By Ashley Quiah
In Seventeen, I explore the ups and downs of being seventeen years old. From the pressure to be “perfect” to what I wish we had more of.
I was born on November 19, 2003 at 12:51 p.m. Seventeen years later, I turned seventeen. With a tick of the clock, I became an “adult.” Responsible, mature and capable of anything I set my mind to.
And while I know all those things to be true, I also know that I still sleep in my parent’s bed sometimes. That I still pick out the marshmallows in Lucky Charms, I still watch Spongebob Squarepants reruns and I still drool onto my teddy bear every night. Seventeen is really young but it can also feel really old. But I don’t blame that on us.
Flashback to fourteen-year-old me. I was five feet tall and stumbling into the wrong classrooms. At the same time, I was expected to take college classes and think about what I would be doing in ten years. Everything became blurry, not just without my circle shaped glasses on, but with the tears that filled my eyes every night from not being able to complete an assignment. All of a sudden, I began to think I wasn’t smart enough. I thought I would fail all my classes and wouldn’t get into a good college. And so, I desperately search for the answer.
For a seventeen year old, the internet is a blessing and a curse. It’s a gateway to test answers, good music and cats crawling up stairs. But it’s also the doors to hell, with insecurities, bullies and sleeping problems waiting on the other side. But as draining as it is to stare at a screen for hours, everything else feels like too much. From the second I get out of bed and off my phone, a thousand boulders crash down on me. So I sit in the noise that fills my earbuds and watch videos with no end.
But that’s not what being seventeen should be about. Being seventeen should be about learning to drive. Having movie marathons with people you trust more than anything. It should be about picnics on grassy fields, doing weird dances in supermarket aisles, going places a few blocks farther than what your parents allowed and getting into a little bit of trouble because it’s only healthy for a young soul.
Seventeen shouldn’t be what it is. Seventeen shouldn’t be crying yourself to sleep. Seventeen shouldn’t be living in constant fear of “failing.” Seventeen should be young and stupid and full of fun. Because seventeen is a great year and I want to soak up every ounce of joy it has to offer.
The inspiration behind this piece came from a desire to discuss the struggles we seventeen year olds face. Living through pandemic this past year, I’ve really come to realize how much of my teenage years I’m missing. Instead of going out and doing all the cliché things we watched in movies growing up, we are stuck inside, our brains rotting from hours spent on our phones. I felt an unbelievable amount of pressure as someone who is about to go to college but also someone who can’t get out of bed sometimes. I wanted to share my experiences of living in a society that expects too much from us, one that sometimes forgets we are still kids who are still figuring out life in a constantly changing world. I wanted this piece to be an homage to my seventeenth year of life so that I can look back at how I struggled to do my math homework so many nights but also remember the stomach-clenching laughter that filled the days that followed.
Ashley Quiah was born and raised in the suburbs of Queens, NY. She is currently a high school senior. She loves reading, doing yoga, and everything horror. Ashley plans to pursue Astronomy and English when she goes to college.