Every year on my birthday, I assign myself a challenge. It’s very much like a New Year’s Resolution, except it’s in June, because birthdays seem more like the beginning of a new chapter for me. Just a little tradition of my own.

Sometimes the challenge to add something to my life. When I turned 25, I committed to practicing yoga every day, even if it was just for fifteen minutes. Other birthdays have been about abstinence (for my 28th, I forwent high fructose corn syrup, a task that turned out to be shockingly difficult, and led me to this day to carefully inspect nutrition labels). For 30, I decided to give up alcohol.

It’s been just over two months since the milestone birthday, and I must admit to feeling great! I was never a boozehound, but eliminating it entirely from my diet has certainly had great effects (if nothing else, my skin has never looked better!). 

While I don’t strictly miss drinking, it has made some friends of mine uneasy. Alcohol is a social lubricant, but I never realized that it was a two way street. I’m perfectly happy to still go out to a bar with friends and sing karaoke like the drunkest of them, but when they slowly realized it was just soda water and lime in my glass, a few became self-conscious. Like most of my annual challenges, this one opens up new discoveries that I hadn’t anticipated as consequences.

I do beseech you, when we having dinner together, don’t feel obliged to join me in skipping the wine!  

That said, as I do with all my challenges, I pre-decided some potential exceptions to the rule. If I go to Japan later in the year, I will absolutely allow myself to imbibe in sake. And if something special presents itself (perhaps a taste of Screaming Eagle or Pappy van Winkle), I’m not going to forbade myself an experience or opportunity. I may be dedicated, but I am, after all, a hedonist at heart!