s e v e n t e e n

When I turned sixteen, I wrote about sixteen lessons I had learned through sixteen years. Another year has come and gone, so here are seventeen lessons learned through seventeen years. I have a hunch that reading my writing as I grow older will be thought-provoking at best and hysterically funny at worst. But maybe hysterical isn’t so bad. Hopefully I’ll read these someday in the future when I need a good laugh.

Here we go.

i. I benefit from a very privileged upbringing in a society that rewards whiteness and having money. I have never experienced true poverty and have lived a very comfortable life. My family is incredibly stable and supportive. I have never been physically abused. I have so much to be grateful for in only seventeen years. With these blessings, I believe it is my duty to listen to the voices of those who have not been as lucky and try to better comprehend their stories. Listening is equally as powerful as speaking, and taking a step back to understand the advantages I have (but don’t necessarily deserve) has given me perspective.

ii. With my biases and privilege in check (hopefully, but probably not), feminism is so incredibly important to me. I want to be taken seriously when I give my opinions on baseball because I am generally knowledgeable in this subject. I want to stop hearing “girly” be associated with weakness. I want leaders to condemn sexual assault instead of making excuses for the aggressors. I want victim-blaming to end. I don’t want to see another girl told her shorts are distracting to the boys in school. I don’t want anymore young girls to be sexualized. I don’t want to hear that girls aren’t funny. I don’t want to hear it. I want to be treated with respect because I am a person. Women are people and deserve the respect, recognition, and opportunities that men have had since the beginning of humanity. And no, I do not find this to be an unreasonable request.

iii. Perfection is not the goal. Props to my anxiety counselor/therapist for clueing me in on this one. I’m still figuring out what the goal should be, but I’ll get there.

I call this one, “Flattering Angle”

iv. Parks and Recreation might be the greatest television series ever. At least, it’s the one that has brought me the most joy. There is no shame in watching a Leslie Knope feminism moment to cheer myself after a crappy day.

v. Tranquility and calm are more attainable than happiness. Sometimes I get upset because I am a person and have emotions. I can’t control unpleasantries throughout the day, but I can choose to remain internally peaceful despite the world around me. (I’ll get there.)

vi. Being passionate is so much more enjoyable than being apathetic. Being engaged and excited is cool. Effort is cool. Effort is valuable. Nerdiness is fun and positive and should not be discouraged.

vii. If there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish every task, you are doing too much. If you can’t do everything, don’t do everything. It sounds like complete common sense when I say it, but I promise you, for years I could not figure out why I didn’t have time to finish every task and sleep for six hours. Apparently, playing two sports, being class president, taking advanced/honors classes, being involved with two other school clubs while also maintaining an active social life and keeping a job does not happen. Apparently. If I knew this when I started high school almost three years ago, things might not have been so rocky. I suppose that’s the point of growing up, though. You can’t know better until knowing better is useless. I’m still working on internalizing this.

Do I need to establish that this giraffe was from the Smithsonian? Maybe. Do I look like someone who knows copyright laws?

viii. It’s okay to outgrow friendships. As I grow up and change, other people grow up and change too, and it doesn’t always happen in parallel directions. It is also possible to grow apart as friends but continue to be pleasant acquaintances.

ix. I do not owe anyone anything and I really need to stop doing things for other people that end up only making me miserable.

x. Anxiety is not uncommon. It’s irrational thinking. It’s like a programming glitch in my head that I just can’t get past, but it’s not my fault. I do not intentionally make myself anxious. It happened. This is one of the few bad cards I’ve been dealt, and I can deal with it.

xi. There are some people with whom I will never see eye-to-eye. I can take their opinions at face-value and continue my life unaffected. (I know this is possible, at least. Have I figured out how to live it? No. I’ll get there.)

xii. Taking care of yourself is kinda important. When I say kinda important, I mean vital. Listen to your body! Be healthy because your body deserves to be healthy. I am powerful and worthy and this should be a priority. You are powerful and worthy, I promise.

xiii. I do not have to automatically be a 100% adult right now. In fact, I do not think I am capable of being a 100% adult right now, but that’s okay! Because I’m only seventeen! No one has everything together! Adults don’t even have it all together, so there’s no reason I should be a completely responsible adult at age seventeen.

xiv. Loving art (traditional art, music, writing, books, musicals, even televisions shows) is so incredibly fulfilling, but sharing a joy like this with someone else is indescribable. Read the book your friend loved so much. Watch the video, listen to the song your friend sent you, because they only want to share in the joy and enthusiasm of loving things.

xv. Writing feels like taking a deep breath after struggling with shallow inhalations for months. Writing makes you happy. I hope I write more in the coming year.

xvi. Living fully and deeply isn’t always easy but is always the most rewarding.

xvii. Being sixteen was really fucking hard. I spent the majority of the time stressed or having panic attacks or stressing about panic attacks. However! I am through. I made it through the year alive. I’ll be okay. I’ll have a nice life. I’ll have nice memories. I’ll always be a fighter. I’ll always care very deeply. I’ll always be Grace, and I’ll get there.