I didn’t wear a sash and lead an epic bar crawl. I didn’t pose in front of shiny 2-1 balloon numbers. I didn’t get to hug my mom as she pushed down on the top of my head to “squish” me back to age five. I didn’t get to cheers my dad at dinner, or celebrate with my boyfriend and our friends at midnight. There were many “didn’t”s that characterized this birthday, but this semester is meant to be about the new things – not the annual or the ordinary.
So I did celebrate with new friends I had only known for three weeks, and who helped me feel like I was right where I was supposed to be… despite being in a country where the thrill of going out for drinks comes and goes at eighteen, and a culture where name day celebrations replace birthday celebrations. No matter, I still wore my crown around Kelsey’s decorated apartment and said a little “whoop whoop” as the date turned to February 5th twice, on Greek time and New York time.
When I turned 21, I stood atop the Acropolis of Athens for the very first time. I watched the Greek flag wave bright blue in the gray sky. I slipped and slid across the well trampled marble rocks. I looked across and down on Athens from a new perspective. My friends and I wandered around the Parthenon and Temple of Athena Nike before visiting the Acropolis Museum filled with the broken pieces of acropolis art that remain. In the street, we threw wishful coins into part of the excavated architecture, we watched dancers perform, a puppet “played” the piano, and of course, we ate gyros.
When you are studying for school or hanging around your apartment, being abroad almost feels normal – as if you are not five thousand miles away. It’s the holidays and birthdays, when you look outside the window, and the moments when you travel to a new country and wish your loved ones were standing next to you staring at the same view, that really bring you back to the reality of the distance between where you are now, and who helped to get you there.
But braving the distance has given me some of the greatest gifts: new friends, a new environment to experience, and a chance to see other parts of the world. Where were you when you turned 21?