The specifics are unclear at this point, but I remember one message being delivered to me over and over again when I was younger: don’t drink or do drugs. For pretty much all of my adolescent life, that was my gospel. The thought of using substances never crossed my mind… not until freshman year of high school at least.

Like many other kids, I was bullied by my peers for seemingly insignificant things. Because of this, I constantly sought the acceptance of others, all the while clinging to the pure-hearted lessons I had been taught when I was younger. As I’m sure you can imagine, that didn’t really work.

At the end of middle school, I decided I would no longer be the victim. So I switched up my strategy: I left behind what little I had socially, abandoned my principles, and ascended the social ladder. I talked to everyone in the hallways and sat with the coolest kids at lunch. I figured the quality of my friendships wasn’t important, because if I had “enough” of them, it would skyrocket me to popularity. To a certain extent, I was right. Things began to look up. I started getting invited to parties, and was considered cool. However, social “success” came at a price.

I started drinking, not heavily, but enough. Enough to get to the point where one day, I realized I was becoming someone the real me wouldn’t have wanted to be friends with. 

At that point, I tried leveraging my newfound social standing to make plans that involved anything other than partying, but my “cool” friends weren’t interested. As they all continued to drink, began smoking weed, and even experimented with molly, I felt less and less like a part of the group, and became more of an outcast.

I’d be a liar if I said it never bothered me; it did, for a long time. But in the end, a few things have left me thinking what I do today: I am better off for being left behind.

In the months since I became isolated from my “popular” friends, I’ve gotten into an incredible college, learned a lot about myself as I reflected on the situation, landed a great internship, had more time to pursue my interests, and figured out who my real friends are.

Ironically, on the day that I wrote this blog, I saw something which summed up how I feel much better than I think I could, so I’m going to conclude with the words of an unlikely inspiration, Daniel Tosh: “[Do I] want to smoke weed? No. Why not? Because I’m not in 8th grade and I have s–t to do.”*

Long story short, have fun partying guys, I’m fine just doing me.

*I know his full quote changes the meaning entirely, but this portion of it works really well for me.