophomore year started, I needed to change; a very important part of college was making friends.
I decided to go to my first college party in October. It was a Halloween party, and I’d hand-sewn myself a costume after being inspired by photos of sushi. There would also be people I definitely knew, so I wouldn’t be alone. But I couldn’t will or force away my deep-seated fear. At the time, I didn’t know why I was afraid — of course, for someone with social anxiety, the concept of immersing myself in a space with a group of acquaintances sounded terrifying. On the other hand, I knew this was how you made friends. This sounds very silly to senior-year-Sakura, but to sophomore-year-Sakura, it was an endeavor.
Therefore, sophomore-year-Sakura cut a deal with herself. I set a timer for one hour on my phone. I had to stay at the party for one hour, after which, if I wanted, I could leave. I definitely couldn’t leave before that alarm went off. And if I wanted to stay for longer, then I could. At the time, though, I couldn’t foresee myself enjoying the party to want to stay for any more than the allocated hour.
On the day of the party, I climbed out of my Lyft and loitered around for the first 10 minutes. I slowly poured myself a cup of juice — I’d never drunk alcohol before, and the concept of drinking only served to heighten my anxiety — and stood in the corner. It was a backyard party, so I stood near the edge of the lawn, watching some people play beer pong from afar. After watching the first round end, I checked my phone.
By the 35-minute mark, I was so hyperaware of myself that I was simply staring at the game of beer pong that was occurring before me. Someone offered me a blunt. I declined; I’d never done weed and wasn’t sure if that was something I could do. Someone suggested I refill my cup, but I just waved them off, promising that I’d drunk enough. I just shuffled my feet a tad closer to the beer pong table to have a better vantage point.
“Wait.” I spun around when someone addressed me. “Wait, are you a sushi?”
For some reason, it was surprising that someone was addressing me. I was just standing there, had said hi to the few people whose names I knew, and was waiting for this self-imposed timer to tick down. The unnerving question might seem like a small leap, but to me, it made the night. Slowly, through that question, I merged into the conversation’s group. This might be obvious to everyone, but it wasn’t very hard. Someone was wearing a galaxy skirt and a nurse’s outfit, touting themselves as “universal health care.” There were also two people who were dressed as each other and hadn’t planned together — something that everyone found hilarious.
Lost in the throes of conversation and humor, I was completely taken aback when my alarm rang. I hadn’t expected to get so involved in the conversation, so when I looked back down at my phone, I was shocked to see that the clock had ticked down to zero without me realizing it. Immediately, I was hit with elation. I didn’t even think I’d last an hour of socializing, but here I was, engaging in it all like a professional partygoer.
It was immediately followed by a sense of dread. The thought of staying longer flashed through my mind, and I rejected that with very little consideration. Of course, I wouldn’t want to stay longer; of course, I couldn’t stay longer. I turned off the alarm but still stared at my phone screen. And then I called a Lyft home.
When I was a freshman, the biggest worry was that everything about partying was so new. I’d never been invited to a high school house party, though I knew many had happened. I wasn’t upset about that, but it did leave a gap in my social education. Is there a wrong way to drink or dance? Is there a wrong way to hold a stereotypical red solo cup? Is there a wrong way to make jokes, to converse with people in this kind of setting? Was there a wrong way to be yourself? Probably not. But there I was, staring at my now-off alarm, listening to this nagging fear in the back of my head that was warning me that I was doing things “wrong” at this party. So I left.
Of course, there isn’t really a wrong way to socialize. As long as you’re yourself and you treat others with respect, there aren’t any actual ways to be “wrong.” Sophomore-year-Sakura thought that she had to perform a “right” way while at parties, but senior-year-Sakura now knows that she just has to be herself.
“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.