My quarter-life crisis happened one night in Dublin. Well, maybe it was less of a crisis and more of a predicament. And maybe I’m too young for such an ordeal. But it was jarring and frustrating nonetheless.
Before arriving in Europe, I figured I would take a few trips, see a bit more of the world, and know that I’d grown as a person. But it turns out that figuring out who you are isn’t exactly a straightforward process.
I learned this the hard way two weekends ago. Naively, I had started to assume that all of Europe is like the Netherlands, where getting carded is the least probable thing to happen at the bar down the street from the Castle. My mindset thus far had essentially been, “Who needs America and its drinking laws? Europe knows I’m an adult.” So when my bravado and I tried to stroll right into one of the most popular bars in Dublin, I got the reality check I needed.
I had been telling myself that because I was capable of traversing Europe successfully and could survive by myself across the sea away from my family and closest friends, I was an adult. But one brief conversation with a Dublin bouncer proved I wasn’t done being a teenager just yet.
As my friends and I ducked into the bar, someone gripped my arm and separated me from the group. Gruffly, the bouncer asked how old I was, and, not believing I was 19 like I said I was, he asked for my I.D. Awkwardly, I explained I’d left it at the hostel, but promised him I was really 19. That didn’t go over very well.
I gave him a sheepish half-smile, but it was clear I was not getting into this bar. So I cut my losses, bowed my head, and ducked out of there as fast as possible, my friends and my dignity trailing behind me.
Instead, we found a wannabe version of a Johnny Rockets Diner and sat around, sullenly listening to the Beach Boys. I was embarrassed, feeling like a 12-year-old many miles from home. Sitting there, I found myself fixated on the dichotomy of being a young adult. I looked too young to walk into a bar without being questioned, but was legally old enough to get as drunk as I chose to — with I.D., of course.
The next night, my group and I went back out — with our I.D.s this time — to get into the bar. I’d swiped on some red lipstick and strapped on my heels for good measure. But after walking around the pub scene and eventually getting to our destination, we stood outside staring instead of going inside.
As I stood there, I realized that putting so much significance on a piece of plastic with my birth date on it wasn’t even worth it. Yes, legally, I could go order a drink in that pub, but I was tired of trying to prove something to people who didn’t even know my name. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a 19-year-old, I just see myself, red lipstick or not.
So, instead, I asked my friends, “Is anyone down to just go to McDonald’s and get a chocolate shake?”
And thus, my two nights in Dublin were spent laughing with my friends over milkshakes instead of getting drunk in darkened foreign pubs with strangers. And I was okay with that. Because, yes, I’m young enough to get carded, but I’m also old enough to make my own decisions. So what if that decision involved a McDonald’s chocolate milkshake? I was happy, and that’s really all you need at the end of the day, whether you’re in your hometown, Boston, or Dublin.