turning 21

Posted by james on Aug. 28, 2001

My birthday this year was the best ever. The thought I had as I went through my parties was "this is exactly what I wanted to do on my birthday."

What I wanted for my birthday was to hang out and do something simple with a few people on my birthday day (tuesday), then have a bunch of people over on saturday for a party. And that's exactly what happened. Things like this make me happy, because there's not much else you can ask for. It made me content to know that I spent my birthday with friends. At one point on saturday I sat back and looked at what was going on, and it just seemed so good. So many different people from different groups just hanging out and doing crazy stuff together. There were the smart kids, talking about big important things and laughing at the kids that were burning plates and plants on the citronella torch. There were the typical guys that couldn't figure out between the 3 of them exactly how the hamburgers and sausages should be flipped on the barbeque (actually, they all knew... that was the problem). There were the people I haven't seen in months that just showed up randomly about half way through to wish me happy birthday, and the late-nighters that stayed for the whole movie after the outside fun was over. Something about having all these people over and having fun with each other just made me happy.

There were a bunch of things to decide, since I turned 21 this year, including the big question of alcohol. The only alcohol I've had until I turned 21 was (literally) sips from my parent's drinks. I don't like the taste or smell of alcohol, and never really felt pressure to drink. But I also decided not to drink after I turned 21. I talked to a few people as I was trying to figure out if I wanted to drink once I turned 21, and the one reaction I got that stuck out in my mind was this: I have no right to denounce drinking unless I've tried it. This is the most ass-backwards reasoning I've ever heard. Their reasoning was that unless I've tried drinking, I have no right to really say it's good or bad. And therefore, I really can't say that "drinking is not for me" because I don't know. Since when was the experience of any one thing the <u>only</u> factor for knowing whether or not you wanted to do it or not? And extreme comparison would be to say that I (and everyone else) do not have the right to say that crack cocaine (the powder kind) is not for me unless I've tried it. This argument breaks down because it assumes that the exerience is the only factor in deciding if you want to do it or not. I don't have to experience crack to know that I don't want it. I don't want the addiction, I don't want the health hazards, I don't want to spend my money on it. I don't believe that alcohol is evil, or that I'll become an alcoholic if I start drinking, or that it'll ruin my body any more than my diet does now. But I do know this: I've seen the affects that alcohol <b>can</b> have. I've seen people abuse it and seen what alcohol can do to their lives once they let it take over... even for a small period of time.

My decision is not based on the fact that abstaining will actually prevent all these things... the best analogy I can make is to that red ribbon worn on a shirt. Wearing a red ribbon on your shirt doesn't actually prevent AIDS from spreading, nor does putting a blue ribbon on your website actually protect free speach. But it's a symbol, a way for someone to show others (or to themselves) an ideal they think is important. That is my decision.

Last, the fact that my family was gone made this year seem significant. Like this birthday was mine because I didn't have their safety net here. Another step away from the nest, of being more independent and being ok with that. Growing as a person and all... it's deep. Thanks guys.