Because This is My First Life
By Abena Wirekoh
This is a piece about being a seventeen-year-old. An ode to myself reflecting on the experiences of my teenage years while acknowledging some of my personal heroes.
Because I am 17 Because I am a female who is 17 Because the nights are restless and the days too short— Too short to live the fairytale life Of basketball games and walks along the beach Of dancing on rooftops and long nights spent partying Because the long nights are shared with lonely cries Cries of pain and anger for everything—Myself, school, parents, friends— Everyone And hatred for the world Filled with the tears of innocence Bathed in racism, sexism, classism, and every other ism Hatred for the world that suffocates me That binds me useless and helpless So I lay awake in bed As slow, sad songs play in the background As I reminisce on the times of childlike innocence When all was bliss with sprinkles of joy Until the sun ascends and my sleep descends Until my fears are romanticized away And the echoes of darkness are colored in pink and purple hues Because I am a 17-year-old Who is sometimes an adult And other times a child Coerced into the role that best fits the narrative When will I become an adult? When do I stop being a child? Is there a moment when one leaves childhood for adulthood? For all the troubles it brings? And for the termination of ignorance? Because I am 17 And I do not live a life of passion fighting for a grand cause Like Martin Luther King dreaming of liberation Fighting for the freedom of my brothers and sisters A life of standing my ground like Claudette Colvin Of taking my place in history Or a life of silence with my work stolen like Rosalind Franklin Plundered as my body lies beneath granite stone But because I am 17 and although I don’t march for a cause? Or sacrifice my youth for my country I have fought my own battles And persevered to be here Therefore my stories deserve to be heard, The stories of uncertainty and indecisiveness, The stories of my teenage years— As days whirl by, I sink into sloth And dreams bleach before my eyes, Drifting away, existing ... not living
Abena Wirekoh is a class of 2020 Girls Write Now mentee based in New York, NY.