Well, friends, I’ve officially made another successful trip around the sun. This means that I’m finally 21 years old.
Every year someone asks “how does it feel?” to be older. Well, if you’ve not yet reached the age where you can legally consume alcohol, then I’ll let you in on the big secret of how it really feels to be 21 years old…
It feels… The same? In the same way that 19 doesn’t feel different from 20 and 9 doesn’t feel that much different from 8.
Yes, I’m 21 now. I can consume alcohol. This gives me more responsibilities, and more choices to make. But is this what make me an adult? Have the last 365 days made me kinder? Stronger? More intelligent?
The truth is, there’s no magical transformation that happens on your birthday. Yes, your drivers license has changed from vertical to horizontal, and maybe other people will see you differently, but are you really that different?
Am I a better version of myself than I was on my 20th birthday?
I’d like to think so. 20 was a big year for me. I graduated from my community college, moved out of my home, got an apartment, started at a new university, traveled across the country, and then some. This year was filled with extreme changes. It was different, and overwhelming, and fun.
But I am not where I want to be yet. Turning 21 is not the pinnacle of your adult life, but it is the beginning. And If I’m being honest, I don’t know anything. I’m still figuring it all out. I don’t have infinite wisdom to share, just the ramblings of my day to day life.
I can’t remember when, or how, but I have grown up. It’s been a process. It’s been slow. There have been failures and disappointments and tears. Lots of tears. I’ve made it through them. I’m still growing up. I’m still learning.
The ability to consume alcohol has not made me a grown up. That’s been my choice. I’m choosing to become a better person every day. I’m making an active choice to be kinder, stronger, and more independent. My age hasn’t changed that, but time has.
My 21st birthday celebration was different than the other birthdays in the sense that I could be in a bar rather than a restaurant, but not different in the sense that I spent it with my family and friends, got cards, ate cake, and congratulated myself on making it through another 365 days.
I got to order drinks in public, and I’ll admit, this was pretty exciting. It felt wrong, because like, I’m a baby and why are you serving me alcohol? But also, it made me feel a little more grown up than before. This is something that I can do now. This is a new experience and I don’t know what I like or how to not feel awkward ordering off a menu that I’ve never been allowed to touch before, but I have some time to figure that one out.
So I’m another year older, but I probably still have the same amount of wisdom that I’ve always had. I’m still trying to figure out how to be my own person, take care of myself, and to be a better version of myself.
Maybe there’s something symbolic about turning 21 that I’ve not yet had time to experience, maybe this year I’ll go out more, and maybe even have more fun. But what matters to me is that 365 days from now, I’ll be able to celebrate with the people who matter most.
Plus, now there’s only 364 days until I know how it feels to be 22. I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling I’ll be happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time…
But for now, this will have to do.