You spend your entire life waiting for it. Screw the bar mitzvah. Fuck graduation. The single milestone of life that actually matters hit me two weeks ago – and the difference between life then and life now is mind-blowing, to say the least.

For so long, I feared being 21. Casting away the cluelessness of mischief as a minor made me uneasy, as the reality of partying downtown, living the legal life and growing up in general set into the veins of my reluctant, 20-year-old self. College was fabulous, of course, but would a girl so entrenched in trouble by nature really make it in the big leagues of bar-hopping, digits-acquiring and alcohol-binging without anything holding her back? I was skeptical.

But since the reality of no longer being underage has set in, not only has my life been flooded with drama, scandal and copious amounts of fun, but for once in my life I feel completely in control of the decisions in my life and their consequences. Be they stupid, thoughtless or reckless beyond my better judgment, my all-the-wiser tendencies now surface without the guilt of knowing I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing. The control that normally escapes me as a curiously wild student at UCSB is at least backed up by the acquisition of my own confident, guilt-free convictions.

First and foremost is the simple joy of being carded by the cashier at Isla Vista Market and having the authority to say, “Why, yes! I’d be happy to show you my ID and get through without being arrested!” The pinnacle of I.V. independence, buying alcohol on your own definitely puts a dent in self-sufficiency, while making every aspect of party-planning a thousand times easier.

The downtown Santa Barbara scene is ridiculously different from the kegger-heavy DP atmosphere of Isla Vista. Though the entire ordeal, complete with glamming out in downtown-savvy outfits, figuring out modes of transportation and the concept of being tanked so many miles away from your home is a lot to embrace, having the power to saunter over to that hot bartender and order yourself a cosmopolitan makes all the trouble worth it.

But the best part about being 21 is the wealth of options it opens up for everyday living. An entire foreign world is out there that a na