The latter part of this evening started off with a nice little ego boost for me. Brandi's friend Cricket is in town from Texas for the holidays; I hadn't seen her since Thanksgiving (briefly), and it had been a few months since we've seen her extensively. She walks into the room, looks at me and says "You've been working out." That earned a high-five from Brandi, who has really helped get me on track in that regard, and it's awesome to know that the results are noticeable. Of course, Brandi and I have been noticing for a while, but it's good that it's obvious to outsiders as well.
Of course, all of that has little or nothing to do with the main point of this post, but I wanted to make sure to sneak it in there anyway.
When Cricket and Brandi got here this evening, they had come directly from the airport, where Brandi had picked Cricket up after her flight. After everyone got themselves ready, the three of us headed out to have a few drinks. We went to B-Dubs, got some drinks, and chatted for a while. We got into a pretty good discussion about marriage and its role in our society, which happens to be a topic that interests me a great deal. It was a great way to start an evening out on the town.
The only problem? I had to leave shortly thereafter, as I have to work in the morning. Brandi took some time off, and Cricket is obviously on a holiday break (she's a teacher), so they're having a night on the town while I'm back at the apartment, getting ready to go to bed. I'll get up later to go pick them up so they don't have to make their way home drunk, but for all intents and purposes, my night is finished.
This incident in particular actually doesn't bother me. Brandi and Cricket love hanging out together, and they haven't had a chance to do so for quite a while. I'm glad they have a chance to go out and have some fun, and I'm glad I'll be here, sober, to see them home safely. Under other circumstances, though, I may have been at least slightly irritated by having to leave such a promising outing so early due to having to work the next morning.
Bar conversations can be pretty interesting, and sometimes they evolve into the deep kind of discussion we were having earlier tonight. I'm generally fairly reserved, and I've found that having a drink or two really helps me to open up and be more willing to speak my mind, or even just to make small talk with someone I may not know all that well. Going out is almost always a good time. It's not always enriching or enlightening, but it's rarely dull.
I never went out with my friends when I was in college. If someone I knew was having a party I would go, but I didn't drink, and usually I ended just talking to the few people I knew well. I wasn't against drinking, I just didn't want to partake in it myself, and I generally found these events to be mildly amusing but only occasionally anything more than that.
Looking back, I can't really remember why I never drank, other than the fact that I didn't (and still don't) like beer and I didn't know much about any other kind of alcohol. I do know that at some point it became a point of pride in itself, which fueled my continued abstinence. Likewise, I can't really remember the train of thought that led to me finally doing it. It was a gradual thing. I started out just by going to bars with my friends (and not drinking), just to have something to do. At some point along the line I just found myself with a drink in my hand, and I found that it made being at the bars much more enjoyable. Go figure, eh?
I think "regret" is far too strong of a word, but I definitely wish I would have done things a little differently when I was in school. I feel like I probably missed out on a lot of good times. I don't care that I didn't drink, but it would have been nice to be able to look back and think of the nights spent out with friends instead of nights spent in the dorm playing video games by myself until everyone came home drunk. I have a lot of fun going out now, but it's somewhat harder to manage. Most of my friends are out of the area, and when Brandi and I go out we have to balance it against our work schedules. That sucks.
In a lot of ways, I feel way more ready to be a college student now than I ever did when I actually was one. I'm actually interested now in learning things. When I was going to school, most of the time I was just going through the motions, doing only what I needed in order to get by. I was extremely lucky to be born with a quick mind and an almost frightening capacity for retention, and that was enough to let me do extremely well in school without really trying. Now, though, I feel like I would do even better. I think I would enjoy doing the work, challenging myself to learn things and do well. I never felt that way before, and it saddens me to know that I didn't get as much out of my college experience as I could have.
I think a lot about grad school, and I'm hopeful that I'll get there someday. Right now I can't afford it, and I really don't want to take classes while working full-time anyway. Besides that, I'm not entirely sure what course of study I want to get into. I would love to continue with English, but the undergrad degree hasn't proven to be terribly practical thus far and it would seem silly to pursue it further. Of course, I've thumbed my nose at practicality thus far in favor of doing what I want, so continuing that trend wouldn't really be out of character or anything.
I suppose I'm rambling to a pretty high degree, but what I really think I'm trying to get at is that I really hate the structure of a 9-to-5 life. I have "prioritizing," and putting things I have to do in front of things I want to do. I hate the fact that there's really no challenge in what I do each day to get by, and I'm not learning anything or bettering myself by doing it. I do well at what I do, and I take a great deal of pride in that, but it certainly doesn't satisfy me. I would love to once again be a part of a learning community, to be an active part of an intellectual environment, and to be surrounded by friends. I doubt I'll ever have quite the opportunity I had during my undergrad days, but hopefully I'll get a chance to find out.