Only 17

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Only 17
By: Julianna Illenye
2016

Submitted: April 02, 2016

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Submitted: April 02, 2016

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Only 17

By: Julianna Illenye

I started when I was 8 years old, for no particular reason and to this very day I write. I have endless amounts of journals, each filled with my day-to-day thoughts since my young age. However, I never considered myself a writer, nor did I ever tell anybody about it.  About 3 years ago, I really started to take my writing seriously; I expanded my vocabulary, used literary techniques to create a more sophisticated platform. Then I had the crazy idea that I wanted to publish a book. I wrote everything from fiction to nonfiction, poems, essays, and anecdotes. Once I created a portfolio, I looked for a publishing agent. After sending her all my work, she emailed me back saying this:

 

You are a beautiful, young, talent Julianna. However your age is my only concern; I have never taken on someone as young as you. I see great potential in your work; please do not hesitate to contact me after college. You are only 17 years old; your writing will improve with time and experience.

My Best Regards—“

 

Obviously I was heart broken, my first rejection letter, another milestone. A few things about this response concerned me...

  1. I am not going to college for writing (wish I was), I going to be in school for six years and taking nothing but science classes
  2. She didn’t say my writing was bad? (Maybe to pity me, but still).
  3. She mentioned my age saying, “You are only 17 years old”.

At first I was offended deeply, and couldn’t understand why she would use my age as an excuse not to give me a chance. After revisiting her message many of times, I understood it was because I could only prove my talent to myself, nobody else. I have never shared my writing until recently, and I rarely put myself out there. She made me realize that to be a strong writer and a strong woman go hand in hand. What I need to do is figure out how I can turn the ordinary into extraordinary. Once I become a resilient young girl, my writing will reflect that, and people will read my writing and not care that I am young, because they will only see a strong woman and nothing else. But hey I’ve got time, because I’m only 17.

It is part of who I am to take every opportunity to come my way. I fill my schedule to the very brim, between Girl Scouts, two jobs, piano practice, school, babysitting, extra curricular activities, and any of the obligations that I tend to take on, all while still being an angsty teenager, and going through all the social tests that young people face. My downfall is that I rarely ask people for help, I take on all these obligations, and I do my very best to complete them all, but in the end I always disappoint someone. This year I decided to quit cross-country and track, something that I have been doing since a young age. I made the choice myself; something about it didn’t feel like me anymore, it felt foreign; I was only running because I had been doing it for so long. Why stop now, you’re almost done, just suffer through, it will be over before you know it was my every day mindset. When I finally realized how unhealthy that was, and how much it was dragging me down, I quit. It was hard a first, I had a lot of free time, time that I didn’t know how to fill. But after a month or so, my decision paid off, I felt better, my heart had healed. But to this very day, my father, the main contributor to me being a runner, wasn’t very happy. He didn’t agree with the decision I had made, and he constantly held it over my head. Never letting me live down that I was a quitter. He reminded me constantly that I gave up on something, something that I had dedicated years of my life to. It bothered me at first that I disappointed him, that I showed weakness. Even though I failed my father in one aspect, I did something for myself. Regardless of the repercussions, if a person has a need to do something, and they are unhappy with how they are living, nothing is going to stop them from achieving happiness. My father’s disappointment was on him, not me; I can’t let someone’s feelings hold me back from my personal contentment. In the end, I will prove that me quitting running doesn’t define who I am, failing things, and quitting things are a part of life. Plus when I have the freedom and time to go on a run in the future, I certainly will because I’m only 17.

I don’t remember how I got it, but a few years back, I picked up a book and sat and read it in four hours. “What My Mother Doesn’t Know” by Sonya Sones. It is a novel told in verse (which means instead of long paragraphs, each page is an anecdote). I have never met another person who has read it, which is why I love it so much. It follows around a girl my age named Sophie who poetically narrates her teen experience. It mirrors my writing style like no other book ever has. I’ve read it over and over again, numerous times, at different ages, and different times in my life. Each time I read it, I realize something new about it, something that I didn’t pick up on the previous time. The other day I decided to read it again, and once finished I came to the conclusion that I had missed a huge part of the book. Years of reading this novel and I never picked up on the fact that Sophie is suffering. I always imagined her as relatively happy regardless of her hardships. Sophie is a sad sad girl. Sophie continues to say throughout the novel, “What my mother doesn’t know won’t hurt her.” But all this time, she WANTS her mother to be interested in her; she wants her to be part of her life. I always thought Sophie wanted her mother to stay out of her way, but she really wants her mother to know what is going on in her life. That realization made my heart break. I understand why I only saw that now, because as I move onto college, things that I once resented are becoming more sentimental. I hate the town I live in; it’s boring and bleak in all shapes and forms. But I know once I leave that I will miss this place. But I have faith that in the future there will be many places that I call home in my lifetime, because I am only 17.

It is funny because personally I feel that in my life I have seen and experienced a lot. I have failed, I have succeeded, I have worked hard, I have had relationships, I have problem solved, I have responsibilities, and I have faced death and rejection. And it bothers me a lot when my parents or adults say, “But wait till you get in the real world”. Not to be rude but what have I been living in for the past 17 years of my life? A fake universe where martians exists, the sky is purple and fish can survive out of water? I live in the same world as you, and even at 17 I have experienced everything that you have, so please don’t underestimate me. I have studied, I have read, and I am an informed young woman. I might be out of line or getting ahead of myself, but I would hate for my age to define who I was or what I am capable of.

So... publisher lady who rejected me, I won’t be coming back after college, I will work even harder, write even more, read even more, and I will be emailing you very soon. Because I don’t see only being 17 as a bad thing, I see it as a challenge.

“The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.”

-Oscar Wilde


© Copyright 2017 Julianna Illenye. All rights reserved.

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