I turned 21 last Sunday. It was pretty anticlimactic.
For most American teens and young adults, 21 is The Age. 21 means you can drink, rent cars and hotel rooms (in New York, at least); it makes you a full adult in the eyes of American law. 21st birthday parties are widely regarded as a time to go out to the nearest club or bar and drink more alcohol than your poor liver really wants to deal with. My non-American friends are fascinated by this — most of them come from countries where the drinking age is 18 (with one exception of 16), so I can’t really blame them.
Well, I turned 21 in Ireland. The drinking age is 18 in Ireland. I don’t have an Irish driver’s licence (nor would I want one; sure the drivers here are scary — it’s barely even a joke to say that in Dublin it’s illegal for pedestrians and cyclists to hit cars). I stay in hostels or with friends when I venture outside of Dublin. So… Yeah.
This is not to say that I regret turning 21 in Ireland. It comes with some advantages, for sure. First of all, I can get into my favourite (strictly 21-and-over *cough* [it's good to have older friends]) cocktail bar without worrying that the bouncer’s having a bad day and is going to refuse me admittance. A lot of nicer pubs and clubs, in fact, are ‘strictly’ over 21 to ward off the younger college set, so this basically means I don’t have to be nervous about getting refused pretty much anywhere. I can also go to casinos now, if I wanted to, which I don’t. But I could! My only real problem now is that my driver’s licence is invalid since I can’t renew it from abroad (eye exam, grrr) and the picture looks very little like me, so I’m probably going to have to tote my passport around everywhere. It might be for the best, since one guy at Tesco seems convinced that my American driver’s license is fake. Yes, sir. Of all the ID in the world I could choose from to illegally buy alcohol, I chose to go with a New York, under 21 driver’s licence, and perfected my upstate New York accent. Good detective skills, sir. You’ll go far with those.
Anyway, my birthday was great. I share it with one of my flatmates, so we had a flat party with everyone currently living here, plus our ex-flatmate, still friend, who moved out to be closer to college. Most of us had class on Monday morning, so it wasn’t a rager by any means, but there was wine, cider, rum, homemade cheesecake, jelly babies, chocolate, crisps, and (slightly burned, ahem, courtesy of myself and my inability to use our oven) Tesco pizza and my flatmates proved that they’ve figured me out by getting me Guy Deutscher’s Through the Language Glass.
All of my friends and family have got me figured out, actually. I went to see Pride and Prejudice at the Gate Theatre on Wednesday with a couple of friends (it was so good) and they got me a mug with kitty cats on it, black tea, chocolate, and three rolls of Ginger Nuts. I never have to leave the house again. My parents sent me a t-shirt with a photograph of my cat on it. Do you sense a pattern?
In honour of actually getting into my 21st year, I’m trying to be less of a couch potato than usual. I’ve been walking to class, and I’m going to try to dedicate my free Tuesdays to doing walks/hikes around the coast. I did Bray to Greystones this week; I think I’m going to try Howth if the weather doesn’t stay utterly abysmal next week. Another goal of the spring semester is to see more of Ireland. I went to Malahide a couple of weeks ago, and I think we’re going to try Newgrange on the next weekend when (again) the weather has decided to be civil. Cork is a possibility for reading week, too. Exploration, adventure, hooray! All of these things I wouldn’t be able to do if I had turned 21 in America. I regret nothing.
Newly 21 in a land of mostly 18: I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hannah Vose is a University of Rochester junior, majoring in English with an interest in literary translation studies. When not burying her nose in whichever book has most recently been plucked from atop the dangerously tall pile on her desk, she can be found obsessively learning new languages, squinting through her (very stylish, thank you!) bifocals at someone else's writing in her job as a Writing Fellow, drinking stupid amounts of tea, squinting through her bifocals at her own writing in her job as a scathing self-critic, or dreaming of living somewhere which gets even less sun than Rochester. Born in England but having lived most of her life in Endicott, New York, she has traveled back to the Land of Her People twice and visited Dublin once on the way over. She considered applying to Trinity College as an international student, but was deterred by tuition costs (yikes!) so she's absolutely 100% thrilled to be living in Dublin and taking classes at Trinity for an entire year (and only about 34% of that is because she might get to take a class on Patrick McCabe -- will it happen? Stay tuned!)</span></p>