My Alcohol-less 21st
In just three days I will be celebrating my 21st birthday. For most people, 21 is the age. No longer do you have to worry about fake IDs or who is going to buy you alcohol... you are free!
For me, however, it's just another birthday. I have never been interested in drinking- when I entered high school and it became a "thing," I just never saw the point. As I have grown, I've realized there are a few different reasons behind my sobriety as well: First, I was never really surrounded with alcohol or a witness of drinking growing up- my mom rarely drinks and I have no siblings. Second, my mom gets horrible migraines from a lot of different foods or products, which I inherited from her. This includes just a sip of alcohol, leading me to believe I would have the same problem. Lastly, some of my family members have had a tough history with alcohol. These aren’t excuses I tell people because I fear judgment or embarrassment—No, not drinking at this point is such a large part of who I am that I honestly don't know any other way, and I am completely content with and proud of my decision.
As you can imagine, I get a lot of crap because I don't drink. In high school, I was forced out of a friend group and then, once I found a new one, was never invited to any parties, all because I wouldn't drink. Friends I had known since childhood constantly asked me why I didn’t drink, their voices laced with judgment, and even a relative told me I would have no friends in college if I didn't give into the pressure.
While college has been significantly less judgmental (my friends rarely pressure me and people don't notice, or are surprised to discover, that I am sober), I still meet adults and peers that are puzzled and criticize me when I say I will just be having water. I don't know if it is because people automatically assume I judge them for drinking (I don't) or if they think I am high and mighty (nope), but I have rarely had a conversation with someone who immediately supports my personal decision to not drink.
So, when I turn 21 this week, I am not having a night out on the town with friends. I always was asked growing up if I would start drinking when I turned 21, even though my decision had nothing to do with drinking’s legality. Instead, I am spending time with my parents and a few close friends. I even plan to order a fancy martini- but only to give it to my dad! I will be visiting a tea bar (couldn't pass up the chance for a funny Instagram caption), but not a bar in the city.
Don't get me wrong- I am so excited to be able to finally go out with my friends. I never had a fake ID because I didn't want to spend money on it, meaning I was always left behind when they went out together. But now, I can dance all night long (and proudly look horrible while doing it).
I've come to realize over the years that anybody who gives me crap for not drinking is frankly not worth it- I don't judge them for their lifestyle choices, so why should they have any say over mine? When it comes to being our true, authentic selves, we oftentimes receive critique from all kinds of people- friends, family, strangers, the nurse at the health center who doesn't believe you when you tell her you don't drink... And that can make authenticity extremely hard at times. Why else would peer pressure be such an issue! But these are also the moments that define us- if someone offers you a drink and you want it, you do you (just make sure you know where it is coming from and that it was not already opened, of course)! But if that isn't who you are and you don't want the drink, just know that I am right there with you, and that you're not the only person to choose that path.
I think solidarity is important to remember during every moment in our lives as well- no matter how alone we feel at times, just remember that somebody out there has gone through a similar experience. There are 7.347 billion people in the world, after all, so I am sure someone else out there chose to stay in on a Friday night for sleep instead of going to a bar. And hopefully that will give you the confidence to do you! You will still have friends, no matter what your Uncle Bob says, and if people push you away because you choose not to do what is expected, then they aren't your friends at all. Do I sound like your mom, or what?
I am so excited for my 21st, but for unconventional reasons. I plan on swimming, drinking tea, reading, and eating all the ice cream cake. I plan on enjoying myself and feeling proud of my life choices, my body, and my eating habits. I want to celebrate the twenty-one years on earth that have cultivated me into the woman I am today- something we should all take a moment to celebrate every day :)