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Seventeen

When I was 17, I did the things that most 17 year olds do. I underlined books of poetry and novels. I spent hours making playlists and finding new music and choosing what concert to go to next. I wrote in a journal and plastered my walls with images and words that inspired me. I drove around aimlessly just to play the same song again and again, screaming the lyrics that meant the most to me. And, yes, unfortunately I also made those lyrics Facebook status quite often. I wasn’t cool or even unique, really, but I knew what I liked, what I wanted. I spent a lot of time staring out windows, letting the possibilities stretch out in front of me like roots, a million different ideas that could make up the system of my life if I let them.

A decade later, and I’m 27 in 2020. Today, I mostly don’t recognize 17-year-old me, but lately, I do find myself remembering how I felt then. How it felt to look at real life as something just around the corner, not quite in reach. Hungry for it. Greedy for it. Not quite at the end or the beginning of anything. Ready to do everything with nothing to do. To be 17 is to know that life will soon really begin, so until then, you put your energy into the things that make you feel most alive, no life experience or job titles or promotions or milestones or achievements required. For me, this meant prioritizing music and writing and reading. Imagination.

And really, I guess it’s no wonder that I feel especially inspired by all those things right now, too. I’m listening to more music than ever — often the same music that I loved when I was 17. Making playlists based on seasons and moods and feelings. I’m writing more than ever just for the sake of writing — even if I’m not getting paid to do it or sharing it with anyone at all. I often feel moody and frustrated, angry without knowing exactly why. But it also feels good to reconnect with 17-year-old me, to remember that there was another time in my life when real life (one bursting with travel and new faces and concerts and change) felt just out of reach.

As much as it often makes me cringe to think of myself a decade ago now (why, oh why, did I like Garden State so much?), I also think I had more figured out then than I gave myself credit for. I wasn’t ashamed then to respect the things that made me feel like me. Even if they weren’t practical. Even if they weren’t productive. Even if they weren’t flashy or unique or cool. All those playlists. The long drives. The novels and journals. They were holy to me, then. They helped me feel like me when everything else was stripped away, when it was impossible to tell if a real, full, vibrant life was just around the corner or a million miles away. And now, they are again.

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