I will never be 17 again, and every time I remember this I feel sad.
This week I will turn 35; I am on the verge of lapping my 17-year-old self. It's hard to accept that I am travelling on a one-way ticket and bewildering that I will never make the return trip.
I am a high school teacher and spend my days steeped in teenagedom. This might partially account for my attachment to 17, but I know there's more to it than mere proximity. What I miss about 17 is the giddy terror of considering the endless options fanned out before me and making the decisions that I was sure would lock in the trajectory of my life. What I miss about 17 is the shimmering novelty of humble endeavours like cooking a meal or driving to the store alone to pick up some milk. What I miss about 17 is velocity.
All of the time that I spend around teens reminds me that 17 isn't all promise and anticipation. To be sure, there is the heavy gray fear that you will somehow slip up and erase those options or bungle those choices so irrevocably that you will never recover. There is the quivering doubt that you will ever figure out how to look, act, feel or be right. There is the covert yearning to slam on the brakes.
Still I feel the pull of 17.
If I am lucky enough to see my seventies, to lap myself once again, I know that I will look back and see 35 burnished by time. The frustration that sometimes wells up out of seas of others' nagging, whining, questioning, needing will be replaced by the satisfaction of indispensability. The short-breathed rushing and stamina-sapping busyness will look more like high purpose. What feels stalled in the moment will reveal motion when viewed from a distance.
In those moments of frustration and cursing the rush, I try to tell myself that someday I will see it all in the rearview mirror, as I now do 17. I hope that at 35 my girls are lucky enough to be swept in the same swirl of nagging and tugging, rushing and running and that they'll invite me in for a return visit. Still I know that I should remind myself more often that it is all fleeting.
Because I'll never get back to 17, and with that realization I feel a stab of mourning.