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Change of Opinions

I sometimes think back to the things I fought for and believed in over the years. In my mind, I play a huge game of connect the dots. When I think back to what I used to believe in like college, and compare it to what I believe now, I'm like "what the fuck, dude, when did you lose all that?" The thing is, I don't see it that way, I've been there for all the steps in between. It's not like "All I see is 26 dots, how the fuck did you come up with an umbrella?"

The most striking example is drinking. I was so anti drinking up until about March 2005, it was crazy. I was judgmental of people who drank, I looked down on it, I considered it immoral, all kinds of stuff. I wouldn't say I regret any of that; I had very good reasons - drinking represented succumbing to something I absolutely did not want to be. I'm the type of person that when I believe something, I do it all the way, no cognitive dissonance. I really try to behave in a way that adheres to my beliefs, part of my atheism is that only my peers and myself can judge my actions and as my peers change I can be the only reliable judge, and I make sure I do a good job.

I don't remember exactly how I began to reverse course on the drinking thing. Come like 2004, Jenn expressed interest in wanting to drink and we fought and fought and I said terrible things and all this nastiness. I was a huge douche to her over this issue. Somewhere along the way though, I started to realize that I was being that asshole I didn't want to be, and it wasn't a factor of drinking or not drinking. I had always thought drinking led to being an asshole, but I had started to be an asshole without it. I think that planted the seeds of disconnecting the 2; if the eventual goal was to avoid being a drunken asshole, I was only making sure not to be drunk, and I was missing the point. As I began to have a paradigm shift away from "alcohol is the devil," I really began to undergo cognitive dissonance. How do you approach that? When your actions are so determined by your beliefs, but your beliefs evolve, it's VERY hard to reverse your actions. We're talking about Rush Limbaugh suddenly opening a planned parenthood shit here.

I think back, and a huge turning point for me was the HA trip to Miami. Before all this, I hadn't really been around drunk people, and we went to Miami, and to only myself I'd begun turning my opinion around. In Miami, people drank a ton and I didn't, I DD'd the whole time, and we had a ton of fun. I think that experience was instrumental in turning the corner of "people who drink aren't automatically assholes." But, nevertheless, after that even if I'd wanted to drink, how could I? I'm the douchebag who publicly denounced drinking, it's not like I can go ask someone if they want to go get a beer. Quite frankly, I was ashamed of it; I was ashamed for believing something and essentially gradually reversing course on my beliefs, but not being able to reverse course on my actions.

Eventually, I brought it up to Jenn, and we had our first drink probably in May of 2005 (a Mike's hard lemonade) and had a drink at a restaurant every so often. I turned 21 December 1 2004, by the way. We didn't really tell anyone, maybe a few people, but it was interesting to me how much of my behavior at that point was determined by the expectations of others, and at this point in retrospect that's something I'm slightly ashamed of.

So then I left for grad school in Florida. If you don't know the story of FL and me, there's no point rehashing it. In summary, I did not fit in well in Tallahassee FL or at Florida State, I got very depressed and suicidal, gained a ton of weight, and in a lot of ways tried to throw my life away. The t-shirts you can buy there say "Tallahassee: a drinking town with a football problem" and that's true. In SD, you can go to the comedy club, or the beach, or seaport village, or sea world, or the zoo, and on and on; there's always something to do. In Tally, there isn't, people just drink. It was crazy to me. When I first started and was working in housing on FSU's campus, the chief of police came to us and said "we need people to come in, we'll get you drunk, then you'll help our new officers learn to do field sobriety tests." I, being a new drinker, being around people with no social expectation of me and know knowledge of my anti-drinking campaign, and figuring it's the safest environment you can ever learn to be drunk in, volunteered. I was taken to the chief of police's conference room and brought to a .12 on plastic bottle vodka, and resoundingly failed the field sobriety test. Also, one of the people brought in got sick and there was concern they had gotten alcohol poisoning, all of this happening in the chief of police's conference room. Connect those dots: leaving SD as being kind of a closet alcohol-sipper, to getting tanked and someone else getting alcohol poisoned in the chief of police's conference room. Tallahassee represented a huge and immediate disconnect with everything I had ever been familiar with throughout my whole life.

Over the time I was there, I made good friends and went out drinking many times, I was drunk many times and went to clubs and don't remember how I got home and the whole bit; I compressed a reasonable undergraduate career into 2 over-21 years of grad school. And somehow I survived, though at the end I weighed 300 lbs and was on all kinds of psych meds. And after leaving and moving up with Jenn, I lost the weight, got off the psych meds, still to this day I don't know what I want to do with my life, got an M.S. out of the ordeal, and casually I'll responsibly drink. I'd say I've been drunk 3-4 times in the 2 years since then, but mostly it's a beer over dinner or something.

If you were to take a snapshot of me now, you'd think I was pretty normal. I have a good education, I have a good paying job (even though it's not what I want to be doing, it's a recession and I'm happy to have a job) I'm healthy, and I do the things I want to do, I have a great wife, and I enjoy a drink when I feel like it. Nevertheless, we are shaped by our past experiences, and knowing the presentation I portrayed from like 98-2005, I still to this day hesitate doing things like posting pictures of us having a beer over dinner to facebook, or commenting that I tried a local beer and recommend it, because of what people from that time period will think. I need to get over that, and this explanation is in part a self-therapy session of fleshing out that umbrella - it may seem strange to jump to dot 26 when you only ever saw dot 1, but hopefully now you can see how the rest of the picture began to take shape.

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