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Straight Edge Interview Project- Aurelija (Aura), 28, Lithuania

Tell us about you? What do you do for a living? Do you have any pets, hobbies, pet projects?

I graduated with Master’s degree in Political Science this summer and right now have been looking for a job, as well as scrolling through options to continue into Ph.D. I would say that I’m a hardcore animal lover, yet I do not own any at the moment. As for hobbies, there are probably way too many! The ones highest on my list would be travelling, meeting new people, metal (and music) in general, action movies, political news, human rights. Recently I also got more into gaming – so many choices and apps, so why not try some of them 🙂 In terms of caring more about pets, I do write politically-based posts in my Facebook. Few years ago, I also completed vocational dogs school, so I do hope to put few tricks in the future once having my own dogs 🙂 There are a lot of recently publicized issues with severely neglected and abused animals here in Lithuania, primarily with dogs and cats, and unfortunately shelters are overcrowded. That breaks my heart, but I believe that more publicity for the issues is a one step to start changing the problem. As well turning to fostering and adopting – I am strictly against shopping for pets.

Favorite straight edge (or non-straight edge) bands? If you have links, please provide them!

From straight-edge, I would name AFI, Earth Crisis and Canadian band Sect. AFI is lovely (they get extra love from me since they have a song named “Aurelia” which is my name :)), and I adore charisma of Davey Havok and his lifestyle. From non-straight edge, I love jamming to Dark Tranquillity from Sweden, also Gojira from France (they are more to straight-edge though and focus on environmental issues in their music) and recently also got into Whitechapel music. The honorable mention also would be Meshuggah from Sweden – I am into strong drumming techniques, and Meshuggah is a wonderful example of that (as well as Gojira by the way).

The links:

What is your definition of straight edge?

For me it is living in peace and commitment without alcohol, tobacco and drugs. I also try to stay away from caffeine as much as possible as well, and in case I am sick – firstly turn to natural medicine (like herbs) and not prescribed by doctors – I am not a fan of it. I am counting 3rd year now of being straight-edge and I firstly have chosen to live drug-free life as a wish to be healthier. Yet today it also resonates to me as a healthy life, along with political stance, and lastly – always having clear and curious mind. The ability to question the world and everything around without the effect of drugs is honestly the biggest gift and association to me in terms of straight-edge.

Where do you see the straight edge scene today?

I would say it is everywhere but the ability to see depends from the person. The term itself, is still not that widely discussed and known here, so most people would just say that they do not drink, do not smoke and do not use drugs. Here in Lithuania, it is mostly seen through some music festivals who encourage drugs-free approach, as well as other types for festivals including music and yoga, talks with inspirational people, physical activities for individuals and families. Also, social media impact has been influencing people to turn to straight-edge.

There’s an ongoing debate on whether one can be straight edge without being a part of the music scene, what’s your thoughts on this?

There is no one straight answer here. Surely, everything has started with Minor Threat and music but, honestly, today straight-edge is seen so much more than just in a musical sense. It is enough to look at plenty of scientific data and stories of people choosing straight-edge lifestyle on their own accord, not necessarily influenced by music. I would also say that today straight-edge flows more as a political statement or lifestyle, especially between young people (like me in late 20s). Others just want to live healthy and can be completely indifferent to any kind of music. So, it is very individual.

What are some funny/common misconceptions people have about you being straight edge?

Like I mentioned before, the term itself is still not widely discussed and known yet. But in terms of being drug-free, I encountered people who called me boring, weird, freak and not fun. I am used to it, as I’ve been pretty much a weirdo all my life 🙂 I am also not a big fan of parties and big family gatherings (there especially people drink a lot), so usually just mind my own business. Most of my friends respect my choices, so everything has been good so far and without any specific cases. For all others, I try to calm explain that is it a personal choice. Nowadays, people usually understand and respect 🙂

What are some challenges you have faced when interacting with other people who are also edge? If you haven’t had any challenges, tell us some challenges you’ve faced when interacting with people who are not edge?

At the moment I cannot recall that many people who are fully straight-edge in my circle. Drinking culture is big in Lithuania, and majority of people drink at least occasionally. I can think of 1, maybe 2 people between my circle who are straight-edge. The discussions we had always were inquisitive and proposing to think even more. As for non-edge people, I did have some issues in the past with some being aggressive (I did experience sexual harassment) towards my strict no-alcohol stance and accusing me of being sick, and saying I am disrespectful because I refuse to drink. Yes, so many gatherings are still associated with the necessity to drink and refusal is treated as a personal insult. It is changing, but still has a lot work to do. I do find a lot of irony in some people’s thoughts – some folks here still think that a bit of drink is actually good for health. From which I always have a good laugh.

Is your diet influenced or informed by your choice to be straight edge i.e. organic, antibiotic infused meat, genetically modified foods, vegan, vegetarian?

I do follow a specific strict diet, since I have a severe lactose-intolerance and suffer from Coeliac disease, as well as I am allergic to around 20 more different types of food. I did stop, though, eating meat 11 years ago, but fully transitioned to 100 percent vegan diet in the last few years. It was based for health reasons first, but later also influenced my stance of being straight-edge

What’s your straight edge story? Was there a key moment that made you realize straight edge is the way you want to live your life? How old were you? How did you find out about straight edge, was there someone in the community that introduced you, or were you introduced to it through people/bands, etc? What drew you to it?

I did learn about whole straight-edge concept quite recently, probably last year, at age 27, after discovering some bands (namely AFI) and what straight-edge actually means. By the time I learned about this, I was already a straight-edge for 2 years, without even knowing it. So for me it was a natural process. I have to say, before being straight-edge, I had plenty of moments of partying, smoking, and drinking, but realized that it could move me into a deep hole without a possibility to return. There is also a history with alcohol in my family, so I did not want to go there and suffer. So, I chose to climb up and never go back. It was my own personal path of choosing a clear and conscious life.

Define what straight edge means to you? Has this changed over the years?

It is a natural part of my life which I could no longer imagine in any other way. I appreciate waking up every day without the need to worry of hangover or cough due to smoking. I am straight-edge for only 3 years now, so my definitions probably will gain even even deeper perspectives in the future. Nevertheless, I am glad to discuss with people what straight-edge means in general – for them, in political stance, and maybe as a way to express oneself.

Do you consider yourself an activist? What is/are your cause(s), and how have you been working to advance them?

Absolutely. Being a political science graduate, I am a lost case 🙂 In serious sense, I do tend to write a lot of political stuff in my social media, firstly about animal abuse, foreign politics, politics in general and human rights. I am also a feminist and fully on the road for equal rights, pay and treatment of all genders. I also belong to a childfree movement, since I am not fond of children, and am a hardcore atheist 🙂 MeToo movement was also very much needed. Recently I am mostly concerned about LGBT+ issues. I do consider myself as a pansexual – I do not care about the gender when dating and having a relationship. Yet this is still a big challenge in my country, as many people, especially older generations, consider LGBT+ as an illness. I am very sad about it and try to initiate discussions once interacting with people that it is not a disease. We now do have LGBT parades every few years without much incidents, but away from that there is still too much hatred and negativity. I keep high hopes situation will change for better. It has to.

What, if anything, keeps you committed to the straight edge lifestyle?

I am happy to see that straight-edge community has been growing. I am not alone 🙂 Besides being happy of having clear and healthier life, I see daily that even famous people show support for more conscious living, and especially more and more young people in 20s and 30s choose to be straight-edge. So I am committed by witnessing support for straight-edge worldwide. I do like the idea of being a part of group of people who share same ideas of healthier life. Plus, straight-edge usually encourages interesting and valuable discussions 🙂

What is something you didn’t think you would struggle with by claiming edge?

I did not find much struggle, to be honest. Simply said, I mind my own business and happy being the way I am 🙂 For all others who look at me due to this in a negative way – I usually simply ignore. Having tough skin helps a lot.

What you do for stress relief instead of drinking/drugs, tips for peer pressure?

My first haven is, of course, metal music. Some of my friends tend to joke about it, since listening to metal can easily put me to sleep – yes, it has that much of soothing effect to me 🙂 I also like to write, sing, recently also started trying to write lyrics for my own music, watch movies, and read – either books or political news 🙂 I do have a history of depression, two suicide attempts and suffer from panic attacks for several years now – but music has always proved to be the first choice for me to relax. Also, a shoutout to a few of my wonderful friends – they know who they are- for always being here. Actually, yes, besides music, having closest friends and speaking with them about life and all struggles help. I return the same – always glad to listen to and advise them as much as I can.

How was it being straight edge in this pandemic?

For me it did not change anything. I still drink a lot of water as I did before pandemic 🙂 I mostly stay at home, so avoid seeing all drinking culture in bars – and I am happy to stay away from all that.

Have you ever considered breaking edge? What were the circumstances, and what changed your mind?

Never. All benefits which come to having clear mind are all worth it 🙂 And I am immune and will be immune to any outside forces to change my mind. I do not enforce straight-edge to others – in the end, it is a personal choice. It works for me 🙂

Have you ever stopped being edge for a period of time, and if so why? Did you regret doing so? What brought you back? If you have come back, how do you view your commitment (i.e. for life, for now)?

Never. I am strong on my straight-edge stance.

If you are in a relationship is your partner straight edge, or have you had a previous relationship with someone who was not straight edge? What, if any, challenges have you faced relating to your lifestyle/choices?

I am currently single. I had two relationships so far, one was with a non-edge person, another was with close to straight-edge person, but not entirely (he did drink very little and rarely). I did not encounter cases of drunk texting like some have, and there was no force to encourage me to drink. In a sense I think I avoided much issues here because both of my relationships were long-distance based. There were problems with cultural (since both times relationships were with different nationality and race person) and religion (I am a hardcore atheist, and one of relationships was with a quite religious person) differences instead but even that were not the main causes of break up. I would say, that for future, I would certainly prefer to be with a straight-edge and non-religious person though. Food choices (I am vegan, but do not enforce this on others) do not have that much influence in choosing though.

Has your family and social life been negatively or positively impacted? Have you faced or are you facing any specific challenges because of your lifestyle choices? If your family/friends are unsupportive, how do you deal?

In regards of straight-edge stance, my family is neutral, and I am free to live this in a way I want. Friends are supportive. For all others – it does not impact much, since I do not have that much of q social life, I usually stick with a smaller circle of friends. I have more issues of being vegan with a specific diet, since it is a challenge in gatherings. In these cases, I try to find places where both parties are happy – for example, salads are served in most of restaurants 🙂 If I stay with relatives, they usually buy or make something specific from what I eat, or if I stay with friends – I bring my own food or go eat in suitable places outside.

If you are single, have you found it difficult to date?

Yes. But I would not say it is entirely of my straight-edge stance, but more because it was always a challenge for me to date. I am not very successful in terms of love and romance, but I am okay with being single now 🙂

Some straight edge women/girls I have talked to have told me that they feel isolated and that they find it difficult to relate to people outside of the straight edge scene. Is this something you can relate to?

Yes, sometimes. In my personal case, I would say that I understand people are different and not everyone can and wants to be straight-edge, yet we can still communicate and discuss plenty of things about life. In cases when I do feel isolated, I turn back to music. Music has never failed to disappoint me 🙂 Honestly, by now, I am pretty much used to being alone and accept this as natural path of life, so my choices will always be mine only. And if I want to find like-minded souls, there is always an option of social media and plenty of groups on the internet.

How do you explain your lifestyle to others outside of the scene? Do you find it difficult? What’s your elevator pitch?

I usually simply say that I live a life without alcohol, tobacco and drugs, since straight-edge term still has to find a way here. That kind of explanation is usually enough for people to understand, and I do not encounter much difficulties. If they choose to judge me on my choices – usually conversation ends, since I do tend to ignore hurtful comments in terms of my straight-edge stance.

Over the past decade or so individuals in recovery have stumbled upon the straight edge lifestyle and it has really spoken to them. Do you feel that the straight edge community has been welcoming to those in recovery? Do you have mixed feelings? Strong Feelings?

This is not an easy question to answer. I personally do not have experience in this matter, so it is hard for me to comment objectively. Yet I would think that straight-edge could be a nice refugee for recovering people, but the results would depend individually. I am afraid I cannot comment much more here, I will have to look more into this.

How do you feel your straight edge commitment plays into the bigger social justice movement for gender equity?

I think that straight-edge in general promotes going for something different, and the concept is still not fully grasped by the big parts of society. In a way, it is a political stance, and gender equity can be included here as a way to fight for higher beliefs. I personally do not associate straight-edge and gender equity in a whole – for me they are two different things. I naturally see straight-edge involving all genders. Yet as I care about both straight-edge and gender equity,, I would say that both are strong commitments to change the world and united can do more positive changes than separately. Possibly I did not think about this option, but yes, it is a good question.

Have you ever had a negative experience in the scene related to your gender?

No, I haven’t. Maybe occasionally I meet some people who are surprised that some women like metal music, but besides that I did not have negative experiences.

Straight edge and the associated music scene have long been male-dominated. What do you see as a woman/girls role in the scene? How has this role changed since you have been involved and what changes would you like to see?

The recent examples of women-leads in bands actually have shown positive changes. I think of Alissa White-Gluz of “Arch Enemy” as a good example. She’s charismatic, talented and has plenty of fans, because she’s great in what she does. In the past, women encountered more treatment as simply being groupies and unfeminine I think – especially if we consider metal music scene. The issues remain with sexual harassment which can happen despite being straight-edge or not, for all genders. That, yes, has to change. But in the recent years, I see more positive sides, since there are plenty of women involved in the hardcore scene. Sadly enough, men actually still get judged for having long hair! That I find strange. And for what more, striving for more equality is always welcomed, and I believe it will go better in straight-edge as well in years to come.

Is the scene as inclusive as it likes to think it is? Do you think there’s work to be done? If so, what would you like to see change?

I think it probably depends in the country. For example, in Scandinavian countries, straight-edge incorporates with metal music scene quite nicely (plus feminism ideas are strong there). If I think of US, there are probably more issues to handle. Yet I do not want to exclude women only, as men experience issues as well. I will say that changes are positive though, and those who are not – will be touched eventually. I certainly hope so.

Please add anything else you think we should know or you would like to share!

Thank you for creating for this project, it is indeed needed 🙂

Mother, wife, small business owner.

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