X Marks The Spot: Why I'm Straight Edge

X Marks The Spot: Why I'm Straight Edge

The story of finding who I am within a punk subculture.

I’ve always been a straight edge. Even before I knew the phrase itself or equated my life with it, I’ve never had alcohol or done drugs and it was never something I had really considered implementing into my life.

In high school, that naturally started to become a problem. The group I hung out with in high school was pretty tight-knit, we would hang out on the weekends in someone’s basement or go boating when the weather was nice but eventually, everyone collectively decided that doing those things weren’t fun anymore without alcohol involved. Every weekend our gatherings started turning into loud parties in dimly lit basements with the same annoying pop-chart music playing on repeat. While I still loved my friends, getting together with them on weekends became less and less fun. The more they drank the less I recognized them as my friends. So I’d just sit there unable to hold real, full conversations. At times I would still have fun and laugh with them, but overall I definitely preferred the more honest and sober nights.

For the most part, they let me be, but no one ever knew what to do with me at those parties. At times, they would become very aware that I wasn’t participating and offer me a drink. Because I always said no thank you, people either walked away, made half-hearted attempts at conversations which never went anywhere, or made fun of me for not be “as cool” as them.

By my junior year of high school, I was called a pretentious bitch more than once for staying quiet at the lunchroom table when conversations shifted to how drunk or high everyone had gotten that weekend. They started to see me as having a holier-than-thou attitude when in reality, I just felt isolated from them. In ways, things went from being completely normal to rather hostile.

Friends I had grown up with were making snide comments toward me or stopped inviting me to things that thought I would judge them for. The more our interest diverged, the more isolated I became from the people I loved. I felt like an outcast where I once had a huge group of people to fall on and I didn’t know why something so small like not wanting to drink made me so different from everyone else. I felt like there was something severely wrong with me.

So while going through this, I threw myself deeper into music. I grew up on pop punk and alternative music and owe a lot of who I am to Green Day’s “American Idiot” for throwing me into it all. I started spending more time going to concerts and finding that, inside venues, I wasn’t alone or weird because everyone there was unified by the music. Shows became to me what drugs and alcohol were becoming to the people around me: a release from the world. I didn’t need anything else if I could chase the feeling music gave me for the rest of my life.

Eventually, I found out that I wasn’t alone in that mindset. In the middle of my junior year, I found a video of Patty Walters of As It Is explaining why he was straight edge and his experience in coming to find out what straight edge was. It aligned perfectly with what I was going through in my own life. I watched the video with tears streaming down my face. After feeling so isolated from my friends, I was given a place to exist unapologetically in this punk rock subculture.

I came to find out that straight edge happened because of the music I already related to and there were members of bands I loved and listened to prescribed to the same lifestyle: Patty Walters of As It Is, Andy Hurley of Fall Out Boy, Davey Havok and Jade Puget of AFI, Joe Principe, Tim McIlrath, and Zach Blair of Rise Against, and so many others that there’s an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to them. The two things that felt most important to who I was as a person at the time came together and I started to feel whole and normal again.

My senior year of high school, things started to settle with my friends. I committed to Arizona State University for their prestigious writing program and was looking forward to the new life I could create outside of my suburban town. I was mistaken to think my problems were over though. The same friends who had called me a pretentious bitch a year earlier became increasingly concerned about my school of choice. A party school for a girl like me? I wouldn’t fit in, I wouldn’t have any friends, I wouldn’t find a place in that world. As much as I hated to admit it their words got to me and going off to college became my greatest anxiety. I was terrified I would spend four years in my biggest mistake, friendless and miserable.

Two months before the end of senior year things had gotten so bad I was having panic attacks almost daily. My mom took me into a local tattoo parlor one day and told me I was getting an X, the symbol of straight edge, tattooed that day as a reminder that I would be okay.

I graduated, moved to Arizona, and started school at ASU. Within the first week, I met the friends that I still get to gladly call family. At first, parties were a loop of high school, declining drinks and feeling as If I needed to explain myself but soon I realized no one cared if I had water rather than vodka. If they did ask me why, I’d show my tattoo and explain what straight edge was and I was mostly met with positive responses. Nowadays, it’s completely a non-event. I go to parties with my friends rather frequently and they’ve always made sure that I have a place in that world with them despite my lifestyle choices. Not a single person I know now is straight edge and it doesn’t matter.

Last month I turned 21 and while old anxieties kept me slightly on edge, my friends had me chug chocolate cashew milk at midnight and still sang happy birthday. It was slightly gross to chug chocolate cashew milk, but I knew it would mean the world to my 15-, 16-, and 17-year-old self to see how happy and comfortable I am now in my straight edge skin. Instead of bars, I spent my 21st going to concerts and an Emo Nite. I spent all night dancing to the music that has quite literally shaped my life with my non-straight edge friends who found the same euphoria in the music they didn’t need the drinks to have fun.

But that’s not why I’m straight edge. That’s what life has been for me as a straight edge. It wasn’t something I consciously chose to be, it just fell into place. I just didn’t see the appeal. Even in the most unglamorous moments, I’m at ease knowing everything I say or do is purely of my influence. In short, I just feel so much more comfortable being wholeheartedly myself.

For anyone else reading this, whether you’re straight edge or not, finding that place within this music subculture I belonged to made it possible for me to begin to feel comfortable with who I was and allowed me to be in a place now where I’m happy with my life as is. I hope in writing this that others will feel the same.

Cover Image Credit: Photo by Taylor Bryant on Unsplash

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17 Signs You Grew Up Irish

Irish and proud!

With a name like Shannon Elizabeth Ryan many people right away sarcastically ask the question "you're not Irish are you?" I always laugh and jokingly say nope not at all. I'm extremely proud of my Irish heritage, but what does it mean to be Irish?

Here are 17 signs you grew up Irish:

1. You have a distinct Irish name: first or last

Shannon, Elizabeth, Michael, Patrick, Sean, James, Ryan, Riley, Mahony, Murphy. Extra points if your last name begins with O', Mac or Mc.

2. You have been called a "potato head" or towhead as a child

Shannon Ryan

"What a bunch or potato heads!" Meaning you were really Irish or really blonde or both.

3. You were raised Catholic

Shannon Ryan

Catholic school, mass every Sunday. Oh and you were most likely an alter server or in the choir and can say the mass forward and backwards.

4. You have a love for potatoes of any kind.

Also, you may have read this book about a potato as a child.

5. You've been told, "Oh, you're Irish, you can hold your drinks."


I mean it's in your blood, right?

6. Funeral, wedding, birthday you really can't tell the difference

Wedding? Get the whiskey. Oh, you said funeral?

... get the whiskey.

7. You know old Irish Songs and sing along with every note

"The Streets of New York," "Black Velvet Band," "Wild Rover," "Molly Malone," "Galway Girl," "Danny Boy," tell me ma all songs I remember being singing along with as a kid.

8. Your favorite holiday is St. Patrick's Day and you go all out

A day to show the world that there are only two types of people in the world: those who are Irish and those that wish they were.

9. You own a Celtic cross, Claddagh ring or any Irish knot jewelry and wear it often

You were most likely given that Celtic cross when you were born and got one for your First Holy Communion. The Claddagh was given by someone who loves you and Irish knots you can never go wrong with.

10. Two words: "soda" and "bread"

Some don't know that the cross made on the top of bread is to keep the devil away and protect the house.

11. You have a HUGE family and the parties and reunions that go along with it are just as big

My family is enormous and this is only half of it and I still don't know everyone.

12. There is no such thing as tanning

Unless you ware one of the blessed ones who do tan I'm extremely jealous. For the rest of us, we have two options pale or red there is no in-between.

13. You may not have the cleanest mouth or quietest voice

But you would never dare say a bad word in front of someone older than you. As for an indoor voice, it's non-existent.

14. You can successfully pull off an “Irish Exit" and then have to explain to your friends the next day what exactly that is when they ask where you went

Basically means you leave the party without anyone knowing.

15. At one point in your life, you've said, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph" if something went wrong

I heard this a lot growing up and I catch myself saying it every now and again.

16. The only college football team you root for is Notre Dame

I mean is there any other, Let's Go Fighting Irish!

17. Lastly, you are extremely proud of your Irish heritage

We are Irish. We are taught to be strong, have faith in God and learn how to party and have fun. Erin Go Bragh!

Cover Image Credit: kingofwallpapers.com

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I Won't Forgive The Anti-Semitic Students Of Spain Park, Not Yet

Maybe it isn't time for an apology.


I am Jewish. It is something I have never been afraid of and something I value as much in life as I do with my family and friends. Throughout my life, though I have witnessed hate of the Jewish people and jokes made about Jewish people.

In high school, I had to listen to jokes about Jews and the gas chambers and was asked because I was Jewish if I could do someone else's math homework.

To say I had to deal with anti-Semitism in the South does not come close to describing what I had to go through. As time went by the jokes stopped and I thought I would not have to deal with instances of prejudice or bigotry but I was wrong. Growing up as one of the only Jewish people in my friend group and in high school it made me consider myself strong and ready for college but in my freshman year I had to go through other jokes about my religion and even in sophomore year had to witness someone I thought was my friend make a joke about my religion because "he thought it was funny."

I let the instances of anti-Semitism serve as times when I could prove people wrong I learned to forgive and forget.

But I had to witness other acts of hate towards Judaism while in college. From swastikas on a fraternity house, a synagogue shooting, the BDS movement and more hate speech, the hate towards Jews have seemed to grow and I do not understand why. I get hurt each time I hear of an instance but it has not allowed me to view my Judaism any differently. However, there was an occurrence that has affected me in a different way.

It happened in my home state and it has not sat well with me.

On Monday a video surfaced of multiple high school students making anti-Semitic and anti-Black comments. The video featured a guy turning around the camera multiple times to show he was laughing and thought it was funny while others made comments about concentration camps, what would happen if Jews ruled the world and asking what the world would be like without the Holocaust. The students were from Spain Park in Birmingham and have gathered quite a reputation online.

To say I am filled with anger, disappointment, and embarrassment is an understatement.

This is my home state and these students are not only disrespecting the Jewish and Black people in the state of Alabama but throughout the US and possibly even in the world. I am hurt by this instance but I am not ready to forgive these students just yet.

After the video was leaked online some of the students sent messages to the person who uploaded the video apologizing. That I took as a mature gesture until I read the apology from the girl in the video. The apology asked if the user could remove the video because it would ruin her life and reputation. It was later found out that the female student is the daughter of the manager of the Toyota dealership in Hoover after the manager posted an apology.

Any remorse I had going for these students was now gone.

They were not sorry. They were sorry that they got caught and were facing consequences. They gave the apology that your parents made you say when you did not want to apologize. They did not care about who they had harmed or what they had said, they cared because they had to face consequences and they know that this mistake would follow them for the rest of their life.

I'm at a loss for words.

I don't know how to feel. I know someone will tell me I am overreacting but how am I supposed to approach this? What they said was wrong and there is no proper way to express frustration for it. I know people get offended by certain things but some things are not meant to be a joke. So I hope what you said was worth it and was fun to say because it will follow you for the rest of your life. Some lessons are best-learned overtime and it looks like you will have a chance to reflect on these events.

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