Turning 21 years old should feel like the end to the prohibition amendment of one’s life. For 20 years, 364 days, 23 hours and 59 minutes I waited to take my first legal shot. But as the clock struck midnight I was watching the 1946 film, The Best Years of our Lives with my mother and father. Did I miss the party bus or what?
The truth is I have been drinking illegally for so long already that somehow alcohol has lost its allure. Perhaps it’s because I am already a senior at 21, but I admit I am jaded enough to say, “Been there, done that.”
Freshman year in front of Johnson and Hardwick Hall I can vividly recall becoming violently ill from consuming too much alcohol. Of course I was wearing a dress which somehow ended up tucked into my underwear as I stumbled up to my room.
Needless to say, there was the first frat party. “Take this, it’s jungle juice. I know you will love it,” my friend says to me. I grabbed a cup brimming with an elixir that only frat boys can master, but down the hatch it went. Copious cups of alcohol later I was nearly hit by a car crossing Broad Street. Once safe on the sidewalk a homeless lady offered me a sip of her liquor for a quarter. I contemplated it. A friend dragged me away and in no time I was safe in the communal bathrooms of our dorms – sick once again.
As I toast to my 21st birthday I can’t help but laugh at the fact that I can care less that I am of age to drink. In some sense, I am relieved knowing I will remember my birthday. At the same time, I am frightened because turning 21 has a whole new meaning to me.
When 18 rolled around and I began college, I was convinced I knew it all. I was smart, witty and confident. I knew what I wanted out of life. I knew I’d be engaged at 24, married by 25, pregnant by 29, and a published and famous writer by 30.
On the eve of my 21st birthday, as I blew out my candles I realized just how much I didn’t know, and could only wish I operated under the delusions I had at 18.
I am embarking now into the void of the “20-somethings” where nothing is simple. Nothing is clear or concise. Perhaps the one thing I am certain of is how much I have yet to learn and how much I do not yet know.
At 21, I am two semesters away from graduation and I find myself admitting that I am happy to attend class. I look forward to class discussions and I actually want to learn. I highlight text in my books in chapters that aren’t even assigned.
On the day of my 21st birthday my parents took me out to lunch. We ordered wine with our meal and I had a glass or two. My parents were driving home, so I joked with them not to overdo it. My mother blurted out that she was glad my father was driving because she was wasted. My father turned to me and said, “Maybe if your mother is drunk enough, I’ll get lucky on the way home.”
I celebrated my 21st birthday sober and toasted to a good year with drunken parents. Truly the older I get, the more lost I really am.
Nicole D’Andrea can be reached at email@example.com.