August 10th, 1999. My buddy Josh sat on a curb, drunkenly apologizing to my buddies and I for having to babysit him and some other classmates as they defiantly ran down the street to another party. That night I declared I was Straight Edge. A couple weeks ago, August 10th, 2014, would've been my proper 15th anniversary.
The grande torchbearers of the Straight Edge movement, Earth Crisis, in 'The Discipline' said "the key to self-liberation is abstinence from the destructive escapism of intoxication." The song is permanently stuck in my head with the first few painfully wailed words encapsulating the rest of the song: "Straight Edge, the discipline, the key to self-liberation..."
In my thirties I've probably struggled more with what I believe than ever before. By design we believe in youth what we're told to believe. It's a trust we put in our elders, a hope that they show us the way, the truth, and the light, as they see it. College solidified what, or who, I aligned myself against; who I decided I was not. My twenties mostly served to reinforce and refine those alignments. Marriage, fatherhood, and family ties, have seemed to chip away at these ideas and ideals; re-configuring priorities and challenging me to be more honest with who I am.
What is self-liberation? What is the key to self-liberation?
Last fall we went camping in The Sleeping Bear Dunes with most of my wife's family. It was our second trip to the same grounds. The babies from the year prior were now officially toddlers. We novice parents were a little more seasoned. Our ability to weather storms, figuratively and literally (we already had the 30-foot tarp raised in the trees in case of rain), was much greater. Hell, I even had my own hatchet to throw at the tossing-tree with the other badass boys this time around. It was with bundled babies chasing their shadows, sticky s'mored hands, and toasting fleece-socked toes up on the eight-foot-round fire pit wall that I thought, "why not have a drink with my family in this perfect scenery?" It was in this moment that I no longer felt liberated by my choice to abstain. But it wasn't time just yet.
I'm not sure what the key to self-liberation is, but perhaps a piece of it is embracing the ability to choose what is well and best for oneself moment by moment. Perhaps it's maintaining a consciousness of others' decisions and the effects that follow that have lead to the best and worst in life. Perhaps it's living in recognition of my own feelings more accurately.
As of last month, fifteen years and a whole lot of rootbeers later, I've bid adieu' to a chapter in my life I'm quite proud of. And now, instead of raising my fist to this noble idea, I'll raise a glass to those dear and near, and to the on-going quest to find the key, or keys, to unlocking self-liberation.