What it was like turning 21 during a pandemic

By Cierra Southard
March 7, 2021

Of course the year that I turn 21 years old on a Friday, the perfect day to celebrate, would be the year a global pandemic would take over. Just my luck. 

Wishful thinking had me hoping that most restrictions would be lifted by October.

I have been thinking about this day for years. Did I want to go to Las Vegas to celebrate? Miami? Nashville? New Orleans? Unfortunately, having a destination birthday celebration was no longer an option for me.

Due to the pandemic, it made it very difficult to travel out of state. A Nashville birthday was no longer attractive to me. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to experience the city and nightlife of downtown Nashville to its full potential, and I didn’t want to ruin my experience with unrealistic expectations. I decided to put the trip on hold until it was safer. I wanted to wait until I would be able to capture all of the experiences I had always fantasized about. 

I had dreamed about using my ID for the first time, handing it to the bouncer and giving me the go-ahead. But with bars and clubs closed, there wasn’t a bouncer to hand it to. 

So, what was I going to do now?

Luckily for me, my boyfriend, my cousin and two of my best friends still made my day extremely special.

My birthday cupcakes with shooters on top for my closest friends to enjoy. Photo by Cierra Southard

I had a small party at my boyfriend’s house to celebrate with my closest friends, being as safe as possible due to the protocols in place. I am very appreciative for my boyfriend and his other three roommates for allowing the bottom portion of their house to be taken over for my 21st birthday party. 

As I was still in class and preparing for the night, everyone was hard at work decorating the house, making drinks and creating a birthday playlist to be played throughout the night. 

As soon as you walked in, you saw 21 written out in jello shots. Cheers! Photo by Cierra Southard.

When I walked into the house, there was an “entry fee” of one shot to be able to “enter.” There was a balloon arch above the entryway into the living room, a backdrop where we took pictures and a table to play games. They even had jungle juice that was made with a fraternity recipe (I don’t recommend it.) They really went all out for me!

My cousin gifted me a champagne bottle covered in gold glitter for me to pop at midnight, and as well as a confetti cannon to be released. She also made me a hangover kit for the morning, including water, Tylenol, makeup remover wipes, a Dunkin gift card to recharge, etc. This was extremely helpful and made the morning after a little more bearable. 

All the things needed for the morning after. Photo by Cierra Southard.

Pro-tip, don’t pop a bottle of champagne inside the house and then pop a confetti cannon, or else you will be scrubbing the floors with acetone. I learned this the hard way. 

This wasn’t the bar or club experience that I had been waiting for on my 21st birthday, but I still had an amazing time and the night was successful in every way possible. I laughed. I danced. I drank. I spent time with friends. What else could I want in those moments?

My birthday celebration continued throughout the weekend, where I had dinner with both sides of my immediate family. I am the firstborn of my family, so it was special that they were still able to do something for me.

My best friend and cousin made my 21st birthday the best it could be. Photo by Cierra Southard.

Even though my original plans for my birthday were put on hold, it made me extremely grateful for the people that I have in my life. Through this experience, I learned that it is not about materialistic things and having the best of the best. Sometimes, it is just about having the best people around you who make it even better.

So, cheers to hoping 22 is better than 21!

Cierra Southard

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