Alight, alright I will address the question that everyone is already asking, YES! TURNING 21 IN A COUNTRY WHERE THE LEGAL DRINKING AGE IS 18 IS INCREDIBLY ANTICLIMACTIC! There, I said it. But, in and of itself, finally being 21 is actually a very cool feeling.
I have been in Dublin for about 3 days now and since arriving I have been able to purchase my very own bottle of wine every day since my arrival. It’s a liberating milestone that I legally would have been able to do for the past 3 years here in Dublin, Ireland. However, this 21st birthday means a lot more to me than simply being able to walk into a liquor store with confidence, or order a martini at dinner with my dad without him being wildly confused as to wtf is going on. My birthday has always been the beginning of a new chapter for me, (as it is always the beginning of September, wild right?) The start of a new grade, kickoff to a fresh dance season, or the transition to a new school; but this birthday is more like the beginning of a whole new era, or “Phase 2” of the Shannon Rose Fairweather show.
A year ago I would have never imagined being where I am today mentally. I was wracked with anxiety and absolutely miserable. I struggled to recognize and appreciate all the good around me and was constantly being weighed down by my crippling anxiety. I did not want to go out. I did not want to go to class, and I felt the safest in the comfort of my own home. Not a great scenario for a thriving college student.
Transitioning to college was a big, scratch that, huge change for me. For 19 years I had lived in the perfect little world that had been created for and by me. Don’t get me wrong I definitely had my struggles in middle school and high school – but overall I was a happy, outgoing little bitch. Leaving home and starting new was hard for me, especially as someone who constantly wants to be in control of all the moving parts of their life. Add in the death of a close family member and a dear high school friend, a confusing and scary illness, and the 18 year old safety net literally being pulled out from under me and, suffice it to say that the pressure started hitting me hard at the end of Freshmen year/beginning of Sophomore year. It was a tough year from 20 to 21, and not because I could not go to bars with my older friends or constitutionally purchase my own handle of Tito’s, but because I was constantly battling this newly found sadness in my head.
It is absolutely crazy to think back on the person I was one year ago, especially now as I look out at the view from my room of the beautiful city of Dublin as I write this. 20-year-old Shannon could barely stay on campus for a week, never mind go abroad. This was something that was blatantly obvious to everyone. In fact, even when I applied to the semester-long program I also applied to a shorter month-long summer program as my parents and I knew that it was highly doubtful that I could go out on my own for four months in a completely foreign country.
I knew I needed a drastic change, I needed to challenge myself and I just had to freakin’ go for it. Now I realize that I am only three days into this adventure, but I am pretty damn proud of myself so far. It was tremendously hard to leave my loved ones at home, hard to dive into the unknown of the next four months, and, of course, hard to be away from home on my 21st birthday. But I am feeling so incredibly happy on this day; feelings I did not necessarily have one year ago in the safe surroundings of home. This is a major victory in – and over – my mind!
I am beyond thankful to have something and someone(s) that make it so hard to leave home, thankful to have this opportunity and this experience, and thankful to simply be myself again. Sure, it’s not the exciting USA 21st Birthday with a big club outing with all of my friends and family as we celebrate this momentous milestone. But it is something so much more! It’s the best birthday present ever … my 21st birthday out on my own, in a foreign country, with just a little bit of homesickness and absolutely no anxiety. Happy Birthday to me! I can’t wait to see what my 21st year has in store!