The following memories have been collected to inspire When I Was Seventeen, a multimedia work that is being collaboratively developed by teens and professional artists.
It was my first love or something like that.
Graffiti in the tunnels and on the tracks, fighting with lots of people over the graffiti, getting messed up in that scene, running from cops a lot, smoking a lot of weed. Having fun was the most important thing for me....well that, and graduating high school. We used to shut down trains from bombing them with graffiti and then they would be so mad we would be scared they were gonna beat us up hahaha it was so stupid. I loves hip hop. And hip hop was different back then, in the 90s you know. Seemed more racey. We loved hip hop. And Ralph Lauren polos.
Seventeen was the best year of my life.
When I am seventeen I will be in my senior year at my performing arts high school (that I already attend) and I think I will be continuing to aspire to a career in acting.
INSECURE . CAUTIOUS .
I wrote a poem in blue paint all across a big window.
This was the worst year of my life. I thought I had my whole life figured out. Then I lost a kid, well my girlfriend at the time did.
When I was 17 I was the second coolest, or well known kid in school. I had to lie to get there. I knew what everyone wanted to hear. I would put on an act for every single clique I was in. That made me the second coolest kid in school. I was best friends with the principal. If I was walking the halls during class, teachers would stop and strike up a chat with me. I was on different sports teams, was I a good athlete? No way. I bullshitted my way onto the team, I suckered up to the coach. Looking back, High School is just a game, it still is. And I was fucking awesome at that game, well maybe on second best.
POPULAR . REBEL . DORKY .
TOP-DOG . REGRET .
When I was 17 my life was starting to become my own.
New Years at 17: I was with all of my best friends at the time, a group that we called The Fam, and we had a glitter party in my basement.
I am exactly 17. I don't have too many interesting stories but, I recall trying to attend a show at St. Ann's warehouse. I got off the subway and spent 20 minutes asking people for direction and running around the neighborhood. I really walked into a police station. Thankfully, I made it just in time, albeit covered in sweat. Sometimes I don't know if I am a New Yorker or not.
We hopped the train to Paris, completely unaware of the reckless nature of our spirit, and undaunted by the possibility of punishments to come.
Being rejected over AIM...twice...in one day.
One word? Fun.
BLOSSOMING . GENIUS.
When you're 17, your life still isn't really YOURS. You know? It's like it still belongs to other people. Your parents. Your friends. Your high school cliques.
Your college applications. It's fun and you love the free ignorant bliss of it all but you know it's not yours.
And at the time, you hate that. You hate that you don't do what you want or say what you want. You want to take the world by storm and make it your own. You think it'll be that easy. But you just have no idea what the world is really like.
And that's the thing about being 17. You're building up your bravery and courage and intelligence and hopefulness and pride and dreams to face the world that's ahead of you.
And it seems like it's enough. Because it's you and you're the main character of the story and there's no way you could lose. And you're right. It is enough.
If I could go back to any age, it would definitely be 17.
My sister made me go out with other guys.
MATURE . BEAUTIFUL . SKINNY . COOL . FRIENDLY .
When i was 17 i was in love with two people, a girl and a boy. we were best friends, all of us. we held hands and hugged for way too long and confused people in our school. i wanted to kiss them both so badly; we used to talk for hours, our brains made wonderful sense together. we started an existentialist club in school. we decided that love should be free, that making art and literature were the only valid aspirations, and that the universe has infinite versions of itself.
however, in this universe, one warm fall night, we went to the woods to talk about the tops of trees and the stars. i was a smoker then, as i am now, and i walked away for a bit to light up a cigarette and throw pebbles at the river. when i came back, everything changed. he had kissed her or she had kissed him and now i was on the outside. they became a couple, and i could not hold hands or sigh any longer. i was down two crushes, two best friends, and a wonderful fluttery feeling was replaced with the certainty that i was not pretty or interesting enough for them. i was very upset for a very long time, confused as to who i was more jealous of. we kept seeing each other every day. boarding school will do that to you.
after a while, i became pretty good at pretending i didn't care, or that i was even happy for them, but no. i did not think that shit was cute. i had to listen to them having sex for the first time, know every detail and how fucking wonderful it felt, apparently. "i don't know, man, i wouldn't know, i'm still a fucking virgin thank you very much"
i was glad when they had their first huge fight, of which i was told every detail. they of course made up, dated until graduation.
i do not really keep in touch with either of them now. i still feel i'm not allowed in the most exclusive club of all.
That's the year everyone told me I lost my mind, and when I found Jesus.
New Years at 17: I spent New Year's Eve with a Georgian family who all drank out of horns embellished in silver.
I'm 16 now, so I guess in a year I'll be in a similar place. I'm applying for semester schools in Vermont and Colorado, so I'm hoping they will change my outlook on life and how I view myself. I will also probably be stressing out about my SAT's.
SHELTERED . WORST . SEX . MOURNING . UNAWARE .
I remember my dad driving me to Boston at 4AM for a college audition, and being overwhelmed with gratitude that he was doing that on his one day off that week.
When I first got my license, I scratched up the car next to me pretty badly in a parking lot while trying to pull out of a spot. Not only did I flee the scene (terrible, I know.. I was absolutely terrified), with the car alarm going off like crazy, I also tried to cover the scratches on my mom's car myself with paint I bought from the car dealership. Apparently, it didn't work.
Feeling pressure from parents towards sports.
DISCIPLINED . GUARDED . PASSIONATE . UNSURE . FLUTTERING . CURIOUS . SMILING . COURAGEOUS .
EVERYTHING . ALMOST . HOPEFUL . CONFUSED . NERDY . ANGRY . EXCITED . ACTIVE . INSECURE .
Everything is changing. It's weird and scary.
I turned 17 in Oxford, UK the summer I did the British American Drama Academy Program. I remember getting a cupcake and a card with everyone's signitures. Don't really remember the specificities outside of that, but it was a beautiful month there regardless so it must have been OK. I didn't think I had told too many people about my upcoming bday, wanted to keep it more or less under control. But turn's out my new program bestie's birthday was the day after mine, and she hadn't told even me. Impressive! I miss all the people I met that summer. Seen a few of them since then.
I remember watching a sunset alone, wishing for romance.
When I was 17 I went on my second and final service trip with my high school youth group through my church. We called it "trek." Trek consisted of my 3 best friends, 14 other high school students, and 5 adults driving four minivans across the midwest for two weeks and stopping in 5 places. At each stop we spent a day sightseeing and a day doing a service project, such as putting up fencing for a Habitat for Humanity Home or serving food in a soup kitchen. We slept on church floors or in dormrooms. Not only did I see some really awesome places (Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, Chicago, etc.), but it was also an immensely humbling experience and solidified my relationship with some amazing people.
I lip synced dancing queen for my freshman orientation for college at New Paltz.
I had to go off to college when I was seventeen and when I got there I felt very overwhelmed by the whole situation. More so than any of my friends from home or my other classmates.
Causing a huge car accident that led to students not being allowed to stand on the curb at school anymore
I was a co-captain on the tennis team my senior year in the fall. I had played doubles my entire high school career, but then my coach told me that I had to switch to singles, because I was a good enough player, but I would be at the bottom of the singles stack (3rd singles) instead of the top of doubles (1st doubles.) I felt that I had to be a good example for the rest of the girls on the team, and so I said okay. It was really hard- I no longer had anyone to rely on, and tennis became even more of a mental game. The hardest part was that the 1st doubles got to go to sectionals, and I didn't because my single's scores were too low, but had I stayed where I was in doubles I would have gone with my partner. I was really bummed that my senior year of high school, and last time on a tennis team had to end that way. At the final banquet though, I ended up getting the special "Coaches Award" for the player who showed great qualities on and off the courts, and my coach acknowledged the sacrifice that I made for the benefit of the whole team. It taught me that sacrifices aren't always a bad thing, and that there is always someone watching who notices if you stay positive.
Closing one chapter of life and moving on to the next.
Falling in love for the first time.
When I was seventeen my friends and I decided to dress up as different colors for Halloween. I couldn't stay out late on Halloween night because I had to take the SATs the next morning, but that didn't stop me from going all out and spraying my hair completely white in addition to dressing in white from head to toe. The next morning I realized that the hairspray wasn't coming out as easily as I thought it would have, and left to take the SATs without having time to get all of the white out of my hair. I had to rush to a rehearsal as soon as I was finished with the test so I still didn't have time to wash it out. When I got to the rehearsal the choreographer was just getting there as well and he asked where I had been before. I told him that i was taking the SATs and he immediately joked "and they were so bad that they made your hair go white?!" Thankfully, I did eventually get the spray out of my hair.
I kissed my best friend for the last time.
Blah. It's a trying time, high school to college. High School was fun. College not so much.
Going to a pre college program at Barnard college for the summer.
I was at home with my family and Dick Clark's Rockin' Eve was on the television. I felt content.
I knew I had to leave everything and everyone behind.
Participated in many school activities.
We ate dinner at a crappy diner, give piggy back rides through Brooklyn and then watched the fireworks from my roof.
I had long hair when I was 17. I don't remember why I had been growing it but it got too long. So long that for Halloween, I was convinced by a group of my friends to curl my hair. So here I was dressed like a banana with curled hair and I looked absolutely ridiculous. It was a really fun night and was really the first night where all the friends I met in college were together.
I went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to do Habitat for Humanity with a group of kids from my high school. It was the first time that I truly felt fortunate for all that my Mom sacraficed for the two of us. Seeing all of the destruction and sadness that people had to endure and live through taught me to appreciate what I have and to help people when I can.
I went to Thailand with several school mates and teachers to visit nuns who managed a school in a slum. I will never forget small children who are eager to learn everything and make friends with us.
When I was 17 I was not doing much but dancing and teaching dance at my studio. I partied a bit in high school but only focused on what I liked to do which was shows and dance classes.
I interviewed a friend of my father's while writing a poem about HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s. She sat with me as I took notes, adding on to the result of hours of research I had already done regarding history and symptoms. She told me stories of people she had loved and had lost, her voice and face full of emotion. That night, I wrote, and edited and wrote. I held lives and memories in my poem. It was no longer mine, it was theirs; Don Kraus, Shell Caplan, Max Walden, and Roxie Ventola's. That year, for the second year in a row, my team won LTABDMV, the high school level slam competion in our area. That poem began a new wave of my writing. I no longer wrote only for myself. I write to immortalize histories no one else is recording, and to give to people who need something to take.
Singing "You'll Never Walk Alone," at graduation for a class that hardly knew I could sing until that last day together.
I was a lot more open and creative when I was seventeen. We were recording a small jam session in a studio that one of my buddies ran. After, when we were walking out of the building, we realized we needed a name and after throwing around a bunch of random ones, we can up with Max Reiser and the Apples and didn't even think twice.
I remember how much fun I had at Grad Night.
I had a problem with this kid and it escalated. We just graduated high school my ex girlfriend and I go to buy her rollerblades and decide to go to the park to practice. It's 10 o clock at night and when we get to the park it's pitch black. This guy shows up with his homies and my girlfriend's like let's get the fuck out of here and I'm like no I need to settled this with this guy. Then this guy rocks me in the face and long story short his friend has to pull him off of me and it's so stupid because I'm like son it's this group of 10 dudes and my girl scared in the background. Bad mistake.
Visiting college for the first time and falling in love with it.
When I was younger, I was addicted to tattoos, fake tattoos. I had packs, booklets, sets, filled with all types of tattoos. Animals, letters, phrases, symbols, flowers, everything. I had a different tattoo everyday of the week. I even became a pro at applying them to my skin. So it wasn't a shocker to my mom that I couldn't wait until I was 18 for my first tattoo. I was only 17 years old when I dragged my mom with me to the tattoo shop on my birthday, so that she could sign my permission slip. My older sister and I got the same one so that my first tattoo, well my first real tattoo would mean something special. It also hurt 100 times more than the pain from scrubbing off every single fake tattoo I ever put on my body. But that tatoo did mean something to me. It was the first one that I couldn't scrub off. The tattoo was inspired by my dream.
Sharing a lot with my best friend in her sister's un-airconditioned apartment in August before senior year. "Thea says that high school boys are just really inhibited. She says you can't drive them off in college." "I don't know, Lily. So many guys openly pursue, like, Julie Byrnes." She sighed. "Yeah, I don't know."
Lucky because I met my wife.
Ran away with my heart, ran away from my nest.
Yeah this is definitely the best year of my life.
We had a huge Drama Group bash---we drank sparkling apple cider, ate blocks of chocolate, danced to pop music, watched the ball drop, stayed up until 5am, and slept on my friend's floor. Then his mom would cook us a big breakfast in the morning.
Went to a recording studio and made up our band name: Max Reiser and the Apples
We were all high. We climbed a hundred foot train bridge from the iron work. Some of us decided to cross it and the river it spanned from underneath. Some of us went home. We all survived but others died that summer in road accidents where drinking and or substance abuse was involved. At least one person died each year until I left high school. I never thought I had a problem at the time. I just thought I was lucky.
My lips on her neck in my backyard hammock, tasting the words that crafted her poems and savoring every one.
New Year's Eve is always a pretty big deal to me and it's crazy to think that my favorite NYE was when I was seventeen. It all strated when I walked into a restaurant and was literally asked if I wanted a job there. I said yes and they told me to go in the back, grab a shirt and start right now! After those hectic 5 hours, I was off to a party where I found my older sister drunk with her ex-boyfriend around her arm and her current boyfriend in the next room. I played "keep away from Saylor (my sister)" all night. Then I had to drive all her crazy friends home. I dropped everyone off and when I got home, I found one of my friends in my room eating a key lime pie and telling me that I need to drive her to one zoo in the morning. There was a lot more in-between but nonetheless it was hilarious and full of memories that I will never forget.
Reading the final Harry potter book the day after it came out.
I got myself in a lot of trouble and really disappointed my parents. I am glad I will never have to see that look on my father's face again.
It was a whim, what should have been a fleeting thought, but instead become a whirlwind 24 hours of catching trains, and running around Paris like we owned the world, and our own time - only to be caught with our hands mid-fist pump into the air by those responsible for our safe-keeping.
When I was seventeen I was so focused on baseball that it made me very disciplined in all aspects of my life.
Reading seventeen magazine thinking this was my TIME!
I was deciding which college I wanted to go to when I was 17.
Late night filled with shots, beers, and (lots of) bong rips.
When I was 17, I had a boyfriend, but I would frequently find guys that resembled my ex and fall head over heels for them, to the point where I'd stalk them around school, knew there schedule, looked for them when I was out at social events, planned my days around them. I never did anything, but I guess it was my crazy way of pretending I was single again and experiencing the excitement of being in a new relationship. I no longer do this at college, well, except this one boy..
When I was seventeen, I was heavily involved in a two year relationship. I also was going 3 hours away for school. My boyfriend and I believed that our love was stronger than the struggles that come from the long-distance issue. We were confident that we would make it. There were hundreds of promises to video chat, text all day, even visits. But after a semester, everything slowed down. The conversations were every other day and he barely visited. When I was 17 I believed in true love conquering long distances. But when I turned 18 and 2 more semesters flew by, so did our love for each other.
Taking posed "candid" photos of myself and posting them on myspace.
When I was seventeen my mom took a job overseas, and left to America for 3 months. We stayed at home. We being me, my dad, and my younger brother Uri. It wasn't the first time she left for work, but it was never this long. Everytime she'd go, she would come to my bedside before she would absolutely have to leave for the airport, and kiss me goodbye. This time she didn't. Maybe she forgot. Or maybe it was too hard. And all of a sudden I was the mommy. Making food, laundry, light cleaning. Light. Still just seventeen. :) But the moment that it definitely sunk in was when we went to visit her there. We being my brother and I. That moment in the airport, when my dad dropped us off, it was clear, this little guy holding my hand is all my responsibility.
I think I was in love.