I started drinking at the age of 13 and started clubbing at the age of 15. No, I’m not a juvenile delinquent, although that first sentence could sure be a preface to that kind of story.
I was a wild child, but I always had my shit together. While in university, I decided to pursue my dream of writing and fashion by taking on internships. It was a beautiful, crazy, and sometimes, chaotic life—I loved it. The events and parties were great too—it’s like I never had to pay for another drink again in my life!
College pretty much continued that way—juggling school, two to four part-time/freelance jobs, and partying two to four nights a week. It wasn’t all fluff. I do work in fashion, advertising, marketing, and PR—going out really does come with the territory, and again, I was juggling things fine. At the age of 20, I was making money people in their mid to late 20s were making. I had a fun, successful, and fabulous life.
There were times when it got tiring. I thought about the alternative life a lot especially during my junior year when I took a leave of absence during my Dad’s illness and subsequent death. During that period, one of my groups of friends also dissolved—I was AWOL, one landed in rehab, and one attempted suicide.
I went back to university adamant that I would stay on a cleaner track. I refocused on my studies and my career. But I started to slip. A few nights out, and my blood started to wake up from hibernation. Reeling from the loss of my Dad, which I tried to significantly downplay, I was cooking up a recipe of self-distraction via self-destruction.
I wanted to get out of that world, but somehow, I felt like I had nowhere else to go. “This is your life—this is your world, and all your friends are in this world. What would you actually do and who would you do it with if you stopped partying?” The blood-clotted parts of my brain immediately went to a board game palooza, and I cringed. “Guess I’m going out tonight!”
Finally, I found my out when I graduated. I left college thinking I was headed to the real world, but I ended up in what felt like a frat house.
My full-time job turned out to be all about events—going out EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. At first, I was stoked. “Hey! It’s like getting paid to live my life—practically reality TV minus the TV part!” Several months later, it started taking its toll on my health. I’d be sick, but since it was work or a really close friend I gave my word to, I had to show. I was clubbing with a runny nose and a fever, but again, “Hey, this is your life. If anyone can club with a temperature, Erika, it’s you! Pour out the alcohol…it’s kind of like a disinfectant…right?”
But it wasn’t just my job; it was also my circles of friends. God forbid you don’t show to someone’s event, and someone will be mad. “I haven’t seen you in so long; we HAVE TO party!” Strangely enough, it was actually believable—like not being present enough in the “scene” equated to being a bad friend. Partying now felt like an obligation—a commitment to my world I could no longer take back.
It was a whirlwind I honestly don’t remember much of. When I look back to that time, all I remember is booze, laser lights, and feeling miserable while supposedly “looking fabulous”.
I looked around my job, and realized I was the youngest employee in a company of 200, and yet everyone else was partying as hard as I was or even harder. I looked around my circles of friends—it was toxic. “He’s a bitch, she’s a bitch…Oh hey girl! Miss you! (air kisses)” It hit me—we’re not friends; we’re all just activity partners. When was the last time you looked in my eyes during a conversation instead of updating your Twitter feed on where you’re at and who you’re wearing? I certainly did not want to live the same life when I got to my co-workers’ age. Heck, I didn’t want to live that life anymore at my age! I have goals, I have dreams, and I can’t trade those for an easy, inebriated existence.
I asked myself how I got there. I looked back at that first night I went clubbing when I was 15, and looked back at my present existence. How did things get so out of hand? How did it go from having fun every now and then, to being in an inescapable bubble?
That’s what’s really scary about changing your life, or growing up, really. One day you wake up, and you realize you’ve already built a life for yourself, and it’s not always the good kind. And while you were building that life, you weren’t able to build the other one—the good one—and the life you’ve got is all you’ve got. The idea of starting over daunts you, and you’re left feeling paralyzed stuck in the world you yourself created. It’s scary to move on, and it’s even scarier to do that alone. Maybe that’s why we cling to the crazy lives we once lived, because it’s the only thing that’s still keeping us together.
When you really think about it, life is a constant progression of being alone. We start out as 20 kids on the playground, by middle school, some will have drifted. By high-school, smaller cliques will have formed, and by college, even though some BFFs can stay together, we all take our different paths and courses. By the time we enter the workforce, we’re all in different companies, industries, and even cities, or at least are all headed there. So we cling to the past, even when it’s a downward spiral, just because we don’t want to have to look inwardly and really see where we should be headed, because if we do, there’s a chance we’re going to have to say good-bye to some people—even the person we’ve become—in order to become who we want to be.
Young people say, “We’re only young once,” as an excuse for every crazy decision they’re about to make. Yes, we are only young once, but we are alive for a long time, and while it could be fun to keep living through life in your 20s in a constant haze, or while it’s scary, even terrifying, to start over completely alone, it’s even scarier to wake up one day and realize you’ve remained stuck in the life you’ve been wanting to get out of for the last 20 years.
I eventually left that previous job. I shut myself from that world, and I stopped using social media for nine months (but that’s another story). Some of my friends thought I had died. The truth is I’m finally living my life. I learned a lot about myself and about people in general. I no longer feel the weight of being obligated to attend to everyone’s needs demands before my own. I have a great job that doesn’t keep me out every night, and while I don’t have as much “friends” as I used to, I have a few now who actually look me in the eye when we talk.
Was it lonely for a while? Absolutely. At first it was like being in a rave, blinking, and everyone and everything vanishing. It was dead silence, but it was the silence I needed to think and feel all the things I was trying to drown out at the clubs—the hard stuff, the good stuff—the stuff that will eventually help you mold yourself and your life to what you want it to be.
So if you’re in a place you want to get out of, if you’re scared, because it’s all you’ve ever known, be more scared of the idea of never getting out. Be scared of the possibility that you’re already comfortable but will never be truly satisfied in that life. Do it. Get out, and be the person you are meant to be.