Personal Problem: My Sore Spots

•May 1, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This post is a follow-up to the anger post. I feel like I ranted without truly explaining myself; I don’t want it to seem like I’m some sort of powder keg waiting to go off. I don’t want to seem like I’m devoid of emotion, either. I guess what I’m trying to say is

I GOT PROBLEMS

Surprise! I have issues that cause emotional instability, and intense pressure on any single issue or multiple issues will cause immense discomfort and negative reaction on my part!

It’s good to know one’s limits, and one’s boundaries when it comes to life and what one can handle. Like I said, I’m not a short fuse, but buildup of pressure on something will cause a short circuit in the noggin…a reaction I feel to be very identifiable with the general population. Poke the bear long enough, and you get swiped at.

Quit it.

So, in order to avoid Hulk-ing out and ruining my day/night/game of Mahjong, I needed to figure out the things that set me off. I made a list of triggers, as I’ve mentioned before, but those are not root problems. In the previous post, I mentioned the things that angered me that day, but they angered me mainly because they were stacked one on top of the other…and when negative things build up it’s difficult to not let it affect you. What I want to talk about today are sore spots in my life, as well as behavior that affects me negatively.

1. School…Let’s Not Talk About It

I’m not looking for sympathy, and I’m not trying to tug anyone’s heart strings. My mom died the year after I started college, and I sunk into depression. I fucked up my grades over and over, and did not seek help. I, instead, went into the work force and [thought] I was doing all right. The whole time, everyone was asking when I was getting back into school.

Now, I had every intention of going back to school. I simply wasn’t ready; even when I pushed through and tried, I still wasn’t ready.

Here’s the thing: my depression was not my fault, but letting it go untreated was. It took a long time, but I am ready for school and I’m ready to finish. What I’m not ready for? Judgment.

My honest thoughts? I’m in school, I’m going for my degree, and how about we leave it at that? If someone is interested in a class I’m taking or just wants to hear about projects and stuff, I am all for that. Here is the exact thing I don’t want to hear:

“When are you done with school?”
“You have how much left?”
“What’s taking so long?”

I just can’t help but think, How dare you? I’m doing my damn best, and this is not easy. Not a day goes by I don’t realize I’m a 26-year-old in classes with kids just out of high school; I look back and wish I could snap myself out of it and have been done already. I know friends and family don’t mean it, but they ask these questions and it pisses me off. It’s an unfair thing to ask me, and more often than not the person already knows the answer. I will be in school for a while. It’s taking long because I was depressed and I didn’t fully invest in school before.

2. Disrespect…Don’t Be A Dick

A broad topic, and one I covered in the last post. It’s a big issue to me. It’s become a bigger issue lately, because I feel I’ve been disrespected incredibly. The main problem is that, in some of the cases, I’ve allowed that to happen. I’m starting to realize what kind of crap the old me would put up with, and it makes me feel ill.

Everyone deserves respect, and if you can’t respect me then get out of my life. It’s that simple.

3. My Privacy…Lemme Lone

Without privacy, life sucks. I need my privacy. I never got much growing up, and I still don’t in some avenues of life. I love my family, but they are not exactly respectful of my privacy.

I feel like this is a no-brainer; if I don’t want to talk about something, leave it alone. Prying isn’t going to do anything but make everything awkward.

4. Your Misplaced Anger…Check Your Shit

I’ve been the subject of misplaced anger lately, and it’s not right. I’ve been pulled into someone else’s arguments, and I’ve been yelled at because of someone’s overreaction. It’s simply uncalled for. If you’re angry, I understand…we all get angry. Taking your anger out on someone who did nothing is a jerk move, though.

These are just a couple things I was thinking of. I’ll probably post more sometime.

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Personal Problem: Anger Management

•May 1, 2012 • 2 Comments

I’m angry right now. Fuming, in fact.

Normally, this would be the time I do nothing constructive, like sit there or play video games or something. I’d do whatever I could to bottle it up and just ignore it so I wouldn’t feel it. I’d blare music and think about something else…or, I’d sit there and think about nothing but my anger until I twist it into something it wasn’t.

So, I’m going to write through my anger just to get it out.

I’m pissed off, and I was not treated with respect today.

Problem 1: Disrespect In The Form Of A Joke

Now, my friends and I joke around a lot. It is one thing to joke around with a group of friends when you’re all together; it is another thing to poke fun at my situation over the internet for other people to see.

Do not get me wrong: I am proud of what I am doing and what I’m accomplishing; I am glad I am taking care of my life right now, and pushing myself forward on the right track. I will say, however, that my situation is just that: mine. I don’t judge anyone’s life, and I don’t want anyone judging mine. I know of the mistakes I made; I made them.

So, making fun of what I am doing with my life is, without a doubt, one of the easiest ways to piss me off.

Everyone is free to do whatever they want, obviously…but making fun of me when I’m trying to get my life sorted out is a good indication that you don’t respect me, and you shouldn’t be around me when I’m trying to keep positive.

Problem 2: Wasting My Time

No one likes being blown off.

hate being blown off. It says a lot about a person. It says you don’t care about me, or my time. If you don’t even bother to check in or cancel, that makes it even worse. I’m not even worth a a short text?

I got blown off today, by a consummate blow-off artist. Now, I agreed that this friend could come over with the notion of her cancelling already firmly in my noggin. Sure enough, the thinkable happened and I got blown off. Normally, I’d brush it off, but something different happened…this time, the fault supposed lay with communication errors. Somehow, my text and phone call did not reach her. I don’t know why this time screamed BULLSHIT louder than any other time, but it did.

This problem is mostly my fault. I know how flaky this person is; our relationship isn’t even a good one. This is one of those instances where I have to face my past and realize that this relationship is doing more harm than good. I suppose that’s why it’s difficult; another part of my past dies with this…connection, or whatever it is.

I guess that’s what I’m really mad; I allowed this to happen.

Problem 3: Don’t Yell At Me

That’s pretty simple. Don’t yell at me, especially if I did nothing to deserve it.

 

I wanted to write this out, because I want to show that it is difficult staying positive and on track. I have a ton of support, and I’m pretty positive about the direction my life and goals are headed in right now…but that doesn’t mean things don’t get in the way. Negativity is just out there, and sometimes it finds the people who want to avoid it most. I’m making progress, and I’m working hard…but the stress can get to me.

Compounding issues are big problem for me. When it rains, it pours. This new-found energy and forward momentum gets tested, and usually I can breeze past problems. Sometimes, I lose it, like tonight. I’ll admit, this new direction, and the stress accompanying it, can make me feel weak. Tonight was a bummer, but I’m glad I wrote about it. I already feel a little better, and I bet I’ll feel even better after some sleep.

Life Choice: All Smoked Out

•April 30, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I started smoking in college because the girl I liked smoked. There. I said it. Now it’s out. I was 18 and dumb.

MOVING ON.

Over the years, it never was about buying cigarettes and smoking them every day. It became a social thing. I would smoke at parties or during all-nighters. I’d have two or three cigarettes a weekend when sober, and maybe suck through seven or eight when drunk. I was a kid, and I thought myself invincible.

Oh, young me. You were so silly.

I’m going to skip ahead to summer of 2010 when my life upended. Almost everything about my life was pretty negative, and it affected all parts of me. I was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. I was in a trench of self-pity and all that; nothing was going to get better, life stunk, I can’t change this by myself, etc. Basically, I was just floundering. This affected my smoking, as well.

Now, over the course of my relationship, my partner had stopped smoking and was wanting me to. I had cut down, but there were a lot of times when I simply didn’t care. I was in a bad place. Towards the end, I smoked more and more. It was pretty out of control. I continued to smoke after the break, and upped my intake drastically. I used to be the guy who never bought cigarettes; now, I was the guy who would buy two packs at a time for fear of running out. (I understand there are heavier smokers out there, but this was a big change for me.)

In April, my friend and I had planned a vacation to Florida, and it was an amazing time. The thing was, though, that my friend wanted to smoke way more than I did. I was starting to not feel up to it. There was the initial rejoicing over the fact that cigarettes were cheaper and that you could smoke in bars…but, I think, deep down I was no longer interested.

On the way back from Florida, we made a stop and spent a night at this Korean spa. It was amazing; there were different rooms with different temperature saunas, a pool, workout bikes, hot tubs, steam rooms, and massages. I sweat so much and felt so exhausted and cleansed.

As we were getting ready to leave, my friend said we should grab a quick smoke before hitting the road. I looked in my backpack, and pulled out my cigarettes. I had a full pack minus seven; I remember it vividly. I handed them to him, saying, “I don’t think I want to smoke anymore.”

That was April 16th 2011. I have not had a cigarette since.

Part of me believes that an act of cleansing was necessary for me to start making changes in my life…part of me wants to believe the spa was the reason I quit smoking. Mostly, I believe I needed something to believe in; I needed the spa as a faux-catalyst for change. I think I was so weak-willed and so far gone with untreated depression that I could latch onto this place as a saving grace. “Well, I’m cured because of the spa!” I couldn’t believe in myself back then, because believing in myself was out of the question. I was low, and the only thing I could focus on was that I was the cause of it. I didn’t realize that I quit smoking cold turkey, and how remarkably strong that act is.

Well, now I do. I’m grateful I went to the spa, and that it afforded me the opportunity to quit smoking. The choice to remain a non-smoker, though, is because of me. I don’t know how it is for other recovering smokers, but for me I don’t have a single urge. I’m happy I’m not smoking anymore, and it feels great.

Well, sort of. Let me explain.

I don’t ever want to smoke again. I wish I never smoked in the first place. As an asthmatic, smoking worsens the effects of asthma and makes things just a little harder. It’s more difficult to breathe, and shortness of breath occurs quicker. The problem now is that, since I quit smoking my lungs have begun the process of repairing themselves…and are doing an even worse job. This is easily the dumbest thing I have done to myself. Start smoking, make asthma worse…quit smoking, make asthma even worse than before. I wish I could go back in time and slap myself.

So. Besides the asthma problem [that was my fault for smoking anyway], not smoking is amazing. Not to mention, I save so much money not smoking! http://www.health.com/health/library/mdp/0,,calc011,00.html#calc011-sec It’s pretty crazy; I could have saved between $500-800 in 2011. Sheesh.

Life Choice: Changing My Wills

•April 28, 2012 • Leave a Comment

For the past couple years, I felt like I said a lot of things.

I had these ideas. I had ideas of who I wanted to be, of things I wanted to accomplish, of things I could accomplish. I was going to write, I was going to draw, I was going to do comedy, and I was going to go back to school. Well, it took a life-altering event, but some of those statements finally could be followed through. I went through a relationship split, and thought that it was, perhaps, time to get my life together. I was no innocent party in the situation, and it was clear to me that changes needed to be made.

When the split happened, the future remained ambiguous. I had moved out of our apartment, but we never clearly established what was going to happen. I think we both realized things needed to change, but in my case I wasn’t entirely sure that a permanent break was on the horizon. I did have a lot to work on, and it was clear I wasn’t offering much in the way of support emotionally, physically, or financially. I started working on that immediately, if not just to get myself back to the city…back to my apartment, our cats, her…back to life.

Long story made short, it was not in the cards and the relationship ended.

So, changes!

I had moved out, so right away that was a change I had to deal with that had no alternative. Because of the move, I had to let go of city life, basically. There was no way I’d be able to come out to the city as much as current activities and friendships demanded, and one of the things I knew about my friends was city folk don’t like coming out to the suburbs. I had to let everyone know what was going on, and I also had to be prepared to cut ties with certain  groups. As I blogged about before, I had to sever my connection with the comedy world.

Now, I was in the suburbs and needed to fix things. In the beginning, I foolishly thought I could fix everything in a hurry and the relationship would be renewed. I say foolish, but looking back I realized it was natural for me to want that at the time; I was barely functioning and wanted something to cling to. That, obviously, was not in the cards, either. It was silly for me to assume that I could fix everything at once; my issues had issues and the relationship was done. It took a couple months, but it sunk in.

What to fix?

School. School was an immediate concern. Since my mom’s death in 2005, I had become numb to the importance of school; grades, attendance, and everything seemed meaningless and not worth my time.  I dove into jobs and comedy and drinking with friends since that seemed to make me feel better. Now, I was without comedy and without a job prospect…and I knew sitting around drinking with friends was a terrible idea.

So, I started school again at a local community college in order to boost my GPA, and enrolled in a fantastic art college. Once there, I just simply…was there. I fell into the routine of not caring. I made the mistake of trying to accomplish everything I wanted at once. After school, I had a lot of goals I needed to work towards.

My goals, at the end of my breakup:

  1. Get back into school and excel.
  2. Work out constantly.
  3. Eat healthy.
  4. Find a creative outlet.
  5. Seek therapy and benefit.
  6. Find a part-time job.
  7. Cut back on drinking.
  8. Stop smoking.

As you can see, I did get some of those started; I was, however, trying to complete all of them at once, which was terrible. Out of eight goals, I was in the process of three of them (since I ate junk, number 3 doesn’t count). It took about six months to figure this out, along with intermittent therapy sessions. I started realizing that changes were supposed to come when I was ready, and I wasn’t ready. I was still hurt, and still incomplete. I needed to wean myself off things; trying to cut things out resulted in lashing out and engaging in worse behavior. For instance, not smoking for a while meant the next time I got drunk I would smoke half a pack. Not drinking meant I would black out the next time. Eating healthy would mean I would grab fast food over the weekend.

It wasn’t until a year ago that I became healthy enough to begin my healing process. I used to look back on the months after my relationship ended and view them as time wasted, but now I realize it was part of my grieving process. It wasn’t healthy by any means, but it was what worked for me. I realized that I could be the guy that followed through on his word; I wasn’t going to say I would do things…I was going to do them, damn it. April of last year kicked everything off with the quitting of smoking. Since then, let’s review that initial list, with additional information:

  1. Get back into school and excel. I have definitely been taking school more seriously this semester.
  2. Work out constantly. The constantly is more like frequently, but I feel confident in my routine.
  3. Eat healthy. I still struggle with this, but it’s become easier with the exclusion of alcohol and soda.
  4. Find a creative outlet. I have a lot of things on my plate right now, and it’s exciting as hell.
  5. Seek therapy and benefit. Without therapy, I don’t think I’d be in a healthy place.
  6. Find a part-time job. Bartending/serving!
  7. Cut back on drinking. How about quitting? BOOM.
  8. Quit smoking. Over a year strong.

It took a long time, and did not all happen at once, but I am in a healthy place and I want to stay that way. Future posts will go into detail as to each step I took. I’m just glad I became the man I want to be. Although I’m a man picking up the pieces of his life, I am a man doing so and moving forward. I can’t sit back anymore, numb and confused and full of self-pity. Bad things happened. Now, I have to make sure my life turns into one that pursues happiness instead of one that sits back and gripes.

“A man must stand. Should he be the first to stand, or the last, a man must stand. And if that man is the only man, that man must stand alone.”

Only I can change my life.

I am the only me there is.

I must stand.

My Annoying Triggers: Part One

•April 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been in school-appointed therapy on and off for about two years now. The first year was a bit of a waste, but it wasn’t that the sessions were sub-par or unwanted; I think I wasn’t in a healthy enough place to fully open up, and I ended up postponing or cancelling many of my appointments. I was aimless, and didn’t really fully understand my feelings or what was going on under the surface. The second year was amazing, and I believe I really made some progress…forward movement. I got my life on track.

That being said, therapy did offer some fun in between the serious stuff. For instance, when my therapist suggested I make a list of triggers.

Now, what she meant by triggers are things in my life that cause me to be upset or to revert back into depression. Triggers stall forward movement. I do have a list of these things, and have been doing well in avoiding them. [/serious]

I opted to also make a list of funny triggers…triggers that annoy me, but don’t have a largely negative impact on me.

1. Elderly Drivers

I’m going to be that guy, and I don’t care. This year alone, I’ve had four close calls…one of which actually had me make an unnecessary swerve into a driveway in order to avoid being hit. The drivers? All elderly. It sounds mean, and sounds like a sweeping generalization. In all fairness it is, but until I’m involved with any close calls with someone who isn’t a senior citizen this year, the percent of cars that almost hit me and were driven by the elderly is 100 percent. 4/4. That’s a perfect record.

It’s just difficult to not feel this way, but it’s scary and puts me in a state of anxiety; I fear for my life and my car. I take great joy in driving; it’s one of the things that relaxes me the most. I haven’t been able to do it so much now that gas is so expensive, so when I do get to go out I relish the experience.

Then, I’m nearly up on the curb because the old guy in the left lane [who shouldn’t even be in the left lane] has drifted over to the right. I would yell, but what would be the point? He can barely see over the steering wheel, and how stupid am I if I make him turn to look at me? He’s already drifting over into my lane and he’s looking forward.

I should also add that the worst damage ever done to a car I drove was my family’s 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix. The entire paneling on the left side was smashed; the driver’s door and read driver’s side door could not be opened. the damage was caused by a 75-year-old woman.

My car was parked.

Apparently, my car came out of nowhere.

2. Guys With Neckbeards

Neckbeards a.k.a. the Pube Scarf

Fellas. Really?

For those blissfully ignorant of the situation, neck beards are facial hair growth that exists only under the jawline. A friend of mine once commented that neckbeards are the comb-over of facial hair. It seems to me that the only men that grow neckbeards are men incapable of growing respectable facial hair. My thoughts, gents, is that if you can’t do it don’t do it at all.

Neckbeards tell a story, and the story is:

  1. You can’t grow a real beard.
  2. You are lazy and have no clear grasp of hygiene.

This may sound a bit conceited coming from a guy with a full beard, but trust me…if i couldn’t grow it, I wouldn’t. Heck, when I was younger I didn’t try growing out a full beard because my mustache was not up to code.

Gentlemen, the thing about neckbeards is that no one likes them. It is never cool to have a neckbeard. Neckbeards are not attractive. Do you think people want to snuggle up to a neckbeard, or run their fingers through it?  The answer is a resounding no.

Out of all the facial hair styles, neckbeards look the most like pubes. And that is so so gross.

Sidenote: I should include “fat guys who wear skinny jeans” in this category, as the majority of neckbeards I’ve seen also are guilty of this violation. Come on, guys. Skinny jeans? Wearing something with the word “skinny” in it doesn’t change the fact that you’re fat. Take it from a bigger dude; if you have to sit down to put on your pants, get new pants.

3. John Mellencamp’s “R-O-C-K in the U.S.A.”

This song just.

I can’t.

This song makes me “River Tam” everywhere. When I hear it, I must turn it off. If I can’t turn it off, I must get away or people will get hurt.

Damn you, John Mellencamp. Damn you.

4. Anything Beatles-related

I’m not a fan of the Beatles. I understand what they did for the music industry, and I fully acknowledge that they are well-liked by darn near everyone. I, however, don’t see the appeal. I don’t like their music. I dislike the sound of it.

More troublesome to me than the band is the following…the fans. I get into more fights about the Beatles with people than any other topic. In my life, the Beatles are more of a hot button than religions, politics, and human rights rolled into one. Getting into arguments about this goddamn band has made me leave birthday parties and lost friends. The arguments are insane.

“You can’t hate all of their music. They have so many songs. I bet you like one.” No. I don’t. Because you are Beatles fan number 948 to say that to me in my life, and I have heard every damn song the Beatles have put out because your predecessors have shown all of them to me.

After arguing about the Beatles for nearly an hour at a party, one person actually said to me, “You need to grow up.” Granted, that person was very drunk at the time, and later apologized. Still, the fact that my dislike of the Beatles actually makes me look childish or immature or uncultured in the eyes of Beatles’ fans just makes me shake my head.

6. People Who Chew With Their Mouths Open/Breathe Through Their Mouths While Eating

Like this, but with motion.

It’s disgusting. If they’re breathing is so labored that they have to stop chewing in order to take a breath, something is wrong. They need to asses their situation. A person like this can’t be that busy if they’re sitting in a cafe; yet, they sits there with fists clenched while they chew their food through gasping breaths.

Calm down, man. Whatever you’re heading to will still be there. If you were going to be so late, you’d be wolfing down that turkey pesto while you walked.

Comedy In My Life

•April 16, 2012 • 2 Comments

I need humor in my life.

It’s also essential I create humor in my life.

I’m a life-long goofball, and I don’t feel myself if I don’t have an outlet that will help me in that regard. I need to be able to be funny. The many relationships in my life do help, but after being involved in comedy since 2002 I need more.

I can’t speak for any other comedians, but for me comedy is a drug. If you don’t feed the habit, you go into withdrawal.

…probably not the most positive analogy, but bear with me.

I got involved in comedy and acting in high school, and I always wanted to give it a try. It took a catalyst for me to finally stop wondering and start doing. A friend was involved in the musicals and plays at school, and our school even had an improv group. I mentioned that it might be fun, and my friend uttered these magical words:

You? Act?! You couldn’t act!

That’s honestly all it took. I have a bit of a jerky streak that way, I suppose. You tell me I can’t do something, and I have to do it and shove it in your face. So, I joined the improv group and auditioned for the musicals and plays. I went from Background Guy #2 my junior year to the lead in the spring play my senior year. I had the bug.

So, high school was over, and now I was in college. I was definitely scared and wanted to make sure class came first, so I didn’t even check what extra-curriculars were offered. As college goes, you meet new people and strike up new friendships. Luckily for me, I met a cute girl and we began dating. One night, I noticed there was an improv show in her dorm, so we went. I lagged behind to find out more information, and once again the bug took hold.

Since 2003, I’ve been a part of comedy. It was a huge part of my life, and some of the most important people in my life were met through comedy. It’s a way of life. College comedy was like being in a band; you played a venue [in my case, it was the same place every Monday night], you spend your nights with the same people you come to call family, and you travel together. It’s a powerful thing. I’ve done improv, sketch, and some ill-fated stand-up. Once you’re in it, it would take a life-altering event to get out.

Unfortunately, a life-altering event did happen, and I cut ties with the comedy world in 2010.

What I said about comedy being a lifestyle is true. What I said about calling fellow comedians family is true. You live and breathe comedy, and that’s all that surrounds you. So, unfortunately, with my life changed and with my reluctant retreat to the suburbs, I lost touch with the comedy world and with fellow comedians. We no longer spoke as much. It’s not their fault and it’s not mine; it’s honestly the way the life is. You have a lot of buddies in comedy…a lot of acquaintances. When you’re not performing or going to shows, you don’t exist in that life.

I didn’t perform for a long time, and it hurt.

Recently, however, I was told of an audition for a play. Now, the last time I was in a play was in 2003…since then, the most lines I memorized at a time was well under 40. My friend insisted I try out, and I felt the familiar itch. There was also the feeling of complete dread. I haven’t done this in a long time! I haven’t had an improv scene in years! I’d be auditioning with people who were taking improv classes at various places all over Chicago, and I haven’t had one professional class! I was terrified.

I did well, though. I got a part.

It’s a catharsis. It’s just. I’m thankful, I’m relieved, I’m happy.

I’m proud. I spent the last two years in that stopped time, focusing on the negative. I had convinced myself that things weren’t happening because I wasn’t worthwhile; I wasn’t performing because I wasn’t any good. It took a lot of time, a lot of self-realization, friends, family, and therapy for me to figure it out…but I can perform.

am good. I wouldn’t be in this production otherwise.

Am I still scared? Absolutely. It’s a healthy fear, though…one that drives me to perform better and support my cast. Stronger than that fear is the pure happiness I get from being able to do this again.

Comedy is a hell of a drug.

Life Choice: Sobriety and St. Patrick’s Day

•April 10, 2012 • 1 Comment

It’s hard to describe my choice of sobriety. I did not have any complications with the law, and I did not put myself in a position of danger. I will say this: on nights when I did choose to drink, there are nights I had trouble cutting myself off. Some nights, it wasn’t clear who was coming to the party: two-drink me or many-drink me. I started getting the feeling that drinking was becoming a part of my personality; if I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t me.

That is a terrible thought one should have.

I wasn’t planning my week around drinking, but I found myself making plans with certain friends and saying to myself, “Tomorrow is going to hurt.” An automatic response! I’m hanging out with [friend], so obviously I’m going to drink excessively and feel like complete shit Saturday. It became more and more apparent to me that this behavior was unhealthy, but it wasn’t really until St. Patrick’s Day 2012 that I made up my mind.

St. Patrick’s Day is a source of contention among the Irish Catholics [and I should note I grew up as such, but have been an atheist since 2000]. For some, it’s a fantastic day of the year and should be celebrated loudly and proudly with family and friends. It’s time to bust out the green attire, throw on a goofy hat, and go see the parade and the river downtown. It’s a holiday of excessive drinking and ruckus behavior. Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

I hate this holiday. For a few reasons.

St. Patrick’s Day has become less of a celebration of Irish culture and the celebration of Irish heritage, and more about the negative stereotypes associated with the Irish. St. Patrick’s Day gives people an excuse to get hammered, be jerks, and cause fights. It brings out the ugly in people, and therefore tarnishes the image of the Irish American. All around Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, people are drinking and puking and fighting and crying all because they think this is what you have to do on St. Patrick’s Day.

Even when attending U of I in Champaign, an “unofficial” St. Patrick’s holiday was created by the bar owners because the actual holiday fell on Spring Break. Working at a prominent campus bar for two years, I witnessed this event on the front lines, so to speak. Completely sober, I watched people destroy themselves. I got kicked, punched, spit on, shoved, and verbally berated by people who just wanted to show their “Irish spirit”. It’s become a destructive and negative holiday, and it is that way because people think it’s what happens on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!” No.

You’re acting like a jerk, your mouth is stained green, and all you’re doing is promoting a stereotype. Being Irish is not about drinking and fighting and wearing green; being Irish, or being any heritage, is about respecting where you came from! It’s about traditions and ideals. It’s about your family. It’s about respecting that history, and respecting yourself. Respect.

I realize my opinion of St. Patrick’s Day may not be a shared one; I know for certain my opinion is not shared with my close friends, or even my family. I understand that the holiday will continue to be what it is. It’s why I choose simply to shut myself off from it, and stay indoors. I didn’t even want to discuss it in this much depth, but it applies to my decision to not drink.

This year’s St. Patrick’s Day, I did decide to stay home and not venture anywhere near the city or go out to a bar with friends. The thought of so many getting so drunk just made my stomach turn. Instead, I got in touch with a friend of mine and suggested we grill in the suburbs. She agreed, and I planned to meet her at the train station blocks from my house.

When I went to pick her up, I was shocked at the number of people on the train. It was packed like the Blue Line is at 8 am, and this was a 5 pm Metra train! I have never seen anything like it, not even for Cubs games. The whole train was a sea of green; everyone looked tired, sick, angry, sad, or a combination of those. As we walked back to my house, my friend told me she witnessed two people throwing up on the platform as she waited for a train. The more we talked about the holiday and previous St. Patrick’s Days before, I realized my decision was not a passing one. I wasn’t just thinking, Maybe I’ll take a break for a little bit. I wanted to be done. For a long time.

So far, it’s worked. I hadn’t drank for a week before St. Patrick’s Day, and I haven’t drank since. I have gone out as a designated driver, and that’s done nothing but cement my stance. I watched people drink, go overboard, and then heard of the fallout the next day. I watched, two weeks in a row, a friend make two separate people cry while all were heavily intoxicated. I watched people fall, break furniture, and hurt themselves. Watching this completely sober is difficult, and it’s honestly life-altering. When drunk, it’s hard to focus on more than one thing; while sober, I am focusing on everything. I’m trying to stop a friend from crying, I’m getting someone else water, I’m stopping an argument, I’m figuring out transportation plans. It’s exhausting, and scary.

It’s even scarier because I’m starting to realize that I can’t hang out with certain groups of friends if all they’re doing is drinking heavily. There are hangouts with the sole purpose of sitting around and drinking; if I’m not drinking, why am I there? It’s awkward for everyone; not only am I not drinking and am cut off from the group’s main activity, but I keep getting asked why I’m not drinking, and if I could have just one.  It’s difficult, for all involved, when a member of a group of drinkers stops being one. I’m not the guy who likes to chug anymore. I’m not a formidable beer pong competitor. I’m not the loud guy with the obnoxious drunk laugh, and I’m not the friend who passes out and snores like a dinosaur on your couch.

I’ve lost my identity to some people in my life, and I realize that. I just hope I can make up for it with actual positive aspects of my personality. It might not work and, sadly, I will lose many friendships keeping with this course of action. After telling a friend of mine my decision she responded, “You know, there’s more to life than alcohol.” Thinking about it, though, alcohol has been a major part of many friendships and relationships. To cut that out of my life will test how strong these relationships truly are. It’s scary, it’s sad, and it’s going to be difficult.

But it’s important.