The Trials and Tribulations of Twenty-One

Isabella Irwin, Co-Opinion Editor

The long-awaited day has finally arrived: the dawn of the 21st birthday. In the United States, there is probably no birthday more anticipated than this one. 

A few Saturdays ago, I joined a generation of 21-year-olds, a day marked by the disposal of fake IDs and a trip to the much sought-after bar that was inaccessible until now. (Kelly’s, I will see you soon.)

One’s 21st birthday is the day that all things in America become legally attainable, that is, everything except renting a car. However, that luxury that must wait until 25 also largely depends on one’s location and what insurance a person has, so I am not 100% certain of this fact. I digress.

Anyways, on April 1st—yes, April Fools’ Day—I turned 21. My friends hosted a party and pregame at our house before we ventured out on the town. 

A day marked down in my calendar since high school, free from the embarrassment of being turned away by bouncers and filled with a newfound sense of confidence that if I was in fact denied, I could finally say, “Call the cops. It’s real!” 

Despite my brief power trip while presenting my ID at the door of a club in Philadelphia, my birthday joy shortly subsided. 

It dawned on me that this is probably the last birthday I will ever look forward to, as the trials and tribulations of older ages will soon be upon me. 

With such a large build-up confined to a single night, my excitement was met with a fear of getting older, that no birthday will ever compare to the legendary 21st.

I am now three years past 18, the age of legal adulthood in the United States. In other words, I am three years older than the youngest adult. 

While little has actually changed in the legal status of these age groups besides my new ability to buy alcohol (and various tobacco-related products), my freshman, 18-year-old self is now a 21-year-old junior in college, soon to be a senior. I was taken aback. 

I had assumed this day would be filled with nothing but fun, dancing and drinks, not introspective, existential thoughts. My friend and fellow junior, Victoria Datillo, felt similarly. 

“Since I was the first of my close friends to turn 21, I felt really old at first, especially because I was the only legal one,” Datillo said. “However, that feeling didn’t last long, and within a few days I felt no different than before my birthday.” 

My fear was slightly mitigated by the inevitably of age and how all my friends will soon hit the 21 mark, as well. Junior Jackie Thomas, who also turned 21 earlier this year, agreed. 

“I could not wait for my 21st birthday,” Thomas said. “When I turned 21, I hung my old fake ID on my fridge, so excited to never need that thing again. But I’m also kind of sad now that I’m 21, like there’s nothing else to wait for.” 

What is next? The exact question that sparked my rabbit hole of a thought of getting old by simply turning 21. 

No doubt, I am too young to be worrying about aging and should spare these feelings for a later date. 

Since my 21st birthday celebration, while my fear of getting older is still very much alive, my worries have simmered down. Just as 21 brought new freedoms, so too will later birthdays, like renting a car. 

That is, if I learn how to drive by then. Who knows what future birthdays will hold. Truly, there is no point in worrying about an inevitable part of life, even if we cannot help it sometimes.