I remember the backyards engulfed by canopies of lights that strung above us, creating our own sky, and the music that would play, not so loud that it was obnoxious but not so soft that it would put us to sleep.
I remember the groups of people mingling and socializing under the stars, having genuinely good times and forming relationships that would remain in the morning and every day after. These people had come sober, for the most part, and now held cups in their hands, taking sips every so often. They spent the majority of their time chatting and showing sincere interest in what others had to say.
I remember feeling so safe that I could walk home alone if I wanted to. I would pass police officers along the way who would motion to me with a wave to make sure I was OK, or who would let fraternity brothers know if a party was getting too out-of-hand, cracking jokes about their own rowdy college memories in the process.
I remember a time when people actually enjoyed themselves at parties without blacking out.
The transition away from this light-hearted culture happened so gradually that I didn’t even notice it at first, but sure enough, the early days of my college experience are long gone.
When I was a freshman, I didn’t realize how substantial of a problem alcohol would be on college campuses across the nation, especially closer to home in Lehigh’s bubble.
Now, alcohol is the cause of multiple students’ deaths, including Timothy Piazza of Penn State University and McCrae Williams of Lafayette College in Pennsylvania alone.
It’s the reason it seems there’s been so many more hospitalizations this semester than in past years.
As a senior, I can’t remember the last time I went to an off-campus party I actually enjoyed.
At recent parties, I’ve been herded into pitch-black, scorching basements like a sheep where I remember feeling suffocated. Music was always blaring as bodies moved to the beat. No one was talking — only yelling. The faint smell of vomit usually lingered in the background as all around, people would chug and take shots.
“Shut the f— up!” fraternity brothers would scream whenever cops drove by, eventually quieting everyone down. The second the car passed, the party would rage on.
I remember nights like these very clearly, but ask anyone else who was there. I’m willing to bet entire segments of time would be missing from many dim recollections of these parties.
I’ve taken care of these people. They would bounce in and out of consciousness, unable to hold up their limp bodies as their eyes occasionally fluttered open.
I’ve also been taken care of.
I’ve fallen into the same cycle so many others have, never realizing until now there was a cycle to begin with. One that could hold me and everyone else captive.
There have been too many close calls with too many people. Too little has been done to change this.
I never want to wake up and read the news to see a student death headline — this time from Lehigh. There are so many opportunities to act as catalysts for change, yet nothing seems to happen unless tragedy strikes first.
It feels like overnight, social drinking was out and binge drinking was in.
Taking more shots than your limit allows. Puking and rallying. Waking up the morning after to not remember the night before. It was all in.
Lehigh has so many great qualities. I’ve been taught by some of the most passionate professors I’ve ever met. I’ve found my calling. I’ve taken on leadership roles I never thought I was capable of. I’ve found an organization of best friends that I can call home.
Yet, somehow, all roads seem to lead back to alcohol.
That wasn’t always the case. And it isn’t what should define our college experiences and our Lehigh memories.
I’m leaving you, Lehigh, a different place than I found you.
Catherine Manthorp, ’18, is the deputy sports editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]