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Experiences

Life Lessons Learned from a Drunk Stranger

After more than a year of online classes from home and not being able to break up the workload with none of the fun activities, when it became clear that I would be back on campus, I made the decision to not put my personal enjoyment last anymore. Whether it’s making a football game a whole day affair or going to a game night that doesn’t start until 10pm on a weeknight, I made myself a promise that I wouldn’t stand in my own way of doing that kind of thing anymore. I took the approach that life is about saying “yes” and seeing what happens. So, when I saw that a country artist I like was coming to my hometown, I said yes to driving an hour and a half home on a Sunday night to go to the concert and drive back to campus before my 8am class. 

So Jordan Davis blasting on the radio, flannels on and the AC blaring with the sun beating through the windshield, we took videos that live on my phone and laughed together, something I will never again take for granted. We found meter parking and as we were excitedly walking towards the venue we tried to decide what we needed to bring. 

While I would dare call myself a bit of a concert buff, this was the first one in over a year and a half that I had been able to, and the first one some of my friends had ever been to. As one friend hopped back to toss her keys in the car while another went to get her ID, a third stood on the sidewalk and said “wait…do you think I can bring in my knife?” holding up the small hunting knife she’s in the habit of keeping in her pocket for her job. While I got a good laugh out of it at the time, it goes to show just how long it had been since any of us could do what we were doing that night.

Fast forward past getting in line, having two big black “M’s” written on our hands in permanent marker, taking several pictures, a little more than an hour of small talk waiting for something to happen, a talented (and beautiful) first opening act, another pause to talk about the first opening act, and a happy surprise for a second opening act, and we get to the last little wait for the main event. 

Now for those of you who have not been to many concerts or are not fans of country music, it’s a little known fact that nobody drinks like people drink at a country concert. Well, this was definitely the case when Jordan Davis came to Grand Rapids. While my friends and I were discussing the band that just left the stage, a tall brunette woman walked back to the spot she was standing beside us. She was older than us, but not by much. She had a half a dozen white claws in her hands and tucked between her arm and torso and honestly, I was a little worried about the state she would be in if she drank them all. Whether she saw us watching her or saw five  college girls who looked social I don’t know, but she smiled and waved like she had known us her whole life. She stepped closer and just started talking.

Between the loud music, her slurred words, and the sound of my friends trying to make out her words, I couldn’t tell you everything she said. I definitely couldn’t tell you the first few things she said, but eventually the six of us formed a little circle, like a team huddle, and this blocked out enough background noise for us to carry on a conversation. However, in the fifteen minutes we talked to her (or more that she talked at us), she said some things that showed me just how much living you do in your twenties. 

The stranger asked what we were doing with our lives and went on and on about how important it is to stay in school. She told us to work hard but never so hard that we forget to have fun. She told us how bad she feels that our college years have had to be so different because of COVID-19 and that she hoped we would all make the most of what was left of them. Her boyfriend came back and stood beside and prompted her to tell us about her relationship and after detailing how good of a man he is, she looked at each of us in turn and said what I think I had been needing to hear. She said “do not ever be more committed to anyone, man or woman or otherwise, do not ever commit to another person more than you commit to yourself.” She went on to explain that as much as she loves her boyfriend, it took her a long time to love herself and that if it ever came down to it, she would put herself first because if you don’t love yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to love you right.

She told us how important it is to have good friends and that we need to support one another. She pointed around the circle we had formed and said that my friends and I have to have each other’s backs but that as women, we have to have the backs of all of the other women we will interact with in our lives. She talked about how the rights that we have to make our own decisions, regarding our lives and our bodies, are constantly up for debate and that we can’t let any single decision be taken from us. She told us how important it is to fight for what we believe in and for what we want. 

Now I’ll be honest, I don’t know if she would remember saying any of this. I don’t know how much of it she meant seriously, but I choose to take her at her word. It was one of those “drunk girl in a bathroom” conversations where everyone is lifting each other up and we all felt like we could take on the world even though we were only being encouraged by a drunk stranger. Yet, weeks later I still think about what she said and how she wasn’t wrong. 

We are taught, specifically as women, that we have to work hard and often we see the other women in our lives putting themselves last to their spouses and their children. Whether we want to admit to seeing it or not, we see it and we’ve learned from it. But life is about more than work and we each only get one, we have to live our own lives and we have to do that in a way that makes us happy. 

Every single time that I’ve considered not doing something and I’ve done it anyway, I’ve been glad that I did. Going to that concert is one of those things. By going, here is what I learned: Don’t live for anyone else or the way anyone else wants or expects you to. Live your life, live your truths, every single one of them. Don’t hide who you are and don’t waste your time trying to be what someone else wants you to be. 
So flirt a little, have the drink (assuming you’re over 21 of course), get no sleep and sweat a little. Shoot your shot, kiss the hot stranger or the friend and love every minute of it. Of course you can’t get so caught up in it that you lose yourself of your common sense, but as long as you keep who you are in mind, live the life you have and just live.

Erika is a pre-med honors student in the Lyman Briggs college at MSU. With 3 majors there isn't a lot of time for much else but she loves writing whenever she can, going on spontaneous adventures, and thinks there is nothing better than late-night (early morning) conversations with your closest friends.
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