At Seventeen

Are the dreams and aspirations of seventeen-year-olds today very different from ours when we were that age?

I remember the look on my mother’s face when I told her I wanted to quit school to learn fashion design, travel the world and be the greatest artist ever. I wasn’t joking. She realized it after discovering the portfolio of drawings and clippings I made from Her World.

Considered a reasonably good student in secondary school, it was expected that I should continue with the straight and narrow path to junior college to university, and then off to work. All my friends did that and are doing exceptionally well today.

But that was too predictable for me. There was a bohemian streak in me. I looked at the office workers, the ladies in smart dresses and men in briefcases. They looked robotic and devoid of feelings, just going about their lives day in and out doing the same thing. As it turned out, I ended up like one of them but that’s another story.

Back then, I wasn’t thinking about finding a stable job. Life was too short to labour in stable jobs. Life was learning about the world first-hand. To me, wealth was (and still is) knowledge and experience. Of course, one needs to be practical about such things but youth is the time when the young heads are in the clouds looking at life through rose coloured glasses.

Seventeen is a tricky age. Well so is fifteen and sixteen and almost every year in our lives. But seventeen is especially frightening because a young person starts to think about being an adult. Of responsibilities, obligations and commitments and everything else that comes as a package.

The package also includes dealing with hormonal changes, social behaviours, expectations, self-awareness, and an entire roller-coaster ride of emotional ups and downs. There’s no way to select and discard what you like and don’t.

So life goes on. Find your calling somehow and make the best use of what you’ve got. Get whatever qualifications needed for the job you want and build your career along the way. As easy as that! There were not many choices.

Now here I am – facing my seventeen-year-old. Despite all the parenting books I’ve read and talks I’ve attended, it’s a big effort to let go, shut up, listen to what my son has to say, and help him find his own answers.

At seventeen, a parent turns from a provider to a facilitator; from a protector to a coach and a friend. New roles to play, new skills to learn and parenting takes on a new kind of relationship.

Can anyone help me to do that well?

JY

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3 thoughts on “At Seventeen

  1. I do not think many young people know what they want to do at 17 yrs old. It is probably the same thing when you were 17 yrs old…The most important thing is to learn about the real world and you are right to say that parents have to become facilitators and coaches so speak to your son about your own experience.
    I have not realised 17 yrs old is a special age. One famous French singer has even written a song about having 17 yrs old. He has to leave Egypt with his parents during the revolution in 1952 and came to leave in a small town near Monaco. His father lost his job and sank to alcohol , his mother became depressed , lost the family savings in gambling , and even got heavily indebted. The young Claude Francois has to do several menial jobs to make a living…and one day , he was lucky to replace somebody in a music band….That is when he discovered himself he likes to sing. He sings that at 17 yrs old he has discovered courage and that the world is tough.
    Sorry it is in French and it is a sad song.

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