I was walking down the slope last Friday night with a guitar in one hand and photocopies of songs in another, when the bell tower started to play “Happy birthday”. It was a pretty short version, the chimemaster decided to play the song only once through, but that was enough to ignite a serious thoughts and feelings about my turning 21 next week.
I guess when most people think of 21, they think of a crazy night that they most likely will not remember. At least, that’s what people have been telling me I have to do next week; it doesn’t matter in the slightest that my birthday happens to fall on a Wednesday, midweek crazy night out! woohoo!
And I guess I do like the fact that I’ll finally be able to go to bars and enjoy the occasional beer (or cocktail, yes I am a man that does not like hard liquor, woah! But, come on, no one actually likes the taste of vodka, unless you lost all your taste buds..). In Korea, I am of age (drinking age is 19), and I really enjoyed going to the bar with a friend and just talking. I feel as though now, I’ll be able to bond with my dad in that way as well.
But, in reality, my 21st birthday has kind of snuck up on me. I’ve been ignoring my birthday for a while now, because I’m actually not ready to turn 21. I think the alcohol legalization distracts from the fact that when you turn 21, you’re officially an adult now, and there’s no turning back. It’s a responsibility, and there are larger consequences for your actions. I guess this thought process has been fueled by a lot of major life decisions I’ve been making these past few months and year and seeing that the results of my decisions have much longer lasting effects. In fact, my decision to go to Mount Sinai has effectively geared me in on a set path for the next 4 years of my life.
And there’s that tinge of saddness. My parents and younger brother came up this weekend to spend the day with me since I was to turn 21 during the week. I’ve grown closer with my parents at a certain level in terms of sharing major life concerns and decisions with them far more often than before. However, I also feel the inevitable pulling away from them, that now my life is taking new directions and paths that I will not always be able to share with them. My mom is still very much attached to me, and I to her, and becoming 21, becoming a grown up does draw me closer to that day where I will be working far away from them, as a doctor, in perhaps, some developing country or an underserved region in the US. I know I could always lean on my parents, but I think, symbollically, 21 is also a number that represents my independence. At least that’s what my mom had always told me. “After 21, you make all your own decisions, and we will be there to support your decisions.”
But I don’t want to be a complete downer. I am excited for the responsibilities to come, and the opportunities that are starting to open up to me as I become a true adult. This past year, I’ve definitely witnessed how exciting life could be, as new doors open and new chapters are written in my life biography. In the end, whether I am ready or not, my 21st will come, and hopefully, with the additional year, I could grow that much more.