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Only Seventeen

By , New Boston, NH
It’s time and I am not ready. My whole future is resting on this one decision. Just thinking of it, anxiety swells over me like a tidal wave. How do I decide? What if I make the wrong decision? I want to pick the best college, but what’s really best for me? Questions and doubts race through my mind faster than I can answer them. I barely even know who I am right now, let alone who I want to be, or who I will be. I’m only seventeen, what seventeen-year-old knows all that? Maybe I missed something - my friends and classmates know exactly what they’re going to be doing and where they are going to be in a year from now. How can they be so sure? I don’t trust myself to make such a crucial decision alone, and seeing my destiny in my own hands terrifies me.
My parents have taught me to be independent, to be mature and take care of things on my own. But up until now, I still haven’t had to make any decisions this big. I’m only seventeen; still a child. Young and inexperienced are words that come to mind when I am forced to make important choices on my own. A choice like where I want to go to college I should be prepared and excited to make, I’m just not at all.

Everything I’ve done since I learned about going to college has been to prepare for it. I’ve taken every advanced class I could get my hands on, joined every club that could help me grow, and on top of that I try to be the perfect friend, student, classmate, tutor, and daughter. My whole academic life has been leading up to this moment, and now that it’s here, none of those experiences are helping me to choose.

I thought I knew what I wanted in a college. Something small, but not too small. Something far away. Masters programs, study abroad, honors societies, music, clubs, and safety. It is amazing how many far away schools fit that description. To narrow my search I decided that my education is the priority, and it always has been, so I looked into competitive schools, and schools with big education major departments. I now stare at a smallish list of schools for hours on end, hoping and praying that one of them will be the right one; that I will absolutely fall in love with one. Everyone tells me that I will - but what do I do if that doesn’t happen?

Amid all this stress and these choices, a thought develops itself in the back of my mind. Maybe it’s not that hard of a decision, because maybe there is no wrong decision. Whatever path I choose to follow will help me to develop an identity, will help me become whoever I am supposed to be; I don’t have to know right now who that person is - I’m only seventeen.

I shouldn’t be so scared of making a mistake, I know, “mistakes are important to make,” and no matter what college I choose, whether or not it turns out to be perfect is really up to me. I just have to convince myself that no matter where I choose to go, I am making the right decision and I will have the best experiences possible. Colleges can’t make memories for me.

Another new thought struck me as I worried and wondered about college: maybe college won’t define me, maybe; just maybe, I already know who I am, and what I want. Maybe as I was making plans, life already started. I’m already seventeen. Through school and clubs and family and friends I’ve already experienced so much - learned so much, and I haven’t even been aware enough of it all to really appreciate everything that I’ve lived through. I’ve been living my life with tunnel vision, my eyes focused on a single goal – college, and now as I try to think about anything but college, the blinders come off and I can see so much more of who I am, where I come from, and where I want to go. College isn’t a goal or destination; it’s just another chapter of my life.

For a long time I thought that college would somehow define me as a person and give my life direction, but now I see what truly defines me. I am a friend, sibling, student, tutor, daughter, and leader - a seventeen-year-old. In my life I’ve performed on stage, I’ve delivered countless speeches, I’ve maintained a place in the top ten of my class, I’ve challenged myself and lived vivaciously. I am intelligent, confident, thoughtful, driven, grateful, and I am comfortable with who I am. How many seventeen-year-olds can honestly say that? On top of all this, I know what I want to do with my life. I want to see the world, I want to grow up a little and maybe fall in love; I want to help people: I want to teach in high school and then eventually at the college level. All that is left for me now, is to actually do it.

I know how self-motivated I am, and how much I influence and sometimes even inspire others. I know what I want to do with my life, I know what direction I want to go, but I have yet to take the first step - the hardest step - and choose. I’m standing at a crossroads with innumerable opportunities before me. Each college will lead me down a different path, into a different future, but I have to choose which one. Will I choose a college in Vermont, and keep close ties with my family, or will I go to Virginia and gain a little more independence? A competitive school might look great on job applications, but what will it do to my personality? What sacrifices do I make for a quality education? What a daunting decision, but a decision that I now know I can make. My life now has direction, but no fixed or set future. My life is in my own hands, and for once, that doesn’t scare me.





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