I remember being seventeen, and feeling both invincible and vulnerable at the same time. Seventeen is an in-between age, a fleeting midpoint between childhood and adulthood (the legal kind, at least).
For me, seventeen started in high school but ended in college. It was the year in which I began to notice that I could slip out between the bars of my cage, unnoticed. It was a year of heartbreak and cutting school and willfully doing what made me happy (writing) and compulsively doing what made me miserable (retracing others' footsteps) and tiring of crushes (because the feeling of being crushed really does get old) and worrying about college and speaking and living and loving bluntly (which is, incidentally, a way of causing oneself pain by trying to avoid it).
At seventeen, there was no struggle involved in putting on jeans. My chest was still flat (well, flatter). My hair was long and thick -- I could barely tie it up in a ponytail, it wanted to be free. I wondered if being told I was beautiful meant it could be true -- I didn't know how to see it in myself. I still couldn't tell the difference between a line and a genuine compliment.
The sky was bluer and much higher up, the sunsets more intense, inciting a keen sense of longing that would, in time, become muted. There were things to do but there were also things one shouldn't do, and the lines blurred. Blame seventeen. There was a someday, and it was waiting. It could wait. At seventeen, I was my best and worst self. So much possibility, so much cynicism. I knew everything and nothing.
And now? My daughter has just turned seventeen. I hope that the description above is completely foreign to her. I suppose teen angst is just part of the package, and I know that the heartbreak we experience as teenagers can make us stronger adults, but here's hoping that she knows herself better than I knew myself at seventeen, and that her heart remains whole.
Things That Shine, shares my birthday wish for my daughter.