What I Was Doing When I Was 17

When I was 17, I was not a girl, not yet a woman. I listened to Juliana Hatfield and Le Tigre in my bedroom and pretended I was a riot grrrl from the nineties. Some things never change.

When I was 17, I was obsessed with being a teenager. 17 was the age I always wanted to be and as far as I was concerned, I was a Professional Teen Dream. I watched Crazy/Beautiful four times in one week once because it involved my two favorite things: 17-year-olds and hot mexican boys.

When I was 17, I was writing things like this in my Livejournal:

today, i’ve been learning how to feel again. im getting inspired. i finished a doll’s house. fantastic. i also listened to my favorite song of all time, “Wild Horses” by The Sundays on repeat. & i tried to cry for every friend, every family member, every experience that i felt got away from me. i couldn’t cry but i feel alot less numb. more awake and focused. im going to get my shit together & im going to find my way back.

When I was 17, I had my first kiss and first blowjob with someone I couldn’t stand. Three weeks later, I lost my virginity to someone I actually could stand. It didn’t feel like I was moving fast. It felt like I was simply making up for lost time. When you’re 17, you just want someone to take your virginity ASAP. It’s like a game of hot potato. “Get it off of me. I don’t want it!” Whoever the potato/your virginity lands on, must have sex with you. It’s the rules.

When I was 17, I listened to Interpol, The Smiths, and Yeah Yeahs a lot. I wore sunglasses over my real glasses and thought no one could notice. I wanted to be alternative and indie and wear lots of shirts from Suburban Outfitters. I thought wearing $60 shirts that read “Sam’s Video Hut” meant you had good style and that you were doing things right. But when you’re 17, the right things are often the wrong things.

When I was 17, I was barely home because I hated my family.  The only person I got along with was my father but he lived an hour away. I couldn’t imagine a time when I would get along them. I couldn’t imagine a time when I would willingly want to be in the same room as my brother or mom.  It’s hard to have perspective at seventeen. Things are just beginning to stick to your memory and you haven’t learned how to see the grey areas yet. Thank God you’re able to see them now.

When I was 17, I was so happy and so sad. It seemed as if I wasn’t crying, I was laughing until I couldn’t breathe. My emotions were on the teen rollercoaster and even though it could get bumpy, I never wanted to get off. Better to feel everything than nothing, right?

When I was 17, there was so much drama all of the time. Hurt feelings, shit talking, the works. It usually went something like this: “Um, did you see what so-and-so wrote on their Livejournal? Like I couldn’t believe it. Is she for real? How could she say those things? I’m going to see her tonight though. We’re going to see How To Deal with Mandy Moore. Ugh, I really don’t want to go but I’m going to because I’ve been dying to see this movie.” This person you were talking about was usually your best friend. “Best friend” meant nothing at 17. It was a title you used to feel like you belonged somewhere with someone.

When I was 17, I barely smoked pot or drank. Drugs and alcohol were scary and only to be used in times of ultimate teen rebellion.

When I was 17, I knew it was all going to end soon but I couldn’t fathom it. I couldn’t comprehend dorm rooms or college, and sometimes I just wanted to wake up to the smell of my mother cooking french toast everyday.

When I was 17, my life felt like a movie partially because it was exciting and partially because I wanted it to feel that way. In a way, it was like you could direct your own life, which was creepy and weird and I’m happy it’s no longer like that.

When I was 17, I had severe cystic acne and endured weekly extractions by a woman who wore alligator skin pants, liked to refer to herself in the third person, and told me that the needle she used on my face was only legal in the state of Texas. My acne cleared up when I was 21 after I had stopped using any products on my face.

When I was 17, I hung out in parks, in friends’ cars, at California Pizza Kitchen, in backyards, at school and, if we were desperate, the mall. My friends and I were always bored and always looking for things to do. We were satisfied by the simplest things and yet never satisfied by anything.

When I was 17, I was just starting to become the person I was going to be forever.

When I was 17, I never imagined a time when I wouldn’t be 17. TC mark

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

Read Here

More From Thought Catalog

  • College

    Polo Ralph Lauren x white girls x cocaine

  • Nicole

    I can relate to every word of this.

  • untimelymeds

    Hey Ryan,
    I have a major crush on you. What to do?

    • Diff

      I'm glad that I'm not the only one. :3

      • untimelymeds

        he's mine. back off!

  • http://www.oneyearintexas.com Perfect Circles

    I hope you aren't telling me I won't be 17 forever.  I hope that is not the point of this piece.

  • Shmeg

    This is fantastic. I'm 22, but I think I'm still mentally 17. This is spot on.

  • inflammatorywrit

    I adore this.

  • damo

    i still wear sunglasses over my real glasses and i'm 21.

    • Guest

      I'm 22 and do this. Mostly because I don't have contacts and I don't want to spend $200 on sunglasses that I will most likely break when I'm too drunk to walk.

  • PhermonousFan

    If you did all these things at 17 you're definitely a type of person but I'm not sure what it's called.

    • http://www.facebook.com/marebearchair Mary Osborn

      confident, fun-loving skank?

  • klaus

    Your one of the most prolific writers of nothing on the internet today.

    • Travis-E


      • Danielle

        WHO CARES

  • xra

    oh yea when i was 17 interpol was IT

  • Lauren K

    The part about having your virginity at 17 made me laugh, so true. I loved being seventeen, and I miss it. Such a cool year.

  • beck

    I've only read the first paragraph but so far I'm in love with this article.

  • John

    It's like you are  committed to writing nothing  worth reading.

  • Rans


  • Kelsea

    I'm 17. I feel like this more accurately describes…15, or something. For me. Ach

  • Alexa

    I'm gonna turn 18 in two days D: I can't bear the thought.

  • http://twitter.com/CowboySandtoes Cowboy Santos

    when i was 17, i had to walk to school, uphill. both ways.

    • CindyGL

      samesies… and i'm 17.

  • valentine_kitchenson

    Like a catchy Strokes lyric, “I love you more than being seventeen.”


    When I was 17 I'd stay up late on weekends making  love with my parents' living-room sofa.

  • 17yearold

    Now I feel like an inadequate 17-year-old…

  • federico

    when i was 17 i did this, and i also did that

  • Scottie

    We're very different people. I think it's because you were probably better looking and more popular at seventeen, whereas I was more self-aware. Probably helps that I had the internet debunking myths about pot and handlin' a boy's stick and three or four close friends, whereas you seem to have had whatever information your friends had and a big circle of “friends”.


  • http://twitter.com/yanyun92 Lim Yan Yun

    ryan, you so hipster at 17.

  • http://roamania.tumblr.com starseed

    i'm almost 26 and always worried that i'd feel 17 forever. after reading this though i have finally realized how different 17 felt and how far away from that i am now.

  • Reallyyyydude

    Did you post this before? This looks familiar as fuck.

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