Turning twenty-one: A sobering experience

Bob Trettin-cropped“Walk up to the club like ‘What up? I’ve got a valid ID that certifies that I am 21 years old, which means legally I’m allowed entrance into this building, and I can purchase your alcoholic beverages if I so choose.’”

That’s how that song goes, right? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I recently turned 21, and apparently that’s some sort of milestone that I have decided is worth writing about.

Firstly, I do not recommend having your 21st birthday on a Monday, like mine was. Whatever the opposite of ideal is, it’s that. You have to wait until the next weekend to celebrate properly, seeing as weekdays until Friday are basically just bad sequels to Monday. Not many people are in the mood to celebrate on a Monday. Additionally, a September birthday is early in the year, so the majority of my friends are not yet 21. In light of all of this, I was forced to make the best of a bad situation.

About as soon as I was able to, I entered a liquor store with full confidence and bought some good beer simply because I could. The cashier proceeded to ask, as I knew he would, “Can I see your ID?” And I responded with “Why yes, yes, you can.” He saw that it was my birthday and we fist bumped. It was a great moment.

In some ways, I wish I had done something a little more crazy on my actual birthday, if for nothing more than the anecdote, but I did have a great weekend celebration with friends, which is about all I could ask for.

However, what struck me the most on my birthday was a text message from my dad. Aside from wishing me a happy birthday, he asked me if I had considered whether 21 signified anything else besides legal drinking. After pondering that question for some time, I came to the conclusion that turning 21 means learning that there are more important things in life than legal drinking and bar admittance.

Upon turning 21, you are allowed to consume alcohol. But just because something is permissible does not make it a mandatory weekend activity. I think we get the idea in our minds that once we turn 21 we should be going out to the bars every weekend because, well, now we can. There is not necessarily anything wrong with doing that, aside from the physically unhealthy side effects and lighter wallets. Yes, it’s fun, but it should not become what gets us through the week.

There should be more to the college experience than getting drunk, and there is more to the college experience than getting drunk. It is all what you make of it. Drinking may be a good social lubricant and even a way to make friends, but how strong will those relationships be if they are rooted in alcohol? It also may seem like the best kind of fun at the time, but not the next morning when you feel awful and you’re trying to remember all of that fun.

I am not saying that I don’t like to drink alcohol with my friends or that people shouldn’t do that responsibly as often as they like. I am saying that it should not be something we depend on for fun or something that is imperative in our lives. The cliché of birthdays is that you are “another year wiser.” In regards to turning 21 specifically, I hope that people become wise about the importance of alcohol in their lives.