Because for me it never happened, at least not the way it does for most souls. I felt the pressure of having lived twenty years after blowing out just six and a half birthday candles, and by the time I reached dancing queen, young and sweet, I was too tired to dance at all. I never abided by the kind of life that would permit windows down, teasing the midnight curfew, full throttle bloody murder screaming down the winding roads of the hometown we all shared. Instead I stayed indoors and watched the framed photos hanging from the walls of my childhood bedroom vibrate as the pep band at my high school’s weekly Friday night football games played so emphatically you could hear each individual instrument sounding across the highway dividing our suburb. I kept my windows open a little extra those nights to feel less alone as I wrote myself to sleep. And sometimes tears would fall, heavied by the sting of isolation, other times not. Certain nights I’d just absorb the comforting soundtrack of everyone recklessly growing up without me, the only lullaby I thought I needed.

But there’s a cumbersome weight in knowing that seventeen is gone for good and I never got to carry every tragic burden it held in my own arms. I never clutched seventeen’s hand too tightly and called it my own, whispering sweet nothings and juicy private things only that tender age allows. There’s still a part of me so devastated by not having seized seventeen, never having kissed it in the passenger seat of the car I never drove, taking off into dusk like the end scene of every award-winning indie coming-of-age film. I hate that I still ache for wildness, for my unlived stories to cease being made-up myths.

At seventeen I wasn’t seventeen.

I listened to the music of my parents’ generation and dreamt of settling down and never getting up. I kept my eyes on the prize and the prize was being perfectly still. I fantasized over herb gardens and one-day motherhood and finding a cure for the pang of inadequacy. I talked to myself in the shower, mused about the unfairness of existence, then abandoned the only friends I had so they could participate in all things seventeen. They called me beyond my years without taking into account that I refused to dance alongside them. I was supposed to be dancing but I had already outgrown it. I had outgrown the possibility of being prom queen in a world that would’ve let me rule if I wanted to. But I couldn’t hear the music anymore, no matter how loudly it played.

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