By the time you read this, I will be 21.
I will have glided across an arbitrary line in time that proves I've completed 21 cycles around the sun, achieving an effortless rite of passage.
Though I will not experience the typical steps considered to quantify as a rite of passage (separation, transition and reincorporation), I will have gained the right to reap the benefits of a status upgrade. By doing virtually nothing, I will gain the ability to enter into exclusive facilities with "adult" content: bars, liquor stores, nightclubs and smoking restaurants. But this is not all – now, I can legally buy intoxicating substances.
Although we pride ourselves for conquering primal hunter-gatherer lifestyles with warm houses in winter and food in the fridge, we have left behind all that went with them, including ritualistic life transitions. We kept clear distinctions of separation between childhood and adulthood in the past.
We don't have our bodies tattooed or scarred, and we don't venture out into the woods on our own. We don't even go out to capture our own dinner.
I'm not voting to bring these things back, but I would rather accept my adulthood reward with the feeling that I deserved it.
And while the 21st birthday is not highlighted as a rite of passage by society in the traditional sense, adults will implicitly begin seeing me as an equal.
Everyone remembers being called a baby before turning 21. Once you're allowed the freedom to roam if you want to, your ranking immediately jumps.
You're now permitted everywhere, unlike dogs and shirtless, shoeless hippies.
Sure, when you're 18 years old you can enter some clubs, vote, get a tattoo, and sign for yourself, but you're still separated from some of America's institutions.
If we return to the rite of passage steps – separation, transition and reincorporation – we can correlate the first and last into our cultural cohesion.
Before 21, I was separated from the older crowd of society, unable to frequent certain places. Then I was reincorporated into society when I turned 21 because my attendance was now permitted.
However, to make it past these two stages of passage, I simply continued to stay put while the earth circled around the sun.
Now, let's take a deeper look at what our society is incorporating us with — alcohol.
You are allowed society's privilege, the privilege of being publicly sloppy. You can now buy a substance that tampers with cognition, trips coordination and steals memories.
What kind of privilege is this really? Do "they" figure we are old enough to be stressed out enough over life to be given the privilege to forget it? Is this what we wait for? This – this is the 21st century American rite of passage into adulthood? Not that we went through the unendurable pain of getting our privates cut off to get a glimpse of the suffering of life, or that we went off alone into the woods for a week, becoming one with nature, or that we captured and served our own prey to feed the community.
No, our last truly significant age matters because we get to pretend we don't matter for the night.
We do not have to prove our worth and gain respect from our society – just lose it.
Our society's rite of passage requires no work at all. No sacrificing, moments of life or death, no pain, just floating along a lazy river.
And at the end of your cruise through time, you're allowed to drink some booze, move up in society, be considered an equal and leave your "baby" stage in the current.
Julie Mrozinski is a junior in English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.