For most of America, April 15th is a stressful day, defined by at least one of the inevitable things in life: taxes. For me, it is a day that I will start by waking up and shotgunning a beer. Not because of my taxes, although I can see how that could be a pretty easy cause and effect conclusion to draw. No, I'm starting my day with a drink because it will be my highly anticipated 21st birthday. I can think of nothing more logical to do. Except take a shot of something a little stronger, but dear God, I just want to have a little fun on my birthday, not pickle my internal organs. On second thought, what the heck! My proverbial check liver light is probably on anyway.

In all seriousness, I find it a little bizarre that as a nation it is our tradition to ring in our personal independence and adulthood by getting absolutely trashed. But, you know what they say (or at least John Cougar--or is it Mellencamp? Both? He in some form says it. Definitely in a different context. Regardless...) Ain't that America.

Oddly enough, this 21st birthday hasn't perturbed me quite as much as turning 20 did. Why? I have only a half-baked theory, which is, surprisingly, good enough most of the time. Look, it works for Newt Gingrich*, it can work for me. Anyway. 20 was a serious age. All business. It required careful consideration as to what I was doing with my life, and who I was, as I entered this promising new decade. Now that I'm here, I'm pretty comfortable just being 21 and full of fun! Listen, I put my back into learning how to be a real person. I answered some pretty big questions, like how the economy and overdraft fees work. I forced myself to be a morning person for a brief and unhappy time. I didn't get a speeding ticket the whole year! I centered both mind and body. I stayed at least moderately emotionally stable. I learned two languages. I wrote a lot. Dare I say banner year?

My one preparation for turning 21 (other than two years of training in this marvelously wet city) has been to enroll in an online bartending course. If it sounds questionable, it's because it is. But so far, I have learned a remarkable amount. Worlds are opening up here, people. Amateur hour is over and the happiest has begun. I figure if I'm going to be a double-fisting, beer drinking son of a gun than I had better know what I'm talking about. I'm currently in the process of learning a different language, one spoken best with a loosened tongue and in only the most dimly-lit of places. I'm taking tentative strokes towards a masterpiece in cocktails. My latest life learning goals have little to do with how to operate and everything to do with how to live--I don't anticipate difficult homework, but the lessons might be tough. We'll just have to see what 21 has in store for me.

If I sound like a potential alcoholic, don't worry. Only when I refer to Jim, Jack and Johnny as a few good men do we need to start seeing red flags.

xoxo, Lauren

*A little-known fact about Newt: he's a Tulane grad. So is Jerry Springer. I think it bodes well for my future.