Voluntarily underage

2019-08-14

When I was in charge of a floor of students in residence at my school, I made them a deal. I was of legal drinking age, but most of my students were not. They seemed to think that that was not fair, and used that as an excuse for why they should be able to drink.

“OK,” I told them. “If it’s not fair, then I officially declare myself too young to drink. I won’t touch a drop of alcohol for the rest of the term. If anyone catches me drinking I’ll give them $50.”

They seemed to think that this was a game, or a contest - that I’d keep up my regular drinking habits in secret, and the first person to catch me got rewarded. But it was genuine solidarity. I didn’t have a single drink, publicly or privately, for the entire term.

It wasn’t even hard. I made a commitment and I stuck with it.

I wonder now if I would have the discipline today to do it again. What made it easy? Was it the public commitment to people I knew would hold me to my word? Was it the threat of being found out and having to pay up? Was it just that alcohol wasn’t a big part of my life? Was I just a paragon of discipline?

I wish I knew. It was probably a combination of factors. But that discipline, that effortless adherence to a simple rule I set for myself, is something I want more of in my life. I think we all do. It’s something I want to experiment more with and learn more about.