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[personal profile] einahsketch

This is something I wrote in my free time, when I should have been writing a very important assignment for English. But I feel this is far more important to me than any grade ever could be. It's copied from my Tumblr, which is why I make mention of it in the third paragraph as a way to establish the general topic of this essay. I'm posting it here beforehand because I like you guys.

It's long, but I like to think it's worth the read.

Ladies and gentlemen of the internet, my name is Stephanie and I am an 18-year-old who does not smoke, do drugs, drink, or have sex.

Okay, remove from your mind any immediate judgments you came up with as a result if that line, starting now.

Is it gone? Is it out?

Good, let's leave it that way until the end.

I'm posting this on Tumblr, a blogging website where members are free to express themselves in ways that wouldn't be widely accepted or safe to share while on sites populated with far more people they know in real life, the most popular of these being Facebook. Users tend to keep their Tumblr accounts hidden from the people they know personally, and so the blog becomes a safety zone. As a result, many people who engage in this section of the blogosphere, who mainly fall in the teenage and young adult age categories, don't feel the need to hide the fact that they participate in illicit activities, such as smoking, drinking, or doing drugs, and are also given the freedom to express their more sexual sides. There is nothing wrong with any of that. After all, those are simply the usual recreational activities of a good number of the youth culture of this generation, a few past generations, and generations to come, I'm sure.

I have friends who participate in these activities. I follow people who participate in these activities. I will never pass judgment of how a person lives his or her life life, unless it can bring physical or emotional harm to myself, the person in question, or anyone else who may be hurt, directly or indirectly, by that person's actions. I am fairly passive towards posts of pipes and weed stashes, photos of people with glasses of  a brightly colored liquid in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and I can tolerate the occasional gif. or photo depicting acts of a sexual nature. This has, more or less, become what I expect when I browse through my dashboard. I don't follow any blogs dedicated to any of those particular subjects, but many of the people I follow do, and I don't have control over what they reblog.

But I do get upset when I see posts where a person has expressed that their lifestyle is free from these activities, and someone comes along saying "Wow, your life must be really boring." These types of knee-jerk reactions are presumptuous and don't take into account exactly why a person made the decision to live like that in the first place.

Plus, knowing my own life style choices, comments like that tend to hit close to home.

I've never done drugs or consumed illegal substances. I've never held a cigarette to my lips that wasn't made of candy. I'm not a promiscuous person and have only a small number of sexual experiences. I've only had a drink twice without the permission of my parents, both times having hardly enough to feel anything other than a minor headache, and since that last sip, I have decided to not even consider drinking again until I turn 21, or perhaps just abstain from the practice all together.

These are all decisions I've made, and I don't want to be ridiculed for them, even indirectly.

The simple fact is, I know what I feel comfortable doing, and I can guess what will make me feel uncomfortable without having to give it a try. And I can gauge my probable comfort levels of a situation based on past experiences.

Those two times I drank without consent? I felt stupid for doing so, like I was drinking just because that's what cool people do. The one time I gave a stranger permission to rave dance with me, groping and grabbing at my body? I didn't let him do so for more than a few seconds before asking him to stop. The one time I've ever been offered weed, I turned it down, knowing that it was not the time, nor the place, nor was I with the right people, and, as a result, I wouldn't enjoy it. And as for smoking, I just don't think it fits me. It's unsanitary, unhealthy, and just unpleasant seeming. I won't be the first to admit that people can look good while smoking, but it doesn't fit my personal lifestyle. I'm good friends with a couple of smokers, but I don't think I could ever share a roof with one (unless that person had some very good qualities that make it worth the health risk).

The life style decisions I made regarding the topics at hand were based on these experiences mentioned, as well as others to be discussed later. Learning from these moments, I decide to live my life using the following rules:

  • To use no illegal substances, ever.

  • To never smoke.

  • To only consider drinking when I reach the legal drinking age of 21. I also know for certain that there is a chance that I will decide to abstain from alcohol entirely.

  • To only share a sexual experience, be it actual intercourse or simply contact of a sexual nature, with someone I know and trust.

  • To never do anything with the sole purpose of desiring to feel, enhance, or suppress certain emotions. I don't see how turning a blind eye to a problem fixes it.

That last bullet is the true reasoning behind these decisions. Although I know that not everyone who drinks is doing so to drown their sorrows, and not everyone that smokes weed does so to forget their problems, I believe that those actions can lead up to that response and that urge to artificially change one's thoughts towards a situation by these means. It's easy to lose one's self in this way. A drink with a friend to dish out your problems to can turn into five drinks at home when there's no one around to hear your pleas.

To do any of these things, I feel, wouldn't be fair to me.

I've spent all 18 years of my life dealing with every problem that's stood in my way, every positive and negative emotion, without hardly any of these things to aid me. Every emotion I have ever felt has been raw, be it intense or subtle. The chemicals associated with alcohol and drugs and other substances, for me, are stimulated through other means, natural responses to natural stimuli. I've been high on music, high on sweets, high on thrill, high on panic, and high on sexual energy, but never have I forced those feelings, never relied on them for escape.

And I like living this way. 

True, there are moments where there's nothing interesting happening, as I'm at home, alone, and have exhausted all my resources and forms of entertainment. And in those moments, I'm sure some sort of substance would have done wonders to turn things around, make the moment more interesting. I recognize this.

And I know many people who do chose the lifestyle that I refuse probably have a lot of fantastic experiences that I will never have. Drugs open the mind in ways that are hard to reach through any sort of natural means. Alcohol in the blood can enhance an experience. Smoking and sex relieve stress and tension.

But I don't mind missing out on all of that. I know when I am having a fun time, when I'm laughing with my friends as we go on some random adventure, the emotions I feel are genuine. There is nothing influencing those feelings outside of exactly what is occurring to make me feel a certain way. Nothing is enhanced or minimized, and when I reflect on the memory at some later interval, I know exactly what was going through my head.

Now, before I continue, let me make it clear that I understand the importance of stepping out of one's comfort zone and gettting a taste of life outside the ordinary. By no means am I encouraging anyone to reject everything that makes him or her uncomfortable, so long as you think the pay off will be worth it do it. It is impossible to avoid risk taking in life. Every day we face new challenges and unknowingly stare Death in the eye. The risks we pursue are just another form of decision-making, and what one learns from being out of her comfort zone can change a her entire outlook on a situation that she would have otherwise avoided. What matters most is that she that had the final say, and no one forced her into the situation. The guidelines mentioned above, however, are the the things that I know I am not comfortable doing, period.

And it's also true that there aren't very many "yes or no" or "a or b" decisions in life. Sometimes a choice will be easy to make, sometimes all outcomes are the worst, and sometimes there doesn't seem to be a choice at all. Life is hardly ever simple, which is why it took many years of experiences and observations and countless nights of reflection before I finally understood how I wanted to live my life in comparison to how the people around me were living theirs, but understanding oneself can only help in making those hard or seemingly impossible decisions. Again, it's all about what you feel comfortable (or uncomfortable) doing. That is the deciding factor.

Let's put everything discussed into perspective using a specific example that I mentioned earlier.

This event happened this past weekend, at the Anime Matsuri rave in very early hours of Sunday, May 20th. When recalling my convention experience in a previous post, I mentioned, in passing, that at one point during the night I made a realization that I didn't enjoy pretending to be something I wasn't, but I didn't go into details as to what made me rethink my actions to begin with.

I went to the rave to escape all thoughts that when I open my eyes from sleep later that day (since it was 2 in the morning), I would be experiencing the last day of the convention, my home-away-from-home, and would have to say goodbye to my friends and idols and return to my real home and school and all the work I didn't want to do. I tried to get lost in the music like other people were, and so I bounced to the beat, rubbed my body, ran my fingers through my hair, and did everything to look as sexy as possible. At times, I did get lost, but there was always this nagging feeling in the back of my mind, reminding me that despite the fact I was doing everything to look sexy, and maybe even succeeding, I sure as hell didn't feel sexy. Plus, a recent twitter update from a con guest who I greatly admire put the rave in a less-than-flattering light, and I felt like I was turning into one of the people he was ridiculing.

Ignoring the little voice that told me I was uncomfortable, I thought the circle of sexy would be complete once a complete stranger asked me to dance. I agreed, knowing full well what to expect from a dancer at a rave and thinking that once I felt his hands grabbing at me and his body pressed against mine, I would truly be lost in the experience.

But instead I just felt lost.

We weren't in moving sync, I didn't like the way his hands felt moving against my stomach, thighs, and chest, and it all felt completely wrong to me. So, after only a few seconds, I sent him away, to someone I knew (or at least, hoped) would appreciate what had made me feel so uncomfortable, as that raw, sexual energy share with a stranger, the kind that only comes with raves. That was what she was here for. That's was in her comfort zone. That was how she made her escape. (Again, I hope. You know who you are, and if you're reading this and feel like I completely misjudged, I am so, so sorry, and I hope the experience wasn't too unsettling. I was being presumptuous.)

I left the rave for a while, walked around the empty halls of the convention center, and just took some time to reflect on what exactly had just happened, what had gone wrong. It was similar to how I felt when I sneaked alcohol when no one was home. The person who said "yes" to that stranger wasn't me.

I'm not a very sexually charged person, and I am definitely not a good dancer! There was no way for me to pretend to be a complete sex bomb without feeling a fool, especially while waving my arm in the air, palm spread, like the rave was some Christian Rock concert. The fact is, I'm a dork. I'm an uncoordinated dork! What am I doing trying to be this sexy, unfamiliar woman when I've just barely reached adulthood? Especially when I've yet to truly tap into my sexuality, or figure out how to keep a beat, or move my body as one unit rather than four flailing limbs emitting from a spastic torso.

So I ditched the glowsticks, stuck my jewelery in my pockets, buttoned up my hipster plaid tunic, and returned to the rave and just moved. Did whatever came to mind. I danced the cabbage patch, I danced disco moves, I pretended I was in a Broadway number, I pretended I was playing DDR, I pretended I was at that Christian Rock Concert, and I did everything that felt right. At times, I would move a hand up my hip, or run my fingers through my hair, shake my ass like no one's watching, but I wasn't forcing it any more. It's what I wanted to do, what my mind and body told me to do. No one asked to dance with me, but I didn't mind. I was having fun. I wasn't thinking about the end of Sunday because I didn't have room in my mind for such negative thoughts. I made my escape through purely positive energy, let the music flow through me as my mind and body wanted it to, rather than try to work it into a poor imitation of that mating dance that all ravers just have imprinted in their minds from birth. 

(And plus, once my geek was released and I did my angry squid dance with a friend in the hall, we got noticed and complimented by the very same person who wrote the tweet that had bummed me out earlier, the man who was the entire reason I was having so much fun at the convention! I mean, how cool is it to be complimented by someone you idolized for looking like a fool? It was very cool! Very, very cool!)

And this is just one example of something that made me rethink how I present and treat myself. I've had moments where I've taken in just how unflattering certain forms of substance abuse can be. I've seen a drunk party-goer having the best times of his life one moment, and puking into a saucepan in front of everyone the next, effectively ending the party. I've gotten into a small car crash that may or may not have been caused by our driver having smoked some pot half an hour beforehand. I've heard and seen first hand the effects of long term substance abuse through family members, and their experiences, some near-death, and their stories will forever remain at the front of my mind when I ask myself "Do I want to try this?"

These are not life style choices I want to adopt. I don't ever want to be that person who everyone remembers spent most of the party with their head in a toilet bowl. I don't want to be the girl who wakes up the next day next to a complete stranger, with only snippets of the night before, where everything I did was out of my intoxicated control. (And, in the spirit if this text, I'm not saying that everyone who drinks or parties wakes up the next day in bed with a stranger. That's not fair. I just worry that that is the girl I could become if I let myself go that far.)

You see, I don't mind being the girl who wakes up the next day and remembers the stupid things that everyone else did. I'm fine being the girl who remembers the funny jokes that people sputtered and slurred, the girl who can call parents or rides if someone is in trouble, or cradles and listens to the soul who's troubles all spilled from their drunken tongue. I'm okay with being the one who bakes cupcakes to satisfy a friend's munchies, or hold her steady when we're walking away from the bar and help her buckle his seatbelt in the back of a cab. I can cope with being the only person at the table with a glass of water to clink against the beers and martinis of a toast. And if I end up having a crappy time at that table of people because I'm the only one not laughing at the bad jokes and paying attention to the uninteresting stories that are made far more entertaining with drink in the system, that's something I'll have to deal with.

So be it. 

I look up to other teenagers and young adults who feel the same way. I respect their decisions, because I know it can be very difficult in today's growing environments to avoid those temptations, and even harder to deny them. I am so grateful to have been born into a household of two wonderfully flawed parents who raised me, and continue to raise me, lovingly and respectfully. I'm also so very lucky to have been and continue to be surrounded with caring and understanding friends who have never pushed me into doing anything I didn't want to do, who respect my boundaries and don't ridicule me for my decisions, though they hardly ever get the chance to to do so because I've hardly ever been pushed out of my comfort zone around them.

I know my life would seem boring to some. There are hardly ever any house parties, or late night adventures into abandoned buildings to shield ourselves from the world, no taking a shot when the actor's face matches up to the mustaches taped to tv screen, and no one night flings behind closed doors. But I know that in the place of those coulda-shoulda-woulda-beens, there will be other memories. And when someone brings up a "Hey, Remember That Time When?" I'll be able to respond with a  "Oh, Yes, I Remember" and I'll recall that the emotions I felt during That Time will have been my own, pure and true.

But, like I said, these are my choices. I know what kind of comforts the things I deny can bring to other people. Several of my best friends and closest family members often find comfort in drinking or smoking or substances or sex. And who am I to judge, really? That isn't my decision, and it's not in my control to tell someone how to live their life. Unless the lives of the people I love are in immediate danger, her path towards self destruction is clear, or my own well-being is put at risk for his own happiness, I won't try to stop anyone from making the choices they make. Unless I feel personally in danger, I don't mind being around my friends when they're intoxicated or high or what have you (although it has hardly to happen) and I don't look down on them for choosing to be in that state. I just want to make sure I can take care of them if things go wrong, and tell them how silly they looked if they happen to forget.

Refusing drink, illegal substances, cigarettes and unnecessary sexual contact are my own decisions. This is how, as of this moment, I am choosing to live my life. I can't say for certain whether these decisions will continue to follow me into adulthood, but I firmly believe that being straight edge does not automatically make me a boring or uninteresting person. I'll simply have different sorts stories to share and different kinds memories to bottle up and store away.

What's most important is living the way you feel the fullest. I know that no matter what I do with my life, it will be full of confident, happy, and entertaining experiences, as well as sadness, regrets, and moments of uncertainty. This is true for everyone. I just know, if I stay true to my choices, that my regrets will be the result of something that was in my control at one point, and something that I can fix, rather than the result of a stupid decision made through unclear thoughts and imbalance between my body and mind. As a result, the positive times, the moments where I'll be able to put what I learned from my mistakes into practice, will be more meaningful to me.

As of right now, I have never been more comfortable in my skin, and I can't wait to see where I go from here.

So, time for the conclusion of this entire thing. I ask that everyone who reads this just thinks for a moment before you judge someone based on their life decisions, be they similar to mine or the exact opposite. We all have reasons behind every action, and our experiences shape the people we become. No one should be pitied or insulted because they feel discomfort with what other people seem perfectly content in doing. Don't ridicule someone for not taking that step that they may find completely terrifying.

And it's okay if you chose to participate in these types of recreational activities. If that's what makes you comfortable and confident in yourself, I say go for it. Just don't let it get out of your control.

And for the love of humanity, don't call someone's life boring for any reason. It's just as likely that they are enjoying every minute of their seemingly boring adventures through this seemingly boring yet fantastical journey through billions of never ending experiences and moments.

(Wow, you reached the end. I can't believe someone actually read through all of this. Well, thank you for your time. This is a subject that is very personal to me, as I had been struggling with feelings of inadequacy and fear of judgement throughout my teenage years because I chose to say "no". I still consider myself lucky, however, to have made these decisions on my own time, with minimal peer pressure and no demands from my parents to be a straight edge without me having a say in the matter. Today, for whatever reason, I felt compelled to share this with all of you. If you have any comments, questions, or would like to share your own views on the topic, please feel free to leave it below. Anon is always on.)
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