A reckless decision is one made in the present moment, without considering — or caring about — future consequences. It’s a moment of utter indifference to future complications, a moment of absolute, wild freedom. It’s living in the now, not in the past or the future.
Recklessness manifests itself in many ways — some small like impulsively saying something you know you shouldn’t, but being unable to swallow the words anyway. But recklessness can also manifest as something more momentous and dangerous — such as driving under the influence of alcohol or consuming drugs and alcohol at parties, to the point where senses begin to dull and lines begin to blur.
And that’s the thing about recklessness. At one point, it’s not just one reckless sentence, one impulsive decision, one dangerous cave-in — it’s become a lifestyle. A reckless lifestyle where instincts and impulses rule reason and logic, trapping you in the now, blinding you to the future.
Allie, whose name has been changed to protect her anonymity, walked into the house that was lit up from within. She heard pulsing music and a crescendo of voices. She walked in, immediately assaulted by the overpowering scent of alcohol and weed. The atmosphere was laid-back, with people intermingling in different rooms. Bottles of beer and red solo cups were strewn around on countertops, tables and the floor.
It was past midnight. Outside, the air was hazy with smoke. Allie remembered how loud it was, with people shouting over one another, the music still blasting. Nobody really cared though, because her parents were out. Allie remembers asking her host whether the neighbors would complain, but the host casually brushed off the question, saying she has held big parties before.
Then, a sudden flashing of lights and the word “cop” was on everyone’s lips, sending the guests scrambling to escape. Allie remembered running down the street and piling into a friend’s car, then speeding away from the scene. For Allie, the party scene is fairly common.
“Party culture definitely exists,” Allie said. “You just don’t hear about it because at [MVHS], people keep things so low key. But it definitely does happen and people do get hurt. There are parties, people just don’t talk about it because it’s just not something people are comfortable talking about. Especially at this school, because it’s the Bay Area and everyone is ‘perfect.’ But not everyone is, and people do dumb sh*t.”
Allie attends parties a couple times a month — she explains that if she thinks her workload for the weekend is manageable and she doesn’t have too many upcoming tests, she chooses to attend. While Allie does consume both alcohol and marijuana at parties, she says that’s where she draws the line and makes an effort to always be in control.
“I do know a lot of people who don’t know their limits and how much substance or alcohol they can take,” Allie said. “They just end not having a good time or overdosing or passing out and the whole vibe of the party itself is ruined and it’s not fun anymore for anyone because everyone is just worried about getting caught or something happening to their friends.”
Allie explains that she herself is cautious about her alcohol and drug consumption as she has seen her friends suffer from acting irresponsibly and pushing their own body’s limits. At one party a few months back, one of her friends, who was both smoking and drinking, fell unconscious (still breathing) due to the extreme amounts of alcohol in her system. The other people at the party decided to call the cops, despite the repercussions of being caught, as they had to prioritize Allie’s friend’s safety. To avoid stressful and traumatic experiences likes this, Allie says she monitors and limits her own consumption at parties.
Beth, whose name has been changed to protect her anonymity, decided to set clearer limits for herself after a stressful party experience. She recently attended a party and consumed an excessive amount of alcohol and substances in response to emotional turmoil. As a result, she threw up in the bathroom, spending a large portion of the party in the bathroom.
“I guess other people are used to drinking and smoking so they were fine,” Beth said. I mostly did it because I was very mad when I entered the party because I had a conversation with my ex. [It was a] bad decision to go to a party mad, and I [ended up taking] it out on myself.”
According to Beth, after another person at that same party fell unconscious (still breathing), the cops arrived. Reflecting on the outcome of the party, Beth has decided to control her own party attendance and refrain from using drugs and alcohol.
“The party wasn’t controlled and since we didn’t know who was coming and who was leaving, it was an open invite,” Beth said. “I feel like alcohol and drugs shouldn’t be at a party, that doesn’t make a party fun — yeah it can, but not at our age. That should be where the limit should be.”
Junior Alekhya Natarajan does not attend parties where illegal substances are present. In fact, she scarcely attends parties at all; she prefers smaller hangouts with her close friends over the larger events that some of her friends regularly attend.
Part of this is because Natarajan considers herself to be more responsible and level-headed. She strongly opposes drugs, believing even the most mild of these substances, such as marijuana, to have at least some level of toxicity and potential to danger her health.
“I personally think it’s a dumb decision to go to parties where you probably don’t know a lot of the people and to take substances with them,” Natarajan said. “I know that some of my close friends do this on the regular and they do somehow manage their lives even with their partying, but I know that I will never partake in activity like this myself just because I have a strong sense of what I want to do and what I don’t want to do.”
According to Natarajan, party culture at MVHS is real — not for her, but definitely for those around her. While she acknowledges that those who attend parties aren’t necessarily “bad” people, she also points out that in her mind, there is no such thing as responsible drug consumption. However, Allie disagrees with this statement, stating that many regular party-goers are, in fact, responsible about their substance consumption.
“I don’t go overboard — I’ve never passed out or gone to the hospital,” Allie said. “But I do participate in activities like [drinking and smoking]. If there are other substances there, like besides weed or alcohol, I probably wouldn’t do those, because I know that that’s really not good for my body. There’s just stuff I wouldn’t get into you. I know what people close to me have gone through and I would never do that to myself or be irresponsible about it because I don’t want to ruin anything.”
While Natarajan does believe party culture is prevalent among some MVHS students, despite not engaging in it herself, Beth explains that although she attends parties frequently, she still doesn’t believe party culture is very prevalent because the vast majority of the student body doesn’t participate.
“We don’t really have a party culture,” Beth said. “There are parties here and sometimes you’ll be invited, but it’s not as strong compared to other schools. MVHS is mostly focused on academics and grades. We don’t really have a social life.”
Allie considers herself to be mindful — and as an extension, less reckless than others — but she does agree that some of the people who attend parties are reckless. She has seen others’ party habits that create health consequences for themselves or others.
“People who do this stuff that’s considered ‘bad’ would be considered reckless just because they do stuff that they shouldn’t be doing,” Allie said. “This is all illegal, so people think, ‘They do this stuff, so they must be reckless.’ It really just depends on how well you know yourself and your limits. I do think the people who do go out and party and drink and smoke tend to be more reckless than other people because they’re okay with doing things they shouldn’t be doing. They have less conscience.”
Allie explains that she is conflicted over how to view party culture — on one hand, she understands that it’s dangerous and has consequences on a student’s life and health, but she also views it as a prime socializing opportunity. Allie especially likes parties because she says that all social divisions and “groups” that exist at school fall away at parties, allowing people to interact more freely.
“I know that there are two sides to it,” Allie said. “Yes, I would consider it bad because in the end, smoking and drinking is bad for you. There’s a reason it’s illegal for minors. At the same time, it’s a good place to release your stress and meet new people. There are no groups, because at school, in a normal environment, there are groups. [But at a party], just you do what you want to do.”
Allie has noticed that at MVHS, people have the misconception that those who participate in party culture and substance consumption don’t care about
academics or their future. She strongly disagrees, explaining that partying is just one aspect of her life.
“I don’t want to jeopardize my future because I care about getting into college,” Allie said. “People at this school think that we don’t care about our future, that we’re just ruining it. But that’s not the case. I still care about my grades and my future, [partying] is just another part of my life which is really important to me. As long as I’m responsible about it, it’s not a big deal.”
100 percent in. No second guessing. After taking 10 shots of vodka, he starts the engine.
An anonymous MVHS senior, who will be called Jay to protect his identity, has driven drunk eight to nine times. He got his driver’s license in June 2018. Responsibility, he says, disappears when he’s intoxicated, and there are no barriers to stop him from getting into his car.
“When you’re f----d up, if it comes up and you want to drive, you’re going to drive,” Jay said. “100 percent.”
Jay’s friend, who will be referred to as Lilian, has become desensitized to his drinking and driving. She has ridden in his car multiple times while he was vaping but is aware of his tendency to drive while drunk. She strongly condemns his choice to drive drunk, as she believes that Jay is jeopardizing not only their own safety but also that of others.
“I was so used to him doing things like that,” Lilian said. “I never thought that I shouldn’t get in the car, I wasn’t worried about my safety and it was a stupid thing of him to do.”
Any person over 21 driving with a blood alcohol concentration of above 0.08 is immediately considered legally impaired and incapable of driving. Anyone under 21 drinking alcohol is also breaking the law. According to Deputy Steven Fernandes, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office West Side Traffic Unit, signs of intoxication vary depending on the amount of alcohol consumed, but slurred speech, red eyes and odor are immediate giveaways.
“As a teen driver, any sort of distraction is already going to affect your ability to drive safely,” Fernandes said. “Add in alcohol intoxication, blurred vision, your solar reaction response times, your decision-making ability is not going to be the same or as great and you throw all that together, and it’s a recipe for disaster.”
Lillian recalls days where she was with Jay while he drove high as well as drunk — often referred to as being “crossed.” Jay recalls not having any motor controls, focus and struggling to keep his body straight. The experience was so jarring that he swears to never do it again.
Jay’s parents have talked to him about his drug use, as they caught him multiple times in possession of weed. Jay worries that his parents will catch him driving under the influence. He believes their worries are valid, as they’ve never used any substances and as far he is aware, have never been drunk.
“[My parents] have never done any substances at all,” Jay said. “They don’t know what it’s like to be f----d up. I think it’s fair for a parent to be concerned [...] but I feel like I’m in control of that.”
According to the new law of 2019, for DUI offenses, driving licenses can be suspended for a period of four months. For the first offense, DUIs are typically a misdemeanor; however, if more than three convictions are accumulated within 10 years, it becomes a felony. More times than that, according to Fernandes, will result in time at a state prison.
Even with the knowledge of the consequences, Jay stands his ground with his decision to repeatedly drive drunk.
“I think if someone died [while driving drunk], they were just being an idiot and they weren’t smart about it or they were alone,” Jay said. “Maybe they drank too much so they shouldn’t have drove. As long as you’re able to form sentences and keep your head up straight, then you’re good to drive.”
Jay, however, has gone against his own logic and driven when he wasn’t able to form sentences. When asked whether he would continue to drive under the influence, he hesitated and looked to the right of the room as if looking for someone to tell him what to say but gave a short answer that ended the interview.
“I’d like to say no but that’s probably not going to happen,” Jay said.
Correction March 19, 2019: Lilian, the anonymous friend of Jay, did not ride in his car when he was crossed or drunk, only when he was vaping.
What is recklessness at MVHS? Explore the infographic below to understand what the MVHS student body believes “reckless” means.