Four words to my 17 yr old self

“Keep being different.”

That was my response to this particular Facebook mindlessness. (BTW, I love FB Mindlessness, it’s a nice break from having to read yet another political ugliness thread.)

I wasn’t just being a smart-ass…which, sure, I was. But I thought about it for a moment, thought about that 17 yr old girl that I was, and what all she’d been through. How she always stood out, if by being the shortest, or having a speech problem, having weird skin, having odd clothes, having a name even the teachers didn’t pronounce correctly.

Nope – there was no way young Phoebe was ever going to be a conformist, nor was she ever going to blend. Not with that name. Not with that speech problem. Not with that hair that refused to accept perms in the 1980’s. Not when her friends were listening to Poison and NKOTB and she was all “OMG, have you heard of this group called 10,000 Maniacs?”

At 17, I was a high school senior, coming into my own a bit. Life wasn’t easy, but I had dreams and plans and a total lack of giving into peer pressure. I look at my 17 year old self and see someone who’s about to take on the world, start a new season in life, start a bigger journey that would lead her to where I now sit today. I see a girl willing to take a chance to leave everything behind and start anew, in a place where no one knew of her past, of her now-corrected speech issues, of the rejections she dealt with in the middle school years.

I still remember my 17 year old self starting to be a bit bold. I remember it clearly. It was the day of high school graduation rehearsal and this boy I’d known since first grade, this boy who’d I considered my friend until the Great Social Outcasting of Seventh Grade. Since 7th grade, he’d ignored me, or pretended I didn’t exist. And I saw him, as I walked with my friend out of graduation rehearsal. I saw him ignore me yet again. And I heard myself say loudly to my friend “You know, I’ve known him since first grade. Do you think he’s said “hi” to me even once in high school? Nope. It’s like I’m invisible or something. Isn’t that weird?” *not exact phrasing because even my memory isn’t that good

My friend gaped at me as she tried not to laugh. The boy turned red, because he heard me…because I meant to be heard. And I had this out of body experience of “Wow, I can’t believe I just did that” along with “Dang, that felt good to get that out.”

The adult I am now does admit that doing that was probably a bit rude.

But I was seventeen.

Maybe the advice I should have given my 17 yr old self was “Don’t be too rude.”


Instead, I’ll keep to the original answer of “keep being different.”

Trust me, my 17 yr old self, someday, a guy WILL appreciate that about you.

(Me, at 18...close enough though, right?)
(Me, at 18…close enough though, right?)