How Do You Figure Your Life Out at Seventeen and a Half?

You don’t.

As of two days ago (May 14th), I finally made seventeen and a half orbits around the sun. As of now, I only have almost six months left of relishing in songs about being seventeen (my personal favorites being Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl by Broken Social Scene and Nørgaard by The Vaccines). The last three weeks have been somewhat of a whirlwind for me, and this essay is my attempt to make peace with everything I’ve felt in the last three weeks.

I graduate from high school in three weeks, and it’s only come to light how many opportunities I missed out on in four years. I feel increasingly bitter in class now when I realize how, most likely, not a single guy I’ve liked in the last two years probably liked me in any way close to how I felt for them. I want to fall apart when I think about how the dreams I had for college since I was twelve ended up in my hands, and four days before the national deadline to commit to a school, those dreams fell apart in a single email I read in the middle of English class.

I feel as if the problems I feel now represent what the age of ‘seventeen and a half’ is supposed to feel like. Seventeen and a half feels like the bridge between being the naïve and carefree aspect of seventeen years old, but also feeling the pressures and expectations of deciding about your future at the ripe age of eighteen.

To me, my anger towards my fleeting crushes and infatuations on random guys represents what being seventeen is supposed to be like: carefree, in-the-moment, and a lesson to learn going forward. Having to pick myself up from realizing that I couldn’t go to my dream school, despite getting in, even when I had already made plans and dreams for years before, and making myself make the best next decision for my future makes me feel more mature than seventeen, for once. (Note, I had ran out of class twice in two different periods to cry in empty bathrooms, and cried once more in my middle school friend’s bedroom and bathroom later that day because I don’t take well to mourning dreams that were so tangible).

I’m not trying to say that I’m the most mature human being ever or anything; I’m only trying to say that being seventeen and a half is a whirlwind of a phase. You go one day with your stomach doing flip-flops because a cute boy smiles over at you before school, and the next day you’re forced to make a decision that impacts your entire future education and career under a tight time restraint, and in the moment, you feel like that choice only has unfavorable choices.

I feel stifled by how much I end up caring about my stupid feelings about boys, but at the same time, I’m so ready to grow and go experience every big city in the damn world already. And maybe that’s the beauty of being seventeen and a half: you allow yourself to indulge in the carefreeness of it all, but you are also right around the corner from growing up and changing your future.

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Irine Le
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In the words of the wise Josh Lyman, Irine is a “paranoid Berkeley feminista.” She dreams of backpacking through Scandinavia and seeing Florence + The Machine live one day. Maybe both at the same time.

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