Friday, February 21, 2014

On Being Seventeen

I always look back at 17 as being the best year of my life. I'm not really sure why, but I just remember being so full of life and so hopeful about everything. Life was bliss and nothing could touch me. I look back at that year as the time in my life when I was most alive. Not only could nothing touch me - I didn't let it - but nothing could stop me, either. The years before that, I was terribly shy, plagued with a deep depression and with suicidal thoughts. I had a close knit group of friends who I spent almost all of my time with. I watched every French indie film that I could get my hands on and I spent hours upon hours staring off into nothing and just thinking horrid things about myself and my life. This all started around the age of 10 and quit mid-way into my sixteenth year of life. I'm not sure what changed that I snapped out of it, but I did. And I turned 17 with some of the most joy and life that I've ever felt.

Just the other day, I found these photos on a forgotten file in my computer. They were taken when I was 17 by Wynona Grey and Reed Herreid of the now defunct street style blog Minneapolis Affair, commissioned for an article in a local magazine. I remember being nervous about taking these photos - and the feature itself - because up until then my blog had been held in utmost secrecy. My parents didn't know about it. I don't even think that my friends knew about it, or my boyfriend. It was my private place only read by people who didn't know me. I remember that when the article came out, everyone was impressed but I was pretty embarrassed. Most people didn't understand why I blogged. A lot of people thought that I believed myself to be self-important. My supervisor called me up to his office specifically so that he could make fun of me for it, striking fake model poses and pouting his lips. The guys who worked in the cash office taped the article up behind the bullet proof glass so all of my hundreds of co-workers could see. I kept a good sense of humour about it, but I remember feeling like I wanted to go hide in a cave. It was a feeling that I hadn't felt all the time that I was 17 - it was how I felt from the ages of 10 through 16. I bounced back from it of course, but I always felt a sort of shame about making my blog public to the people who actually knew me. 
As I said, I found these photos in a file just the other day and was shocked. 17! I cannot believe it. I was such a different person. I look back at these photos with a bit of bitter-sweetness. I was so young - look at those dark eyes, the shy smile, and the chubby little cheeks - but it was the time of my life when I felt most on top of the world. I look at these photos and remember the shame I felt about making my blog public, but I also remember the complete bliss of my seventeenth year of life. I look at these photos and there's a complete disconnect between that girl and the girl I am now. I can look at photos of me when I was 7 and feel a deeper connection than I do to the photos of me at 17. They're like looking at someone who's dead and long gone. The recent re-discovery of these photos has left me slightly haunted for the past few days. I've had trouble getting them out of my head. And so, I decided to blog a bit about being 17.

When I was 17, I was constantly flirtatious. I had a steady boyfriend at that time and I think I drove him mad because I was always playing games with other guys. I don't remember having particularly high self esteem during this time, but it was the first time in my life that men were giving me attention, and so I took it and ran with it. It was my own little form of entertainment even if I never went further than flirting and little games. I was very happy in my relationship with my boyfriend. It was not true love by any means, but he was a great companion and I was happy with him. He always seemed nice, though behind the scenes he was critical of me for being myself and he had a quick temper. Sometimes he'd scream so loud and angry at me, his entire face would be beat red and contorted. I was always a little fearful of his anger, but he never laid hands on me and in my eyes of being an invincible 17 year old high off of loving life for the first time in many years, that was all that mattered.
Like I said, I don't remember having particularly high self esteem back then. In fact, I had pretty low self-worth. It was the first time that anyone of the opposite sex fawned over me, and I let it become a huge part of who I was. But besides that new, unhealthy craving for attention, I was also very creative at 17. I baked cupcakes every week and worked hard to perfect my flourless chocolate cake recipe. I painted all of the time and I wrote stories of all the people who I was madly in love with. That was the year that my short story Jon was published in my university's undergrad lit magazine (side note: I started college at 16). I was so proud of that story, because it was a true story about a boy who I had fallen in love with, and this was how I was able to express that love. Jon was one of my many little love stories that I had pieced together from the feelings that flickered through me whenever I thought about him. This new found creativity was inspired by my deeply passionate love for this new, exciting life that I was living.

I was in school during this time - my second year of college - but I don't ever remember going to class. I think I had a lot of lectures that year (generals, ugh!) and I tended to skip a lot. I spent so much of my time going on adventures with my boyfriend. I didn't have many friends, my main friend group from high school having splintered off just months beforehand. But it was okay - I had a work family in my co-workers, and I spent my weekends driving around the Minnesota countryside with my boyfriend, hiking random trails, chasing cows down back country highways, and four wheeling through fields of wild prairie grass. I don't really remember ever being home during this time. I do remember having arguments with my mother about what an acceptable amount of time to be away from home was - is four days too much? I tended to just leave, not saying how long I'd be gone, and show back up days later with a pile of dirty clothes and my mind full of adventures and all of the crazy people I'd met.
In the summer, I slept under the stars as often as I could. Even when I was home in the city, I'd lay in the yard and stare up at the stars until I felt fully ready to sleep in my own bed, lonely without the night sky above me and without waking up in a bed of morning dew. In the countryside, you'd fall asleep with the grass tickling your face and with the sounds of coyotes howling around you, and even sometimes a horse stirring or an owl hooting.
I remember taking really long showers - sometimes more than one a day - and loading up on Wavy Watermelon 3-in-1 body wash. Then I'd get into my pajamas and lay on the couch watching movies all day before a jump in the lake, a ride on the four wheeler, and a bonfire in someone's backyard. Being 17 has so many sounds and smells attached to it. And feelings, like as in touch. It's not just all emotions and memories - it's actually things that I can still feel and smell and hear, being instantly transported back into those wild times when I was completely invincible, feeling like nothing could pull me down.

It's not as if I'm some old prude now. I have my fun, but it isn't anything close to what it was like being 17. I look at my seventeenth year with great happiness, but I also look at it with a sadness. The reason that I was so blissfully happy was because I was lying to myself and ignoring important things. I had experienced a traumatically violent relationship at the age of 16 and, being fresh from that, I chose to ignore it and enjoy life without any deep emotions. I got sucked into the attention I drew from men, forgetting to have any respect for my own mental health. Shortly after turning 18, I experienced another traumatic event that forced me to prioritize my mental health - and reflect on what happened to me at 16 - taking away from my free ability to ignore the bad things and enjoy the in-the-moment sensations of every day life. I'm working to find a balance. My last boyfriend helped me to begin enjoying those moments of life again - those moments of youth and invincibility, those moments of being there completely, mind detached from the body, your senses free to control all feeling - but it's something that I'm still working towards. Having my boyfriend leave my life made me realize how much he helped free my body from my mind, but it doesn't mean that I can't still work on finding that balance. I don't ever want to be 17 again, but I do miss how alive my senses were, how I laughed without care, how I sought adventure constantly, never feeling settled, always wanting to explore more, discover more, feel more...


  1. I am in a crowded bar reading this and it brought a smile to my face. It made me think of when I was young.

  2. Oh 17. There is nothing like it.
    It's funny, I'll stare at my Senior picture once in a while (taken the summer before, when I was still 17) and I have the same feeling -- That girl is so far away. I don't really remember her that well. I do know that I was a terribly inconsistent friend, an okay girlfriend sometimes (I think?), and terribly awfully lonely.
    Man, I was a jumble of emotions back then too. I certainly feel much more comfortable in my skin at 24.

    Ugh, it hurts my heart that your boss and coworkers would make fun of you! Cool that you were featured though, were it not overshadowed by that awful behavior. I'm impressed that your photos always looks so consistently fresh. Bit o' style blogger envy over here, not going to lie -- I do style for a living and I can't pull the trigger on outfit posts for myself. How silly.

    Love the new blog btw! A new chapter, with room to grow.

    Hope all is well post-Uni!

  3. I really loved reading this post. It reminded me of the fun I had when I was 16/17 too. I feel like a lot of girls get hooked on attention from guys at some point - especially when it takes a while to happen. It's part of growing up, I guess! I often wish I still felt youthful and had fun like I did back in high school.
    Also you had some awesome outfits on in these shots. I love them! You look so cute! It's super lame that your co-workers made fun of your blogging though. That just makes me sad that people feel they need to do stuff like that and bring people down.

  4. I've never felt so able to relate to a post before. One of the best ages of my life was 16. Sort of like how you'd just gotten out of a traumatic relationship, my house had burned down the summer before so 16 was really an awakening age for me. I had gotten over the sobbing/coping of losing my home and I realized that life is unpredictable. I became close again with friends who I'd sort of drifted away from after the fire and I had two boys who liked me quite a lot for the first time in my life. I was more in touch with my creative side; keeping a journal, taking guitar lessons, etc. And I was so fearless with my style; always trying to mix and match my clothing and dress how I wanted.

    But, like how you said, I look back on it with happiness and sadness too. It was a great year of my life and I wish I was like that person again in some ways but at the same time I was more easily influenced and had lower self-esteem as well. I also think that it's easy to look back at years of our lives and think that things back then were better but in the moment, not everything was great. I had plenty of not great moments when I was 16, but overall, it was one of the best years of my life so far, for sure.

    Anyway, sorry I ramble so much! Your post just really reminded me of how I feel about that year of my life, but I think we both have even better years ahead of us, years that will beat how we felt at 16 and 17.

  5. And to think this was only 3/4 years ago. You'll notice this will happen alot, you'll look back at photos and think "God that was the greatest time of my life" and all the emotions that go with it, and you will question the crap out of it on how you where able to be in that state of mind. I know I do/did. Even smells get me sometimes. I think everyone goes though this at some point and everyone is different. I'd say my greatest year was 23. That was the best year of me having fun with life, and 25 was the best year of figuring out what I really wanted in life (people included), anyways great post! I love being reminded about the past and reflection on it.

  6. This whole post really resonated with me. I'm 17 right now. I guess I can say I experienced something similar - I was in a really crappy abusive relationship for the entirety of age 16 and reading this made me realize how casually I've been looking at life since I escaped it. I'm definitely much happier with myself and my life, but I wonder how deep that happiness goes. I've noticed myself being more concerned with the attentions of men (who are just now starting to pay more attention to me) and I feel really dumb for it. I wonder how I'll look back on this year when I'm older.

  7. Your supervisor should have been suspended for that kind of behaviour

  8. Its always interesting to see why some of the best years of our lives are often connected with bad things.

  9. I really enjoyed reading this. It's a nice look back into the past, something we should all do every now and then. I tend not to look back before the age of 19-ish because it just hurts too. But we learn to leave some of the past behind and learn that other bits can be fondly remembered.

    ~ K

  10. Reading your recollection of 17 definitely brings up my own memories. That was not a good year for me, but there are some good things that ache.

  11. loved reading this. sounds like such a whimsical time (sleeping under the stars!? gah!!) and it's awesome that you can re-count these memories so vividly. also, cutteeee pictures :)

    ♥ perfectly PRIYA


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