After a somewhat terrifying moment where I thought I might start laughing, which I did not want to do because I didn't want to make him feel bad for asking, I told him I did a great many things in college, and the conversation topic changed and life went on.
After thinking about it for a few days, I realized something. Just because I was never interested in alcohol or drugs does NOT mean that I never got high. I did. Regularly. And there were a lot of us in the "get high without controlled substances" club where I went to college.
If you read my blog at all regularly you might imagine that I majored in music, which is actually not the case. I majored in Spanish, because I did not have the talent for a music performance major. That was a thorn in my side for many years, but turned out to be a good thing. But anyway, the music is what got me high in high school, college and beyond. I have to be grateful for choral directors who let me into their groups even though I wasn't totally amazing.
I really believe that music affects people both emotionally and physically. In college I sang in choir every single year, even though we had to meet every single day for rehearsal instead of three times a week like most classes. I did it because I loved it and it made me feel great. Sometimes after rehearsal a bunch of us would walk out as high as kites because of the amazing music we had just made. And there were roughly about 500 other students who did the same thing in the various choral groups on campus. And that's not even mentioning the instrumentalists. I guess the big difference is that that kind of high never caused us to lose control of ourselves or have hangovers (although there could be a serious debate about how much we embarrassed ourselves!). Seriously, we may have been the biggest nerds on the planet, but we were happy.
One benefit of this (besides the obvious health benefits) is that I have recordings of the music we made and I can revisit those lovely moments. I don't think I could say the same for other methods of mood-alteration. I came upon a CD that a dear friend of mine in college made of many songs that we sang together as a group. It has been more than ten years since we sang together and while I can hear that our voices sound a bit young, the intonation and the musicality are all there and it is still a pleasure to listen to, even after all these years. And it still makes me a little bit high.
A fellow singer with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus sent around a link recently to a speech given at a welcome meeting for parents at the Boston Conservatory a few years ago. It really resonated with me. He mentions the events of 9/11 and how people responded almost immediately with music. I sang the Brahms Requiem that very night with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in memory of the people whose lives were lost that day, so I knew personally what he meant. It's worth a read, though, whether you are a musician or not.
So, while I may have missed out on some traditional mood-altering experiences, many others missed out on mine. If I had to make the choice again, I would choose the same thing, because it was the right one for me.
It made (and still makes) me happy. It's a pretty good benchmark to go by.
Here are a couple of songs from the CD that my friend made, for your listening pleasure. They are both called "Alleluia"; very aptly named in terms of the feelings they generate in both performance and listening.