17 is an interesting age. It is nestled between driving age and adulthood, a prime number that is written using the numbers 1 and 7. You add 1 and 7 together you get 8. If you take the number eight and lay it on its side, you have the symbol of infinity. What does all this mean? Not a damn thing really. Seventeen connotes the last exhilarating steps toward the huge change into adulthood, the end of high school, when most of us have gotten laid for the first time. We need seventeen to be this little island in our minds that we can refer to when we want to reminisce about simpler times. Imposing sunkissed summer days on the number makes it even warmer and fuzzy to curl up in when the complexities of life as we know it turn our emotional skies gray. 17 is simply what we make it, regardless of the year.
I’ll gladly take the summer I was 34, the winter I was 22, or even one of numerous autumns. After all, the world was hardly simple at 17. If I wanted to kick back and have a drink with friends, I had to hop in the car with my buddies, wait outside a local bar for the first drunk to come out, and pay him to go back in and get us a case of beer. Then we would usually end up with a host of other likeminded teens around a bonfire on some patch of property we hoped wouldn’t be discovered by state troopers. Now I can simply go to a pub and meet my friends there. If I want to have a date come by, I don’t have to hope her parents let her out of the house, or at the very least don’t wait up too late so we can fool around in the living room after we return from the cineplex. Now I can simply invite someone over and just make sure the dog has gone for a thorough nature walk before she arrives for the evening. Oh, and if I get pulled over I don’t have to hope the varsity letter on my jacket can get me out of a ticket. I can drop 400 bucks in the hand of a pretty good attorney some of my friends have used if the gas pedal entices my foot to bear down at the wrong time.
I don’t mean to impose dark, brooding clouds over the good memories of the last steps of childhood, of course, but really, should a time in which individuals generally don’t know anything about living be canonized? Avenues of scary yet exciting change present themselves to us every day if we look hard enough for them. The difference is, we find them by actively making choices, not because pages of calendars are turned, then eventually taken down to be replaced by new ones.
I will be 38 tomorrow, and of course it is fall, but while I certainly know I don’t have my life, or life in general completely figured out, I’ve learned enough to realize what I don’t know, and what brings me satisfaction.
If you happen to see me blowing off work tomorrow heading for the beach, I’m not crazy. I just turned 17.