Seventeen

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Fall 2008, the first day of school. The high school has gathered in the gym, each grade sitting separately. A boy, tanned, wearing Nantucket red shorts and a striped polo walks gallantly on to the stage.
HUGH: Alright everyone, welcome, welcome. I’m Hugh, president of the Student Council. You guys a little nervous? (points to a boy in the crowd) You, yep I can feel it. I mean, I’m nervous too. It’s a new year, very exciting, very exciting.
A freshman girl sits in her section. She knows nobody, and has a look of complete fear. If one were to guess what she was thinking, it would be, ‘where the hell am I?’

Being seventeen is like being the freshman on the varsity track team. You’re supposed to be good enough to play, but not better than the seniors or cocky about it. You’re supposed to prove yourself but not already been proven. At this point in my life I go to school each day to make a statement about myself and my ability. I spend every minute telling the people around me that I, unlike them, do not question myself. That I am proud of myself and that I am going to go far. I spend every day of my life lying.
It wasn’t like this as a sophomore or a freshman. School was something I just did. I went, I took classes, I came home. I played a bit of tennis, went to a couple dance classes. As a junior, I’m expected not to just go to dance classes, but lead them. I was not a person the first two weeks of the semester, but a signature. Every email got a response with ‘I’d be happy to join!’ or, ‘here’s my application!’ In October, when I was on a varsity sport, attending writer’s seminar, dancing at a studio, applying for the literary arts journal, on student council, and attending meetings for the newspaper’s new website, I had to force myself not to sign up to be Laksh’s assistant for his own online journal. Every signature was a badge on my chest, I am Sophia and I am doing well.

I sit in my college meeting trying to be modest. Do I smile when she asks how my grades are? No, because then it’ll be awkward when she says I need more back ups. In Physics, when Anna asks me what colleges I’m visiting, do I say East Coast and West Coast, or will that seem like I don’t know. Because I do know what schools I’m interested in, I just don’t know if they feel the same about me. When Alya, the senior I’m friends with, tells me on the way to coffee that she got rejected by Wesleyan, can she tell that my silence is fear of my own failure, not hers. Does that make me selfish? At age 17, how can I prove myself when it isn’t up to me. I can be proud of myself, but that won’t make anyone else feel the same. And being too proud isn’t really a choice either.

I sit in my bed on Saturday night, writing on age, race, sexual orientation, or culture. My life right now is not affected by any of the factors but age. I have no time for my sexual orientation, I am devoid of culture, and my race is the same it’s always been. I read my messages from last night: 12:30 AM: MY MOM IS SUCH A BZ. SHE STARTED A CONVERSATION WITH ‘ARE CLAIRE’S GRADES BETTER THAN YOURS’. I read the responses, ‘just yell and yell and yell and then she can’t say anything’ or ‘you’re grades aren’t shit, Sophia’. I feel the tug of innocence and the tug of independence. I hear her voice from last night in my ear ‘I spend all day making sure you don’t have to live with someone else next year Sophia. Grow. Up.’ I sit in my bed on Saturday night and feel my age taking off without me. This isn’t how I imagined being seventeen would feel.

I stand now, in front of the student body. I wear a tight skirt and high boots, my hair pulled away from my face. Mr Chodl, our Dean of Students is in front of me. Holding the microphone he makes an announcement, ‘and now we have our new vice president, Sophia’. The crowd applauses. I hear Hannah’s voice, loudest of them all ‘YEAH SOPHIA YOU GO GIRL’. I catch Evan’s eye, I smile. Sometimes being seventeen you can feel like your life is ending. Like no matter how hard you try, you won’t be good enough. Like you’ve already screwed yourself up and now there’s no way out. And then sometimes you realize it’s just begun and you’re doing fine.





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