This past week we celebrated my youngest child’s 21st birthday. The event was incredibly special, and someone even commented, “Wow, if this is her 21st birthday, I can’t wait to see what her wedding will be like!”
Turning 21 is sort of a mixed bag. It’s the reminder that all the really big times in your life have passed, becoming a teenager, getting a drivers license and becoming eligible to vote. Then 21 arrives and it’s the first legal drink. Although the focus may be on that first legal drink, I think it’s much more than that. As I watched my daughter make her way through the evening, I sensed she realized the incredible opportunities that lie ahead, as well as the harsh reality that the journey to adulthood is just beginning.
For many, turning 21 may be the first “legal” drink, but likely not the first. So when that 21st birthday comes around, is the celebration really about getting an alcoholic beverage with complete permission? Or is it the fact that the first legal drink denotes the end of an era? Perhaps it’s both. It’s acknowledging and toasting to the end of college, and accepting that real world responsibility is just a stone’s throw away.
I see that first legal drink as much more than getting a legal drunk on, it seems to signify the last “hurrah” before getting down to business and seriously addressing, “What’s next?”
The evening of my daughter’s birthday, I couldn’t help but admire who she has become, and what amazing potential she has. For her, she may be feeling disappointment for all the college memories she’ll be leaving behind, as well as the worries about that first job, apartment, and real life adult responsibility. For my daughter and her older brothers, turning 21 was likely a time of introspection and melancholy. Funny, it seems to be the same for me.