Yesterday I had my 30th birthday party, and it was a blast. I’ve been really getting into cocktails lately, so a crap-load of my friends came over with all different kinds of liquor, mixers and fruit and made dozens of cocktails until the wee hours of the morn.
While that may not be groundbreaking to anyone else, it’s a giant leap for me. I grew up as a teetotaler, someone who abstains from alcohol. While the occasional use of hand sanitizer was fine, ingesting alcohol in any way just wasn’t permitted. Don’t get me wrong; my parents – my teetoltaling teachers – weren’t judgemental about those who drank, they just didn’t feel it was right for them. Rather than go into the myriad of reasons why or why not a person would choose to do this, let me tell you a story instead.
A few months back my friend, Ian, invited me to hang out with him at our favorite pub. Now at this point, I would have the occasional beer, and even enjoy it. I liked talking and learning all about the brewing process, picking up subtle nuances of flavor, trying different brews done different ways. But I still had this lingering notion that alcohol was “icky” in some way. Chalk it up to not developing a tolerance like a lot of people did from 21-years-old or before. In any case, Ian and I are talking, goofing off, saying inappropriate things, and all that good stuff. And in that space of two hours or so, Ian had a beer and two cocktails while I had barely imbibed in my first Fat Tire.
Oh, I almost forgot: this was the first time anyone had ever just called me up and said, “Hey man, let’s meet down at the bar!” I mean, I’ve seen that done a thousand times on…wait…what was the name of that one sitcom? Oh yeah, EVERY SINGLE ONE EVER MADE!!!! but it had never happened to me. I had very little idea about how I should act, not look stupid sitting at the bar, pretend to like sports, or any of that stuff. “What are the rules here? How do I order? Do we buy each other rounds of drinks like I’ve seen on all those sitcoms? That seems like it would get pretty expensive. Is there some kind of code or shorthand or clicking noise I should use to order? If I don’t will people find me out as a nerd and throw me out? Oh the anxiety!!!!!!!!”
And we’re back in. To be clear, Ian wasn’t drinking too much at all. Like I said, we were there for several hours, once I got over my initial awkwardness, that is. I would say he was drinking at quite a reasonable pace, but he sure felt like a drunk when his Long Island came up and I was still choking down my now-warm ale.
But he shouldn’t have. I’m not trying to pass judgement on anyone who does or doesn’t drink. As long as you’re being safe and relatively reasonable I say go for it! But I’m trying to highlight the difference in my own experience here. I didn’t go crazy and get drunk when I turned 21. In fact, I didn’t even start enjoying beer a little until about 4 years after that. And it wasn’t until the last 6 months or so that I could order a cocktail without making a sour face and trying to trade it with one of the girls for their fruity slushy drinks with the umbrellas. And now here I am at my 30th birthday party enjoying more than a couple cocktails, and actually enjoying them by the way (the Sidecar was my favorite).
I’m noticing how tastes and opinions change as you grow and get older. What was once such a huge deal to me now isn’t any more, and what at one time was inconsequential now I value a great deal. I’m not talking just about alcohol consumption of course, but just how as time goes on our attention and priorities shift around. I would have never dreamed at 20 years old that I would ever enjoy alcohol, or move away from my home town, or have a cat, or have TWO cats, or any number of things that I couldn’t imagine not being in my life now. And it really makes me wonder where my focus is going to shift next.