by Kaitlyn Raymundo
I turned 21 about a month ago now and have taken that time to figure out how it feels, to really check out the social convention of it because, being the analytical student I am, why not?
Do you feel different? That’s the question people ask after every birthday. How do you feel? Do you feel older? Every other year, even turning 18… no. This year? For some reason, yes. Tangibly different. But why?
First, I noticed the anticipation. In the months approaching my birthday, people kept saying, “you’re going to be 21 so soon!”. Those who were older than me were excited that we could finally go grab those post-work cocktails and gossip about our weeks. Those younger than me were envious that I would now be in that social circle, leaving them in the dust when I chose to go out. My parents and all the elders first cautioned me to be careful with that alcohol stuff, then helped me plan ways in which we could celebrate classily together. Yes, this birthday felt bigger indeed.
Photo below taken by our friend TJ Syvilay! Check him out @tj_syvilay on Instagram!
What are you going to do for your 21st?!? There’s a weird pressure surrounding the day itself. This is maybe the only birthday you can’t celebrate early, for obvious reasons. There’s an expectation that you get belligerently drunk on your birthday. “You won’t remember it” they say. I can confidently say this is the only occasion that anyone has enthusiastically wished for me not to remember.
Regardless, this has been my most celebrated birthday thus far, surpassing both sweet sixteen and eighteen by far. Interesting that legal drinking age is a much greater deal than driving age and legal adulthood? Yes. Does it maybe say something about our culture? Definitely. And while we can get all into that, and trust me I’ve had plenty of education on the biological, emotional, and psychological effects of drinking, I spent much more time thinking about my personal experience.
To be honest, it feels as though I’ve been invited into an exclusive club. The reason I feel different is not due to legal implications but instead the social respect you command once you can confidently say “I’m 21”. There’s an intriguing freedom about it and it certainly feels like a social barrier has been overcome. But this hasn’t inclined me to increase alcohol consumption at all. If anything, in the weeks past turning 21, I’ve been inclined to drink less and less.”Getting drinks” to me is much more synonymous with “let’s get food at a place that you can only enter if you are 21”. The drink itself isn’t necessary. Maybe it is only my experience and it definitely has something to do with my personality, but this feels much more like “adulthood” than eighteen. Its as if trusting me with this tricky substance called alcohol is symbolic of trusting me to have my life in order, to have the maturity to handle myself responsibly. And there’s a weird confidence that comes with that.
The other discovery I’ve made? Alcohol is expensive. And quite possibly, this is the reason the alcohol is not necessary to feel the full impact of 21.
I know that a number like 21 shouldn’t define where I am in life, but I definitely think it’s worth thinking over. It does feel weirdly like another chapter of my life has opened and that in itself is exciting.
Well, if you’ve made it this far and stuck with me through this social examination, I applaud you. Wherever you are in life, I am wishing you the best! I’m pretty stoked about where I’m at too.
What's your perspective? Agree? Disagree? Anything to add?