Staring blankly at my bright laptop screen, with 10 days to go till my birthday, I knew I had to do something. My essay glared at me as I failed to give it any further attention and called my best friend, trying to rally her to my cause. Within 10 minutes, the search was on, and the deals started pouring in. Within half an hour, we had found a deal. By the end of the day, it was booked. A weekend in Paris to celebrate my 21st. Done!
Now fuelled with motivation by the incentive of a last-minute birthday trip, I finished first my essay, and then a packing list and itinerary. So much to see, such little time, and the outbound flight was at 6am, which didn’t help the rush to plan.
We arrived in Paris exhausted, but it was only 8am, which meant only a quick stop at the hotel to drop bags and wash the airport off us, before getting back on the move. Lunch by the Arc de Triomphe, shopping at Champs-Elysees, and then a tour of Paris by boat. A visit to Sacré-Cœur the next day, before climbing the Eiffel Tower and then going to see Da Vinci’s favourite girl.
Non-stop. No break. But it also meant I didn’t have any time to think about the looming date that seemed to be fast approaching. The exhilaration of being abroad eased the nerves, and like most holidays, the temptation to not return to reality was too real.
Knowing that when I did return, everything would change, I tried to focus on the positives. I had lasted another year. Uni was going well, and my life was on track. But that still didn’t help the pressure or the dread.
Staring at my bright laptop screen, officially 21, nothing has actually changed. But it feels different, or at least, it feels like it’s supposed to. I don’t feel 21, but then what is 21 meant to feel like? Freedom? Exhilaration? Because you can get both of those with just a trip to Paris.
My trip did make my 21st special, but it also taught me that regardless of what you do, sometimes you just won’t be ready. So you have to just try and take the days as they come. And while society teaches us to make this particular day, the day you turn 21, special, to make it a big deal, a day more perfect than all the rest, sometimes you end up with expectations higher than the Eiffel Tower.
At the end of the day, you don’t need a trip to Paris to make it special, although of course a holiday doesn’t hurt. You need to do whatever it is that suits you, makes you feel ready for the added responsibility or, like me, makes you accept that you may never be ready. And even that is okay. You just have to keep taking the days as they come, even the day you turn 21.