The pre-drinks were the best part, I tell everyone once again. And again, and again, until it stops becoming a coincidence. I sit myself down, take a deep breath and finally admit it: I am not, nor will I ever be, a “sesh moth”. Though it can seem antithetical to being a student to feel this way, I’ve reached the point of acceptance, after a long road lined with beer spills and empty bottles.
I grew up in South Africa, where school life was devoid of any drinking culture. Our version of discos were “socials”, which were held in the hall of the local boys’ school and run by supervisors who hid in bushes and tried not to make it obvious that they were waiting with a stick to whack any kid who tried to get closer than two feet to anyone they may have taken an interest in.
In fourth year I moved from my demure South African convent to a public school in Tipperary. Needless to say, it was a culture shock. “What’s a naggin?” I remember asking one of my classmates in one of my first few weeks at school. She looked at me sideways. “Are you an alien?” she laughed. I felt like one. Going from an urban to a rural setting, I soon realised there was nothing to do other than go out. Each time I tried, it was the same pub, filled with everyone in town under the age of 19, playing the same ten songs from a playlist made by someone’s cousin. I wasn’t missing out on much.
“I expected that my sub-par experiences would be washed away in the Mecca of student life, my rural town days just a bad dream.”
Dublin, and college in general, were the Promised Land. I expected that my sub-par experiences would be washed away in the Mecca of student life, my rural town days just a bad dream. Nothing was stopping me – except myself.
I quickly learned that getting your foot stepped on, being crushed against someone with a body odour issue, and forking out ten euros for a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol thinly disguised as liquor were inevitable features of student nightlife. Everyone else seemed to be having a great time. Meanwhile, I was checking the clock every five minutes, wondering how likely it was that a taxi driver would make me into a skin suit if I braved the journey back to my accommodation alone. I wondered if I was doing something wrong. The whole thing seemed to be an acquired taste, I thought to myself, and growing up I never had the local GAA disco to prepare me for what was to come. So I drank more, hoping that would work, but it turned out drunk me was a big letdown. All I did was stare at the wallpaper in Everleigh and split my sides laughing when I passed Rick’s Burgers and saw the missing H in the “Real Burgers Real Fresh” sign. Still, I kept at it, hoping that maybe my situation would change and I’d soon begin to enjoy the crushing claustrophobia and mysterious couch stains.
“For a while, I felt like I was missing out on everything and wasting this golden opportunity.”
My epiphany came to me in Hangar, of all places. I had turned up with a bunch of friends who were far more inebriated than me and therefore far more oblivious to the fact that the place was completely empty. The DJs were blaring trap music, and the few people there, myself included, were desperately trying to find a way to dance that wouldn’t show how white we all were. I stopped by the bar, and was in the middle of slugging a shot when some guy who obviously never got his Lynx gift set at Christmas bumped into me. I watched, fascinated, as he stood alone in the middle of the dance floor, dripping sweat and doing nothing but Skyping his friend. At that same moment I felt a splash, and realised someone had thrown their empty drink at me. I looked at the empty cup, the melting ice cubes and the dead-faced bouncers. “I paid for this,” I thought to myself casually. Going out is just not worth the price tag, if you’re someone like me. For the effort and money that goes into makeup, taxis and alcohol, I’d rather just get a pizza and sit on my couch. But it took some time for me to be alright with that.
“It’s easy just to blame Irish culture for focusing so much on drinking and then hole yourself up in your room, hiding behind pity or smugness.”
When Harcourt Street and nightlife is the focus of college life, it can be easy to feel disconnected. For a while, I felt like I was missing out on everything and wasting this golden opportunity. I remember, in my first few weeks at College, feeling frustrated and miserable as I saw all the Facebook and Instagram posts of people dressed up, smiling and looking like they were living the life that college promises. Every night I could hear people playing music in their rooms, laughing and probably having a better time than me. I felt boring.
But slowly, from talking to people in class and in coffee shops, I realised that there’s a lot of people who are in the same situation as me. It’s easy just to blame Irish culture for focusing so much on drinking and then hole yourself up in your room, hiding behind pity or smugness. But for me, wallowing isn’t constructive. I think that if you don’t like going out, it’s important to take the initiative. The good thing about Dublin is that there are plenty of things to do, even if most of them aren’t as obvious as going out. A lot of people would rather watch a movie than head to Dtwo, but unfortunately, unlike sesh moths, there is no metaphorical lamp to attract us. So you need to make your own, as I learned at the end of my beer-spilled road. I had more fun playing “Cards Against Humanity” in my friend’s apartment and watching “Dirty Dancing” than trying to dance in a club. I’m now enjoying College more than I ever have, despite going out less. Plus, my wallet is a lot fatter.