Someone asked me today why I don’t drink, and I realized that my explanation has grown as I have. Here’s the thing: It’s not that I don’t drink, not really. It’s that I choose not to a lot of the time because I generally don’t enjoy it.
That’s not always the case, but it got me thinking.
Just because we like something some of the time or other people are doing it, doesn’t mean that we have to always stay that way or join in with them. We’re far too complicated as humans to follow such social concepts.
Yet, we do. And part of me thinks I know why—at least for myself.
There are a lot of things I have done in the past, not because I particularly wanted to or because it felt right, but because I felt like I was supposed to. I drank occasionally at parties because everyone else did and I was tired of people judging me. In the same vein, there are a few AP classes I took in high school— definitely should not have taken calc AB— that I took because I thought I should.
But right now, I’m realizing that this is one of the first times I’m seeing how much it matters as to why I do what do. If I don’t enjoy something or at least gain skills, friends, etc. out of it, then why am I doing it?
The last few years, I’ve gotten so involved because part of me wanted to despite being shy and afraid. If you ask my friends now, they probably won’t use either word to describe me. Considering that I’m 21, there are a whole lot of opportunities coming at me in life right around now that offer something that I don’t really like—options. It’s not that I don’t want choices, it’s that I don’t want to have to make those choices.
Because making decisions that just might change the direction my life is headed in is kind of intimidating. Kind of in the same way that doing things that you want to do but aren’t comfortable doing in the moment doing, it’s not always easy doing something that you have to do even if you want to.
Here’s a slightly different example that changed my week up a little bit.
Earlier this week, my seminar class on literary theory and criticism—yes, it is as dense as it sounds—was trying to unpack a passage we had just read. Though the reading itself was on the concept man being the superior sex, it was likened to race as well. Now, this part didn’t bother me even though I was one of two minorities in the class, both of which were used as an example in the readings.
My issue came up when someone raised their hand to offer their own insight and used the words “colored individuals” as a way of referring to people of color.
I think I froze when I heard her say that, my shoulders going still and fingers actually stopping mid-reach for my water bottle as an old segregation sign popped into my head. Many of us, our professor included, were so surprised to hear it that nothing was addressed about the usage of language.
In that moment, I wanted to say something; I felt like I was supposed to say something. But I didn’t. Because Cal Poly isn’t the easiest place for people like me to speak up.
What I did do, however, was email my professor after class to express both my discomfort with the language and concern as we move into queer and postcolonial theory. When I felt uncomfortable, I didn’t do something just because I thought I was supposed to or obligated to. I’m not really sure that would have benefited me in any way and most likely would have felt worse.
Instead, I found a way to do something I personally wanted to do that didn’t put me in an uncomfortable situation in the process. Sometimes, you can’t avoid the discomfort. Sometimes, you can. So, I did.
There are a lot of situations and settings that I don’t drink in simply because it would be uncomfortable and hard to enjoy. But when I am comfortable and actually want to, I can. Because that is my decision to make.
Studying when I don’t want to is a benefit to me just like going to class or working. There are other things we do for other people or for ourselves only out of expectation or sometimes a lack of self-respect. That isn’t really any way to live a life we want to be living.
So, don’t live it that way. It took me a while, but I’m starting to understand what it means to lead my own life rather than let other people or circumstances dictate it. After all, my life is about me, isn’t it? Even in the face of uncomfortable moments or hard decisions like last week, I think dictating my own life is worth it.