As a kid, I grew up going to a ton of concerts. When I was under 21, they would put a huge X mark on my hand. This X symbolized that you were underage and unable to drink at the concert. I wasn’t aware at the time that this X was also a symbol and movement for punk fans from the 70s to 80s who called themselves “straight edge.”
Throughout history, straight edge has formed and moved through different meanings. At one point, it meant not consuming any animal by-products, drugs, or alcohol. As the world moved on from the 70s and 80s, some people who considered themselves straight edge died down. I consider myself straight edge and here’s how I survived being a mostly vegetarian who avoids illegal drugs and alcohol.
In the mid to late 2005 time frame, I became a vegetarian. In that period, it was considered different and some people labeled it as crazy. For the longest time, I was very strict in not eating anything that killed animals. Unlike other vegetarians, the central concept of my decision was based on the fact that I didn’t like how the food was processed.
After watching a movie about how horrible the meat industry is, I decided to avoid this kind of food altogether. I also had this personal concept that I wouldn’t eat anything I couldn’t kill on my own. With that in mind, I sometimes will eat fish, however, it’s not a staple in my diet. Since that decision, I have not had meat, chicken, or pork in over ten years.
At one point in college, I was a vegan for an entire year. It was the hardest thing I have done, and eventually, I became a regular lacto-ovo-vegetarian. I’d like to say that being a vegetarian is easy however it’s not. People are always criticizing what you eat and suggesting that you eat meat. My favorite response to somebody telling me what I should eat is that I would never say to them or shame them for eating meat. I expect the same respect for my decision not to do something, as I respect others in their choices.
As a vegetarian, you end up not having a lot of options at events, so preparation is essential. I typically bring nuts and cheese to avoid eating bad food. Although vegetarianism is becoming more popular, it’s still taboo to some people.
Alcohol & Drugs
I went to Florida State University for college. Most people, when they hear of FSU, think of their football and parties. Some people think of their great academic programs, but that’s far and few. I had a major that was tough to get into and even harder to finish the classes. With that said, a ton of people at FSU party. In some groups or friend circles, it’s practically considered the norm to drink excessively and to take drugs which included but were not limited to marijuana.
I would say that partying is all right to experiment with in your younger years. I’m not here to judge others on how they live their lives, but I could not handle the activities after graduating. After attempting to live in the Los Angeles area, it seemed that the majority of events involved drugs and alcohol. The situation threw me out of my element, and I ended up moving in with my family in Chicago.
Chicago is fairly well known for their different craft beers, and thus a huge portion of the population relies on social drinking to create new friends. I wasn’t sure if this was normal for other areas in the United States but as I continued to move around, I started to notice it was. The majority of people require drinking to create new networks.
The last time I had around, 3-4 drinks was while I was on a bachelorette trip in New Orleans. That day I came to a realization that drinking was very depressing to me. I gave it up altogether. I can confidently say I never actually enjoyed drinking. I always found myself drinking sugary drinks to mask the taste of alcohol or drinking very quickly.
A lot of people ask what I do for fun if I don’t drink. The answer is that my current sources of joy reflect the habits of my high school and younger lifestyle choices. When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time doing different things. I was part of the Speech Team, Student Government, Band, and Fine Arts Club. I consider myself on the same level of the punk vibe of straight edge. I stay happy and entertained by doing the same things I did in high school. Going to concerts, making things, writing, listening to music and exercising bring me great pleasure.
There’s one thing I have noticed that people in my immediate group tend to go with the flow with in my personal habits. If they drink, they will not drink with me or as much. I never ask them to do this — it’s just out of habit and courtesy. I think this has to do with the fact that I’m able to maintain a fun and interactive environment without having to have an outside substance.
Not drinking or doing drugs has allowed me to go back to my roots and I’m able to have fun with my energy and continue to live what I would consider a modern day straight edge lifestyle.