‘When I was seventeen’ sounds like a plaintive yet jolly Ed Sheeran song and maybe this is a bit like that. Blasting about castles on hills ( Love that tune really. Watch the Tune if you fancy a soundtrack to this tale). Like Ed, I am feeling retrospective. Nostalgic? A tad. I turned 37 recently. 37 is not quite 40 so I am not quaking, yet it is sufficiently far enough away from 25 to make me older which is scary. The massive marker for me is the fact that 20 years ago I turned 17. 17 was a milestone for me in many ways and to think it was 20 years ago…wow.
Aged 17, I was approaching my Leaving Certificate. I studied really hard until the final three weeks whereupon I was set upon by lethargy and despondency. I still did quite well. This means I started college at 17 and finished my degree by the time I was 20. Mentally and emotionally I was a toddler. It was like sending Rugrats’ Chuckie to college. I had the smarts, I loved books and reading but the real world was a major challenge. I spent most of my college days furtively slinking about the concourse, searching for an elusive lecture hall, stomach growling in time to mixed tape tunes spitting out indie ballads on a fizzing Walkman.
Princess Di died when I was seventeen. I was so caught up in my delayed teenage angst bubble, having spent the summer working away from home in a live in hotel, that I hadn’t heard the news until my mother told me. It was a week later. I was so out of the real world that I hadn’t even realised! This is being seventeen. Being oblivious. Where were you when you found out Princess Diana died, they ask. Indulging in my introspective bubble, I say. Searching for myself!
Music is pivotal for the seventeen year old. I had moved on from the younger days of Oasis, Blur, Pulp and was now fazing out to repeatedly rewound hearings of The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony. I walked in stony faced, Richard Ashcroft style again and again, going God knows where. Wherever I went, it was directly. Like Ashcroft.
Natalie Imbruglia (Torn) and All Saints (The Beach) featured strongly. Seventeen meant I still loved my rock music of the early nineties but I was beginning to feel more. I wanted meaning. Music knew this. Music gave me lyrics full of yearning and chords that flipped at my heartstrings like a practised violinist. No wonder I missed poor Diana’s death. I had my earphones on.
I never drank water in 1997. I swear. Bottled water was hysterical to me. Why pay for what was free?! Coke was my drink. Water was too watery was my childish reason to forego said fluid. Therefore I was largely dehydrated most of my youth hence headspins and dizziness, fatigue and the shakes. I had no clue that this was due to a lack of water! That was seventeen for me. My teenage angst was fixable with H20.
Coffee tasted yuck to me. Now it is my life juice. The difference between 17 and 37. The difference being I am tired from responsibilities and not just growth spurts.
In 1997 I was size ten and thought I was huge. In 2017 I am several stone more than that and sometimes think I look OK. That is the difference in twenty years. You get used to yourself.
So, at 37 I am happier than I was at 17. I am content with life choices, more confident and relaxed with my self image. Like The Sunscreen Song warns us, I didn’t appreciate youth when I had it but I really don’t think I would do it differently. 17 was hard work.
I mean, I was really thirsty. I got that sorted. Only took twenty years.
By the way, when I was 17, I wanted CDS (the latest thing) for my birthday and clothes. Levis. For my 30th I wanted sleep, time to read and a day at a spa. 17 year old me would laugh out loud upon hearing this and then recoil into a cynical, overthinking, daydreaming fantasy world.
Who says we don’t change?