You were a good year. In fact, you were a great year. You came with new joys and uncharted territories, new friendships and great awakenings. There were hardships and trials, and a fair share of sufferings and pain. (I’ll admit that most of my “sufferings” were just super dramatic text messages, but it was suffering all the same for me.)
But here’s the thing, 17.
You and I have some talking to do.
Because while you were great, you actually were a bit exhausting. You still are exhausting, all these years later.
And I’m finally ready to let you have it. You, me, this keyboard. Because once I get everything off my chest as I finally blame you for the horrible residue in my heart, I can finally move on.
I can finally be free.
And I desperately want to be free from you, 17.
I remember turning 17 and literally thinking, “you will be an amazing 365 days.” I am not young and stupid anymore, no not me. Finally able to see R-rated movies, and no longer seated at the “kid’s table” for Thanksgiving. But not quite an adult where I have to make adult decisions and live with adult consequences. Or so I thought.
Young and free and fearless with the world at my fingertips, that’s what I was.
Until I believed a boy who told me he would love me until forever died.
Until I trusted a boy who said he knew what he was doing as he asked me to take off my clothes.
Until I let a boy penetrate my soul with his empty promises.
You see, 17, it really felt right when we talked the big talk. It really seemed normal for me to promise my life to him. It was easy to say the words “soul mate” and do the things that soul mates do. And that’s what soul mates do, right? Sex? And it really did feel like everyone was doing it.
Oh, 17. Not everyone is doing it.
Dear 17, I hated a large part of you. I hated the guilt and the quiet shame. But mostly I hated how you tricked me into giving away everything, leaving me to only feel like he loved me when we were alone in my bedroom. I hated how big you felt, how largely present you were in every room and at every alarm clock noise. You were so dramatic with your open-ended questions and your unsolicited feelings. Your passion was like a wooden rollercoaster with its ups and downs, none of it comfortable. You were wet with ultimatums and secrets kept. I could have drowned myself in the thick wetness of your vulnerability and emotional nudity. Hands grasping at every flicker of something that could possibly even resemble love, I waited for any opportunity to feel safe in his arms. I flailed and flopped back and forth into that stupid sexual relationship, because it was something that I could hold onto, even just for the moment. You gave me something to hold onto. I bathed in the vastness of the thick, wet, emotions you were.
And sometimes, 17, you were so dry it was hard to grip anything at all.
So why didn’t you teach me better, 17? Why didn’t you prepare me for the impending betrayal of The Boy Called Love? Why didn’t you remind me that 17 is not the highest number I can count to, and that my big choices in life did not have to be made right now? Why didn’t you tell me beforehand not to make such stupid, adult decisions with real, adult consequences? How could you withhold from me the fact that it was going to feel like no one would ever love me again because of the stupid adult mistakes I made before I was old enough to make them?
I could have been spared so much pain, 17.
I could have avoided so much heartbreak, 17.
I thought I had to know everything, 17.
But the truth is, I didn’t need to. I didn’t need to make adult decisions because I wasn’t adult enough to make them. I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to decide who I could give my body to, my promises to, my life to. I absolutely was not adult enough to handle the depths of those emotions, nor the depth of the void they left once the boy decided to leave. And you know what 17? I think they almost always leave.
Dear 17, I don’t know if I want to yell at you, or envelop you in bubble wrap to protect you from all the lies in the world that say you aren’t enough of a woman until you sleep with a man.
And I don’t know if it’s really you that I’m mad at. Or if being mad will fix anything.
And I don’t think I’m finding any freedom from blaming you for the ridiculous path I chose to find love. I think freedom comes from truth.
Please hear me, 17. You don’t have to be who they say you have to be. And you most certainly don’t need to be promising forever to anyone. Not with your words, not with your actions, not with your body.
Dear 17, the truth is, you do not know what you need from a husband.
You do not know what qualifies a man to be entrusted with the tiny corners of your heart, or the places in your soul that bring out the tears that burn your cheeks.
You do not know what traits to look for in a man that make you sure of the kind of father he will be to your children because, my dear 17, you are still a child yourself.
Dear 17, you do not know what you need to be as a wife. You are in no shape emotionally to even grasp what it means to be married forever. No matter how developed you feel, I promise you that you will be different in several years. Life will be different in several years. How can you promise someone your whole life when you are 17? How can you know what the responsibility of that is?
So, 17, let’s put an end to this. Let’s make sure that all girls who are 17 realize the consequences of their actions. Let’s make sure that no more 17 year old girls get lost in the maze of sex without love, without deep commitment. May girls no longer give more away at 17 than they even knew they possessed.
Do not be afraid to be 17: free and young and fearless.
Do not feel like you need to figure anything out that’s beyond 17. You are just the way you are supposed to be. There is no sense in planning for tomorrow if it compromises how you enjoy today.
Do not forget to hurt, to feel, to bleed. Everyone hurts a little too much at times. But making life-altering decisions in the midst of that hurt is silly. It’s “kids table” silly.
If you mess up, don’t be afraid to learn from it and move forward. Some of your best characteristics will be solidified because they were chiseled away at through those mistakes. It’s what you learn from them that matters so look alive out there.
Hold onto the memories that you can, and watch the world spin on. It is a fun ride, and it is worth every drop of sweet and bitter.
Dear 17, you are pretty awesome. But you are not it. The best is yet to come.