I Googled all the benefits of turning 21 in the UK and it turns out there aren’t many.

I was so unexcited about my birthday this year that I nearly missed it. Not, of course, the entire 24 hours, but that first minute as the clock strikes 12 and you slightly shrivel up and ~age~ another year. Halfway through an episode of Prison Break (much more mature, I’m sure you’ll agree, than Gossip Girl, which I watched when I was a mere 20 years old) my phone flashed and I realised that It Had Happened.

Everyone regards 21 as a big, important birthday, but I’ve been struggling to see what’s so different from being 20. Had I been bought up in a different country, I might have reaped the benefits slightly more, but, having been able to legally drink for the last three years, the novelty has kind of worn off.

So what are the benefits of turning 21?

  1. I can drink in America
  2. I can learn how to drive a bus
  3. I can stop wearing my retainer, because, according to my orthodontist, my teeth will have stopped moving now. Just like that. Probably in that second when it hit midnight.

I feel this could potentially been more exciting, had it not been for these facts:

  1. I have never yet visited America, and as such, have never been denied the right to an alcoholic drink there. Furthermore, I don’t currently have any plans to visit America, so any chance of being able to gleefully sip a vodka lemonade next to all my nonexistent, teetotal 18, 19 or 20 year old friends is null and void.
  2. Nearly £27,000 deep into my degree I have to be honest and say working for Arriva is not something that has crossed my mind. Legally, I could have started learning to fly a plane three years ago (hopefully not at the same time as buying my first alcoholic drink) but for some reason in the British legal system, buses run more of a risk than planes (I guess there’s less to hit when you’re 36,000m in the air), and I have now reached the optimum age of responsibility where I would be trusted to drive a mini bus, coach, or tram. I can barely drive my Mini so this is not a career path I will probably ever go into. Isn’t that exciting?
  3. First, an apology to my orthodontist: I have not been wearing my retainer once a week for the last six years. Being fond of snacking and also not enjoying having two pieces of plastic wedged between my teeth are strong, contributing factors towards my now ever so slightly wonky teeth. As a result, the idea of wearing my retainer even less than I do now (i.e never) is a bit scary – as my teeth will probably just subtly move themselves out of alignment and I will be back to square one.

As you’ll have noticed, these are pretty underwhelming events. So, I took to Google to find out what else I can now do.

According to the internet, now I am 21 I can adopt a child, supervise someone learning to drive, or be ~properly~ sent to prison. I can be paid an extra £1.45 per hour (we’re going up in the world, lads) on minimum wage so I can visit some of the shitty clubs around the UK that enforce a ’21+ only’ rule and buy myself yet another alcoholic drink. Once that’s all properly celebrated and out the way, I can drive a 7.5 tonne lorry…with a trailer.

Shall we now consider all the important milestones I could have completed, before today?

I could have got married (16) without permission (18), bought a scratch card and won my millions (16) flown a glider (16), donated blood (17) stood for election as a Member of Parliament (18), got a tattoo (18) and finished my legal right to free education (19).

So, in hindsight, I think the biggest celebration of turning 21 is the achievement of getting this far without ruining my life by fucking up any of these things.

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