21 til 21

Well, 20 til 21… I was planning on writing this while it was still Wednesday the 4th but seeing as it is 12:01am on the 5th now the title is a little misleading…

There are ever so slightly less than 3 weeks until I turn 21 years old, a huge number in terms of American culture. Why? Well the most obvious and apparent reason is that 21 is the legal drinking age.

I am going to publicly let you in on a secret now. Until this past Spring I wasn’t planning on consuming alcohol, like, ever. Not many people knew about this, even some of my closest friends, because I felt like it was something I didn’t need to share unless I was asked. It was first and foremost a personal decision.

So you are now thinking, why this strange, naive decision? I would never last that long, you may be thinking? And what made me reverse my way of thinking?

Well, first of all, I strongly believe that I had the will power to continue life sober if I wanted to, but the thing was for 20 years of my life I tricked myself into thinking that that was what I really wanted.

My decision not to participate in drinking culture was based on two reasons: 1) I didn’t like the idea of a foreign substance being able to influence my decision-making and 2) everyone else did it.

Reason #1 is pretty easy to explain. I think we can all agree that alcohol impairs your judgment. However, I also believe that people use a little bit of alcohol as an excuse to do things that would usually be “out of character” for their personality. But that’s all psychological, in the mind. Kind of like the placebo effect, if you will. And I’m already out-there and weird enough that I honestly don’t need drugs or alcohol to make a fool of myself. And just to clarify, I used to refuse to take medicine because I didn’t want to intake any type of drug. I still avoid it if I can, but modern medicine makes life so much more convenient and when you are a college student with 3 hours of reading and a headache, Advil can be your best friend.

So #2.

For as long as I can remember, except for a year or two in middle school (because who doesn’t struggle in middle school?) I’ve put all my effort into acting outside of social norms. Remember when your elementary school counselors always talked about avoiding peer pressure? I actively pursued going against peer pressure and social expectations. As a young girl, I refused to wear dresses and make myself “pretty.” I told my aunt she was vain when she talked about me being the age around when other girls started wearing make up. I refused to wear skinny jeans when they were at first coming into style. I even reluctantly went to my high school prom.

I think the root of it all was that I found something so wrong with the way society worked, buying into pointless trends, judging people by the way they look rather than their character, and just doing stuff I didn’t care about. Even at age 12 I thought of these things. It was also an effort to be “different.” Different, unique, weird, that was my identity. I was not going to let myself be influenced by society.

So when it comes to college parties and drinking I obviously did not want to participate. Apart from frat parties totally not being my style (and up until this past weekend I can say that first-hand), I find college drinking culture to be completely unattractive, stupid, and a waste of time and brain cells. So I swore of drinking, forever.

This is kind of a life-story. Read on if you are still interested…

However, these past 8 months I’ve read a couple books, met a couple people, and been to a couple places that really changed my perspective on life. I call the Spring 2013 my philosophical phase. I had a revelation.

I’ve written about it before but I read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Perhaps what I got out of it wasn’t what the author intended, but books are up for the reader’s interpretation, right? In his book he talks a lot of how to live in the present moment and forget about the past and future. When this comes to decision-making one must be spontaneous and give little thought to consequences. This doesn’t mean go around doing stupid things but it does mean that you shouldn’t labor over what kind of tiny repercussions a personal decision will make. Just do it (yeah, I stole that from Nike). He also advised readers to stop judging others and thinking about how others will judge them.

And I came to the realization that consciously making decisions to go against social norms in the belief that I was not influenced by social norms, was actually a reaction to social norms. Woah man, this was really deep. This is why I call Spring 2013 my philosophical phase. If I didn’t think the act of drinking (responsibly) was immoral, why was I so set upon not doing it? What was the incentive? Nothing made sense to me anymore.

Part of growing up means you have to let yourself find your place in society. If you don’t find content in that, you are impeding yourself from finding true happiness. As much as us outsiders/punks/rebels/hipsters would like to “stick it to the man” when you come to see the bigger picture, you realize that it’s not very productive. At least, I did. There are ways to change what you don’t like and there are ways to negatively express your disdain. From now on, I will choose the former. I’m done with building up this identity, this “ego.” My decisions will be my own from now on. They will be spontaneous, adventurous, and I will stand by them.

 

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