As a lot of y’all know, yesterday was my 21st birthday! It was not nearly as exciting or over-the-top here in London as I imagined. I guess it’s because it’s not as big a deal here, since the drinking age is 18.
I want to go ahead and say thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday yesterday, and made the day fantastic. Thanks especially to my friends who I got a chance to FaceTime with (y’all have no idea how much that made my day)…mom, dad, Jackson, Jordan, Meme, Cate, and Erin. It was so great to talk to the people who I miss so much.
My day started out like any other: I got up, got dressed, grabbed breakfast, went to class, and went through my new London routine. We talked about Twelfth Night in class, and it got really feminist and I just loved it. Then, Sarah and I went to Primrose Bakery to get some cupcakes, thanks mom!
Sarah had dinner with a lifelong friend, so I went back to my dorm to take a quick nap before I went to dinner. I got to FaceTime a bunch of the aforementioned people, and popped a bottle of champagne to enjoy with my cupcakes to celebrate my turning 21. It was nice to get to catch up with my hometown friends while celebrating.
I’m not going to play innocent here, the drinking age in most of Europe is 18, so going out to a bar and ordering myself a drink on my 21st birthday wasn’t my first time doing so. (I’m still excited for my “first legal drink” in the United States when I get home in December.)
I grabbed a drink with a few friends before they left, then waited for Sarah to meet me (she was going to meet all of us for drinks, but everyone else decided to cut the night short early I guess). It was a little weird just sitting there in the bar by myself, but I guess that’s what being 21 and adulthood are all about, right? Getting outside your comfort zone and being confident and going places by yourself?
What struck me the most was how different this birthday was from any other birthday I’ve had as an “adult”. When I turned 18, I took the SAT, went to rehearsal for the school musical until 7PM, went home and went to bed. When I turned 19, I was just a baby college freshman with only a few friends. We weren’t close enough for them to throw me a party or anything, so my mom and my brother came up and took me to get dinner. When I turned 20, I almost pulled an all-nighter the night before to study for my history midterm. I went to my classes, took a nap, spent a few hours in the library, and went to dinner with my friends. We celebrated with cake and a movie night the following weekend.
This year, I didn’t feel the same love surrounding me that I had the past three years – that probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’m in a foreign country pretty much by myself, and my favorite people are over 4,000 miles away. Getting to FaceTime with some of those people was helpful, but it was nothing like having my roommate/best friend wake me up at 5AM by jumping on my bed to my favorite Rhianna song.
I understand the validity of my feelings and that I’m allowed to miss people when they’re an ocean away, but I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea: I LOVE LONDON. I am loving my study abroad experience and everything it has brought into my life, but it’s tough. It is teaching me so much about myself. There are just a lot of emotions that you encounter when you study abroad that I don’t think anyone prepares you for — especially when you do a program where you don’t know anyone at all.
I really did have an amazing birthday – champagne and cupcakes and getting to FaceTime some of my favorite people was really all I could’ve asked for (other than them all being here but for some reason, I don’t think that would’ve worked out so well). Going out when I didn’t really have a group of people to go with or solid plans made it feel a little more awkward than I intended.
I am so thankful for every single person who made me feel loved yesterday — y’all are the reason I’m having the time of my life over here in Londontown. Without your support, I don’t know where I would be.
Cheers to 21 years!