You haven’t touched a cigarette? REALLY?

There are many things in life that are expected of us, so called rites of passage which we travel through when we reach a specific age.

By the age of 18 most people are expected to have drunk their fair share of alcohol, have had sex and tried at least one recreational drug. I’m not sure where these expectations come from, but they are there all the same. There’s even some aspect of expectation that a person should know how to drive, have learnt how to swim and be signed up to Twitter, Facebook and countless other social media websites.

Expectation is a funny thing, because, as I said, I’m not sure where these beliefs have come from. In the grand scheme of life, does it matter if you’re a forty year old virgin, haven’t touched a drop of alcohol and don’t know how to swim? For many people, the answer would be yes. It’s like some sort of personal victimisation towards some people if you happen to utter the words ‘I haven’t…’ or ‘I don’t…’ when in actual fact, it’s none of their damn business.

I’m twenty six years old and there are many things I haven’t done. I haven’t smoked a cigarette, I haven’t touched any recreational (or unrecreational used in a recreational way) drugs. I don’t know how to drive and I very rarely spend my Friday or Saturday nights anywhere but in the comfort of my own home. I barely touch alcohol and when I do, it’s a mouthful here and there. The last time I drank anything was the smallest sip of champagne at my cousins wedding, before that was probably a small glass of Bucks Fizz at Christmas and before that, who knows?

I remember a conversation with a school friend about my lack of interest in drinking alcohol and her response was ‘when you’re older…’. It was like she had this idea in her head that I couldn’t possible live my whole life without drinking alcohol to the extent than many people my age do. Well, I have news for you girl, eight years later and I’ve not changed.

Do I feel like I’ve missed out on all of the nights drinking alcohol? I don’t. Do I feel like I’m missing some experiences by not smoking or trying drugs? Definitely not.

There’s a very high level of peer pressure in the world at the moment. It feels like almost every single teenager is trying drugs, smoking like chimneys and drinking heavily. Of course, this is quite an exaggeration. But will many of them feel pressured into doing so? I imagine so.

I wish I could grab hold of them and tell them, they don’t have to do it. Just because everyone else is doing it, that doesn’t mean they have to join in. It’s their own choice, it’s up to them and they have a right to do what they like without being ridiculed. I think that’s one of the problems, really. If you don’t join in what your friends are doing then you risk being teased or bullied for being different.

I was bullied in school, but that didn’t actually stop me from standing up for my own opinions and beliefs. I didn’t do what all of my friends were doing or even what the other people in my school were doing, I wasn’t have sex, I wasn’t drinking every weekend, I wasn’t trying any number of different substances. And aside from a few ‘why don’t you?’ conversations, nobody actually bothered that I wasn’t doing what they were doing. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of ‘why don’t you drink?’ conversations and I still get them now. I don’t think it’s that people care whether I drink or not, they just can’t understand why someone doesn’t touch alcohol.

There are so many pressures in the world to look a specific way or dress in certain clothes. There’s even pressure on how you should talk, which things you should like or dislike. Why add to that and give in to all of the things which are, in the long run, bad for you?

So many people talk about ‘my guilty pleasure’ and it makes me so angry because people don’t have any pride in their own identity. I doesn’t matter what you life, it doesn’t matter who you spend your time with, it doesn’t even matter if you want to snort/smoke/etc. every drug in creation. All that matters is that you honour your own personal opinion, you do what you want to do and you don’t care if someone else says to you ‘that is so sad’ because why is it sad? Is it sad because you’re happy not to have tried a cigarette? Or is it sad because someone else thinks that you’re doing the wrong thing?

Forget about other people. Trust your gut, listen to your instincts and don’t let anyone push you around.

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