Nova Ren Suma’s 17 & GONE released this week! In celebration of her latest novel, published YA writers contributed posts to Nova’s blog about their 17-year-old selves. Since Nova’s the generous type, she also invited her readers to share what haunted us at 17.
On the surface, 17 looked awesome. A cute running back called me his girlfriend, I had my own car, lived in a big house in an economically uplifted suburb, made good grades, and was well on my way to being voted one of the Most Popular Seniors in my all-girls private high school.
But underneath? Utter fear.
I feared my parents’ impending divorce. At the same time, I was afraid they wouldn’t break up and make everybody miserable for the rest of their lives.
Going off to college scared me to death yet I’d never had a stronger urge to leave everything behind.
The intensity of being in love terrified me, but that reckless, free-wheeling, big-drop-on-the-rollercoaster feeling was an addiction I couldn’t shake.
Despite how pulled-together I appeared, I was a jumbled mess inside. Every day, I waited for someone to discover I was a fraud.
Despite the pounds that crept on as I stress-ate, the outrageous lies I told to excuse my boyfriend’s abusive behavior, and the bruises I hid, everyone believed I was okay.
Most of the time, I tricked myself into thinking I was.
With so many blessings, I knew I was lucky. I knew my family and friends loved me. Still, it felt like I wasn’t allowed to have problems. The only thing worse than appearing ungrateful is a girl from a well-off family complaining about how hard her life is.
17-year-old me was obsessed with hiding emotions I was positive no one else had. In my mind, fueled by expectations both real and imaginary, I thought I wasn’t brave, special, or worthy of attention. I believed that if good things happened it was only a result of someone else’s efforts and I just reaped the benefits.
I routinely distrusted my instincts: the tickling gut, the voice in the back of my head, the “spidey-sense” that alarmed when something wasn’t right. I willingly deflected those feelings with a shield of insecurities and doubts, too afraid of what would happen if I tackled them head-on.
If I could say anything to that girl it’s this: It’s okay that you weren’t ready to face your fears then. You did what was necessary to protect yourself. But you will conquer them one day. Just wait and see.