seventeen

By , Wilsonville, OR
Seventeen teardrops later, and “The Last Song” has completely captured my heart. Not just the kind that well up in the bottom of your eyelid, daring you to feel something and make them fall, or to shut off your emotions and bring them back to where they originated from. I’m talking about teardrops that fall, one after another, down your chin, clinging to your face, and forming a puddle in that small indent at the base of your neck. That kind of teardrops. It’s surprising how fast they build up. That small puddle turned into a tiny lake, and eventually flooded down and moistened my sweater with a single tidal wave. Only seventeen tears.

Life builds up in the same way as those tears did. In sections of seventeen. Seventeen years old. That's me. I’ve got a grasp on what’s important to me and what I see myself doing, and when it’s appropriate for that to take priority over what’s important to everyone else and what they all want to see me doing. And I know when I have to think about their opinions before my own. I’m realizing that sometimes you really don’t know what’s best for you, and getting yelled at might be the only way you hear what you need to hear. I’m discovering ways to free my personality; removing chains and unlocking locks that I had misplaced the keys and forgotten the combinations. I’m living the simple joys of picking flowers and lying under the stars with someone that you care about. I’m understanding that it’s important to be complicated and uncomplicated at the same time – and learning how to find that balance.

Thirty-four years old. Just seventeen years has taken your life to somewhere you only dreamed about half a lifetime ago. I imagine that I’ll be married by then, to some guy that worships the ground I walk on. I know that sounds conceited, but he’s got to understand me and know that all I ever want to hear is, “you’re adorable.” I’ve got two small daughters – five and under. Their names are Lucy and Roxanne, well, at least that’s what I’d named them if I had to choose right now. Life is no longer about stargazing, wildflowers, and cotton dresses – it’s about finding a headband that matches Lucy’s dress for her first day of kindergarten, adoring that Roxanne has finally started to mumble words that might belong to a spoken language, and laughing at the pointless things that they do.


Fifty-one years old. Now my youngest is seventeen herself, and watching her dance through life so carelessly and with such a free spirit is like watching a reflection of myself twice her lifetime ago. Hopefully I’ve trained them all in ballet, tried to coax a beautiful voice out of each of them, and submerged them in classical violin and piano. I’ll regret never teaching Lucy how to knit, and never telling Roxanne that I thought she had the most beautiful soul. They’ve moved out by now; they’re figuring out life their own way, and I’ve got to lengthen the leashes that attach them to my life. I’ll hope that they’re presenting themselves in a respectful and classy fashion, and gray hairs will begin to pop up, each one associated with a moment I’ve spent worrying about my children. This time is full of regrets, wishes, and pondering about things that never came together, but it’s too late to make them happen now. It’s lonely, it’s sad, and it’s something no one ever wants to realize. But it’s one of the most important times in a person’s life.

Sixty-eight years old. Another pool of seventeen years has filled my surroundings with outdated wallpaper and furniture that my children, and even grandchildren, keep telling me to get rid of. I imagine I’ll be stubborn, I won’t be willing to give up my driver’s license, and I’ll continue to be self sufficient despite the odds. Old age is one of the most precious gifts that God graces upon our lives, but society can’t grow to appreciate its beauty. Wisdom, experience, and advice are the best things that I will be able to offer to anyone who wants to carry a small piece of my reality with them. Stress is gone; your hair is just as gray as it will ever be. Happiness slowly starts to return as you realize that, although you may not have accomplished everything you dreamed of fifty-one years ago, you have lived a precious and important life, and touched the hearts of many others.

Eighty-five years old. Many are not fortunate enough to make it to the fifth increment of life. If I am blessed with this final stage, I can imagine it will be spent under hand-knitted sweaters, sitting on a rocking chair and watching the ocean waves crash against the shore. As each wave slaps the sand, something I’m grateful for will slap into my mind. This is the time of reflecting. Evaluating your life, wondering if you really achieved everything that a person needs to feel. What do you regret? You can’t do anything to change it now, so rewind and find things that you are happy occurred. This is the time of slowly disappearing into the wind, whispering through the bodies of those that meant everything to you.

One hundred two years old. I know I won’t make it this far, and I wouldn’t want to anyways. This is the time of reappearing in shadows of your family, hiding in the clouds that inhabit their blue skies, aching at their misfortunes, and sending invisible hugs when tears roll down their faces. I’ll watch from above, run through the trees of undiscovered forests, and hope that I’m lucky enough to inhabit the world that I lived in once again, but this time as a spirit. A happy spirit that will try to spread that joy to those that need it most.

Of course, I’m only seventeen. I don’t know what’s ahead of me, and I wouldn’t want to know if I could. I don’t know anything, in the big picture. I don’t know anything about being thirty-four, fifty-one, sixty-eight, eighty-five, or one hundred two years old. I don’t know anything about families, growing up, or re-inhabiting the world as a spirit. But if I live the life that I think I deserve, it will unfold in sections of seventeen years. I wish for sorrow, happiness, romantic evenings lit by candles, anger, disappointment, blessings, midnight strolls through dimly lit parks, the joy that only children can bring, the wisdom of a full life, and everything else that any human deserves to experience. I wish for everything – except for the emotional barriers that some people choose to build. I wish to feel it all. I never want to be intoxicated with the idea that everything has to be happy. Life is beautiful – every piece of it. I hope I never forget that.





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