By Justin Little
The ability to depress my brain with psychoactive beverages has been raised to legal status. The majority of people have tried an alcoholic beverage or two before they reach this particular age. I will admit that I haven’t had a drink since the day that the age change occurred. It isn’t because a sudden change of heart has come over me, but the excitement in participating in the adult lifestyle as a boastful teenager has lost its luster. Booze was a like a secret lover. It was something that could enhance conversation, make others less boring, inspire new ideas, and generally pump up a situation as long as limits were maintained. Now it just seems like a part of life. I recall sitting by a fire with a very good friend sipping on hard liquor. He and I never necessarily regularly abused the bottle although we both had our times of weakness. We had a very strange look considering we were both recent seventeen year olds. The look of two old men sitting in a red and padded study and smoking eccentric pipes assaulted us. I never participated in the high school parties where plastic red cups were used as containers for liquid and projectiles. Not that the social aspect didn’t appeal to me. I just wouldn’t be drawn to them as much as I was drawn to a fire and conversation with a few good pals.
Twenty One is a peculiar milestone, and it is the last threshold a boy crosses before adulthood (apart from turning 35 and being eligible for political office). As happy as one might be to cross this bridge and hop to every bar their vehicles and legs will take them, I view it as a more serious situation than that. I am officially grown. I will look this way for the majority of my life. There is no more “What do you want to be when you grow up?” There are far more “What are you doing with your life?” type questions thrown around. No longer am I a candidate for humanity, but a contender. If one were to die at 80, which is being generous, over one fourth of my life is over. This is a very awe-inspiring experience considering there is nothing holding one back now. One can create a vision and dive after it like a lifeguard of ideal futures. Idealism has never found peace with me, so I won’t give it a humble home in my head, but the point still stands. When one feels awe-inspired about life, the inevitable subconscious voice sticks its dark head in and says, “This isn’t going to last forever” and then recedes into its corner. Death nearly always comes up when life is mentioned due to this annoying little joy-killer.
A few words of advice to those who plan on wrestling with the fermented temptress need to be given out, even though I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on the subject. First off, know your limits. There is nothing worse than sitting down and enjoying the company only to stand up and realize that you can’t help but hug the wall. Second, do not dream of operating an automobile if you have had a single drop. Staring death in the face is one thing, drunk driving is giving death a free chance at you. Thirdly, drink when you are in a good mood, not the reverse. The only thing it will cure is any hope of doing anything about your problems in the morning the next day. Finally, be courteous to those who are indeed blitzed around you. They have no idea what they are doing and need someone to take care of them. Do not take advantage of a woman in this state and don’t be responsible for their intoxication either. Hold their hair and don’t make them feel so embarrassed for losing themselves. It is different for men. Men are more prideful than women are and may refuse to admit that they are actually off their rocker, even if they have literally fallen out of a rocking chair. Knock your friend unconscious before you let him get behind the wheel, and get some frozen vegetables for his eye.
With all of these rules followed (I suggest Kingsley Amis’ “Everyday Drinking,” if you’d like any more) you can have an excellent relationship with the drink. Alcohol can be a good friend and companion, if you don’t lean on it for support. If you do that, then it will take advantage of you, and it will overtake you. The recent campaigns to stop drinking make rather strident claims that make them incredibly easy to brush aside as radical overstatements. Alcohol is a part of human tradition ever since fermented fruit was eaten by our early ancestors. It is not a dangerous substance if used in moderation, but that moderation has been eluding us for generations.
I have been thinking about this often and it has been churning inside me for such a long time that the metaphorical umbilical cord is officially severed. There is nothing keeping you where you are and nothing forcing you away. This time in your life is the time when you are most free, so grab it by the face and don’t let it go. Pondering about what to do with your life for 70 years is not a very enjoyable life to be leading. If there is anything that anyone could suggest to you it would be that taking action in this point of your life is more important than weighing the options and missing the opportunities. Sitting and wallowing in the stench of self-pity is not something that I am prone to doing, and yet a somber feeling fills my chest when I think about turning Twenty One. The transition from child to adult is definitely not as enlightening as it once seemed. If anything, it only cemented the idea that nobody knows what they are doing, and that being a sponge for knowledge is one path to being someone who comes close.