Choices in lifestyle left up to individual, people should be who they want to be

Alyssa Benes and Alyssa Benes

I was texting my brother [love you, kid] the other day, and we got to talking about me recently turning 21 when he asked, “Are you still sticking with your not drinking thing or whatever you were doing?”

My reply was simple, “It’s called straight edge … and yes.”

For those of you that don’t know, basically that means that I choose not to drink, smoke or do drugs [though some straight edge people take it further and don’t consume caffeine, are vegetarian, vegan and a whole list of other things].

Technically I’ve been straight edge since I found out what it was. I was in middle school and had discovered the wonderful thing that is punk rock. After that, I began looking more into the punk subculture and music, which straight edge came out of.

Though I was only probably 13 at the time, I knew that it was something I wanted to be a part of my life.

I don’t know what specifically it was that made me want to adopt the lifestyle back then, but I’m glad I did. It’s part of who I am and I have no intention of changing that.

As I’m sure most people reading this have experienced, there is quite a bit of pressure to drink in college. Numerous people have tried to pressure me into drinking since my freshman year. It wasn’t that drinking underage is against the law that prevented me from doing it, it was the fact that I just didn’t want to.

Alcohol has never interested me. And that’s part of why I’m straight edge to this day.

When I tell people I’m straight edge, I get mixed reactions. Some people understand it and are cool with it. Some accept it but secretly think I’m being ridiculous or trying too hard to be the punk kid. Others get the idea that I think that I’m better than everyone else because of it.

The latter isn’t the case at all. It’s simply something that I have chosen because I think it’s best for me personally. I have friends and family members who drink and smoke. It honestly doesn’t bother me at all. That’s not my choice to make.

Because not drinking is something that many people don’t see often in college, it really is something that I’m judged for sometimes. I’ve learned to not let it bother me.

As I said before, it’s part of who I am. In a world where people are pressured to be like everyone else, I’m okay with being a little bit different.

I have a bunch of things that make me “abnormal” and “weird” and being straight edge and listening to punk rock are only two. I used to try to hide it and not tell people that I listened to the kind of music that I do. It was something I was so afraid of because I didn’t want to stick out and be different.

I’m not quite sure what changed, but after I met people who were a bit “different” in high school, I tried being true to who I am and noticed that I was much happier. Since then, I’ve stuck with just being me.

This is going to sound cliché and cheesy, but no matter how “different” you think you are, embrace it. Embrace the things you’re passionate about. Embrace the “weird” things about yourself and be proud of them. They make you who you are and that’s nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. Love yourself and be yourself. You’ll be much happier that way.

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