As the bridge between childhood and adulthood, adolescence is both an exciting time for self-exploration and a period of intense uncertainty. For Nadine in the new movie The Edge of Seventeen, as portrayed by Hailee Steinfeld, it's a mixed bag of awkwardness, social anxiety, and the hardships that come with having a super-popular older brother—who starts dating your best friend.
But that's not to say that one's teen years are just totally bleak—for some, they're the most exciting of all! It's a complicated time, to say the least. So, with that in mind, we now present the cases for, and against, being 17 years old.
Being 17 Is the Best!
By Rebecca Deczynski, editorial assistant, @rebeccadecz
When you're 17, you are brimming with potential. My 17th year was equal parts stress and satisfaction, as I labored over college applications while simultaneously embracing the newfound feeling of adulthood gained by beginning my senior year of high school. The year was tinged with the promise of better days, but also had a palpable feeling of instant greatness. Don't get me wrong—I don't consider 17 to be my peak. But, looking back, I can appreciate it for the thrilling bundle of contradictions it was.
At 17, I was not "popular." There were so many parties I didn't go to, so many parties I wasn't even invited to, and so many unrequited crushes (all of them). But that period of awkwardness is what gave me my ambition, allowed me to forge my own sense of self, and gave me the confidence to stop caring so much about what people think.
Your final year of childhood (in the eyes of the law, at least) is a time when everything feels like the biggest deal in the world. And guess what? It isn't. You can mess up. You can feel clueless. In fact, you need to make some mistakes in order to grow into whoever it is you want to become—and this is the time to do so, without the pressure of being an actual adult.
That period of awkwardness is what gave me my ambition, allowed me to forge my own sense of self, and gave me the confidence to stop caring so much about what people think.
I often found myself overwhelmed by the desire to immediately and effortlessly grow up, but it was a sense of urgency that flickered in and out. Evenings spent sitting on the floor of Barnes & Noble, leafing through AP test prep books, were coupled with long nights spent making silly videos at a friend's house. (I was lucky to have a solid group of friends to lean on.)
There's a reason there are so many movies and books that center on 17-year-olds. It's because it's an age when you feel old and wise, but aren't actually quite there yet. It's a time rife with mistakes, heartbreak, gossip, and, sometimes, backstabbing—but it's a year when nothing is more important than experimenting, trying your best, and figuring out who you are. You'll be an adult soon enough. So enjoy being 17. It only lasts one year.
Actually, It's Not the Best
By Ryan Duffin, assistant photo editor, @ryanduffin
I'm going to start off by saying that each year you are alive can be whatever you make of it. Family, friends, and a roof over your head (as cliché as it sounds) are truly all you need. However, the age of 17, for me, was certainly not the most glamorous year of my existence. It was very much my "not a girl, not yet a woman" phase.
I found my developing worldview to be stuck in a sort of limbo that year. Post-sweet-sixteen, pre-college-decisions, 17 is like the middle child of birthdays. You're just...there, between other things. It's an age when you're old enough to command a two-ton death machine through the streets, but still not old enough to buy beer. It's the age of consent, but you can't yet vote. It's when you realize just how sad the world can be, but also feel like there's not much you can do about it.
Despite my affinity for luxury skin-care products, I had pretty persistent acne. I also had frosted tips because I didn't want to commit to a full head of bleach, even though that's probably what I really wanted. Aesthetically, it was not a high point for me. I wore a lot of "skater" brand clothing because I thought it would reaffirm my masculinity to other guys. (Seventeen-year-old Ryan, if you're listening: find a J.Crew. It will change your life.)
At 17, I kissed a boy for the first time and a girl for the last time (other than my cat). In hindsight, this was an amazing discovery, but at the time it only further confused my already disjointed sense of self.
Like most of my friends, I found the age to be anti-climactic. If 17 were a color, it would be a mid-to-light shade of gray; it's the age equivalent of a round of Go Fish: a fine way of passing the time, but something you definitely don't want to do for an entire year.