What the fuck am I doing with my life? That was unfortunately the first thought on my mind when I woke up late on a Sunday a couple of weeks ago. I was knackered, had my makeup on from the night before and hadn’t finished any of my deadlines for the next day.
This was becoming a conversation I had with myself on a more frequent basis as I got older. Your mid-twenties can be a pretty confusing time: you are transitioning from teenager to a slightly more adult teenager, getting jobs and degrees and stuff, but there is also pressure like never before to live your life to the fullest. More often than not, this involves partying. And drinking. So much drinking.
Literally every single person I am friends with is confused about all of this stuff too. It’s like they want to make the most of their life before they reach the dreaded thirty, but at the same time, they are kind of over it. The other day, I was chatting to two of them before we were supposed to go to some party, and they both said they’d just rather stay at home. Obviously, they went out and obviously, I went with them. Idiots. The next day, they felt like shit and I was just annoyed with myself. So, if we don’t want to go out, why do we still do it?
People who see things differently are often excluded and even ridiculed. I know this because I am one of those people. Since the age of 19, I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol. Every time I tell people this, they uncomfortably ask me why, as if the only reason someone wouldn’t drink is because they used to have a problem with it in some way. For me, this is not the case – the cons of drinking started to outweigh the pros; it would make me feel instantly ill. One day, I felt sick after one sip of wine and just thought, why am I doing this to myself? To this day, I haven’t looked back.
Having said that, maybe I’m not so in the minority as I thought. According to a recent survey by Eventbrite, “Alcohol consumption at events is on the decline. In fact, more Millennials have not drunk at a festival (18%), than have passed out drunk (11%). Six in ten Millennials say they would rather dance all night than drink all night.” Maybe people are starting to see, then, that it’s not always necessary to drink to have fun.
Why do people have to go out and get wankered anyway? Can they not just go and have fun sober? I’m still fine with going to the pub, or going out to a club, or having a dinner party, or whatever, but for most people, socializing in this way becomes more difficult and less fun without alcohol. People tend to think that alcohol is part and parcel of socializing. While there is no moral problem with that, as you get older, it seems to get harder to cope with going out every weekend. Just last Sunday, my friend Matt, a 25-year-old musician, was complaining about how much worse hangovers are these days. “I used to be able to go out, get smashed, wake up at 10 and do it again the next day.”
In his stand-up tour ‘Numb’, comedian Simon Amstell talks about the feelings he experienced in his early-to-mid-twenties regarding partying. For him, it seemed that people feel that they have to carry on drinking and going out without worrying, when all they really want to do is enjoy each other’s company properly. When you’re out and wasted, you can’t really talk to anyone, or have interactions that have any real depth. Going for a drink is one thing, but drinking until you piss in your mate’s wardrobe is another. He realised that he didn’t actually want to go out anymore, but felt this weird societal pressure to do so.
This is not FOGO (fear of going out), as wittily coined by Anna Van Praagh for The Evening Standard in 2015, but it is something more specific to people in their 20s. Many people that I have spoken to, myself and loads of my friends included, feel that there is a pressure on people in our age group to enjoy the last days of pure hedonism we have available to us– when else are we going to be able to go out till 6am and then spend the whole of the next day in bed binging Stranger Things? Never.
But don’t be persuaded by anyone from your best mate, to the guy you’re trying to shag, to the person you have been meaning to catch up with for months, to do anything you don’t want to. Basically, don’t be peer pressured. For me, drinking isn’t necessary to have fun, but if you want to drink, do it. As long as you don’t screw up your responsibilities, who cares? This whole idea of making sure you make the most of your remaining years of freedom is total bullshit. There is no way you have to behave when you’re in your twenties, thirties, or whenever. Maybe just for one night though, you should go out, like normal, and don’t drink. It might change everything.