Normally birthdays don’t make you feel any different. Ever since I turned about 8 years old, I remember getting asked the question, “How does it feel to be 8 now?” or “How does it feel to be 18?” Normally, my answer is often “It feels the same. It doesn’t feel any different.” I even often forget what age I am when asked, especially when it is close to my birthday. Right now, I often have to remind myself that I am about to turn 21 years old. So is there something that makes turning 21 different? Will my answer be different this year when asked “How does it feel to be 21 years old?”

To gauge how 21 “feels” I asked some of my friends that same question.

“The exact same as being 20. I mean it’s cool to be able to drink and gamble but I’m not really big into either so it just feels the same,” said Christopher Eby.

One of the main changes that everyone puts focus on when turning 21 is it is now legal to drink alcohol and gamble. The buzz around turning 21 is the idea you can finally buy alcohol or you can walk into a casino. I think the main changes when turning 21 are the added responsibilities and choices that you have to make.

“I don’t feel any different. I just feel like I have more freedom. I feel like I can do more and not feel guilty I guess… Like you can drink whenever and go to casinos or something. I don’t feel like I have to drink all the time, I just like the feeling that I can if I want to,” said Alexis Feagans.

Truth is, there isn’t this magic switch that happens at midnight on your 21st birthday like Cinderella turning back into a normal girl at midnight. I am going to be the same person I am two days before my birthday versus the minute I am 21 years old.

One thing that does change is people’s perspectives of you. When someone notices your horizontal license that represents to them you are over 21 years old and they will judge you differently than if you have a vertical license. The license is a symbol or signifier of your age and responsibility. When being 21 years old, you are considered a woman rather than a girl or a man rather than boy. Once 21, I have to make the choice whether to drink/gamble or not and to be responsible when I do decide to drink/gamble.

I believe it is important for individuals who are 21 to realize these new responsibilities and choices that come with the new found freedoms. Turning 21 means you are getting older and expected to be more independent and be able to make adult decisions. It is important to realize that so you are able to make the right decisions.

So what really is the big deal behind turning 21 if most people agree that it is the same as being 20? I don’t believe it is the ability to drink and gamble necessarily but I think it is the added expectations, responsibilities, and freedoms that come with it. It is the fact you are now one step closer to being a true adult even though that comes at different times for everyone.

While I am a little apprehensive about the new experiences, I am excited to see what year 21 will bring.