7 Ways I'm Still Like My 17 Year Old Self

by Tara Wood
Originally Published: 

If you’d been able to pry my attention away from the Jack Kerouac book or R.E.M cassette tape I was immersed in during my high school years to tell me that I would one day be a stay at home mom of six children, I’d have guffawed and blown cigarette smoke in your face. I’d have said “You’re crazy, man, I’ll never wear the monogrammed June Cleaver apron of domesticity this society of yours is trying to hang around my neck.”

I’d have been utterly baffled if you were to tell me, way back then, that I’d be expecting our seventh child at 41 years old or that I would genuinely enjoy packing daily lunches, braiding hair, and being a non-smoker. God, I loved smoking.

My own plan was to join the Peace Corps and then maybe get a job with the CDC in hopes of helping to find a cure for cancer or Alzheimer’s disease or assholes. I’d find a like-minded guy, probably not marry him and maybe have a kid. We’d definitely have chickens and goats, though. The dude would’ve built the chickens a coop and most of our furniture with his own hands. He’d also have a beard.

None of that panned out, though, and here I am, years later, joyfully married to a beardless man who rarely opens our tool box. We have loads of kids, but no chickens or goats. We have a sky-high weekly grocery bill thanks to those spawn who eat like a bunch of all-day recreational marijuana users. I ping pong across town shuffling the spawn from place to place and thing to thing. And just like most parents I know, I never catch up on the laundry and I rarely have the time to watch anything other then Nick Jr. on television. Even so, I love this very regular life that I once resisted because I could not comprehend how such happiness could be found in assimilating.

In some ways, however, I’m still very much like my 17 year old self:

1. I still love to read. Now, however, the time it takes me to complete a book of my choice hovers right around the one year mark. Let me clarify: I love to read books that don’t have bears, dinosaurs, mice or princesses on the cover. I have a stack of books that I’d love to read on my bedside table. Mostly they’re just there to mock me and be a terrible reminder that I need to dust.

2. I still listen to cool music. I mean, I don’t think it’s cool, but my kids swear it is. My Neko Case and Wilco CDs don’t pass muster with our kids, so now I know lots of lyrics to Top 40 songs and that makes me shudder. Ed Sheeran seems like he calls his grandmother and he’s cute as a kitten so he can stay.

3. I still like to pay attention to fashion trends. Not because I’m ever, ever going to wear a midriff top or $150 jeans with faux crystal embellishments all over the ass pockets, but because I need to know what I will refuse to allow my children to wear. There are some unpleasant and highly questionable clothing choices out there—we have to be prepared to say “Um, hell no.”

4. I still want a seat on the party bus (kind of). I used to go see live music and then try to wheedle my way onto the tour bus to meet the band. Now, we actually have to buy a 12-passenger van because we’ve run out of seats in the Suburban. Our van, however, will be occupied by non-musicians, and the only drugs on this tour bus will be my Xanax—and maybe some Benadryl if we’re going on a long trip and the kids’ whining becomes incessant.

5. I still love alone time. At seventeen, I often enjoyed being alone with my ponderings—away from my parents and friends. I had some intense, existential thoughts back then (not really). I considered things—real, meaningful stuff! These days, there’s not a whole lot of contemplation going on. In fact, I imagine my brain has taken on an oatmeal-like consistency and is mostly devoid of any measurable activity. Want to know what I do when I have quiet time? I read a few chapters of one of those books on my bedside table that I’ll ultimately, fingers crossed, finish in late 2017.

6. I’m still in love with the same guy that I was mad about as a 17-year-old. Only now, he’s a remarkable, grown man, a supportive father to a small army and hotter than ever. I never imagined we’d end up together—he was not at all interested in chickens and goats—but of all the things that haven’t changed so much, our love story is my favorite.

7. Sometimes you can still find me enveloped in smoke, but it’s not on purpose. It’s because I forgot to set the oven timer. I accidentally baked the chicken nuggets for 64 minutes and they’re likely now carcinogenic. I won’t tell you how often I set off our home smoke alarm (the kids don’t even flinch anymore).

My 17-year-old me never imagined that she’d ever be concerned with ingredients labels or high five herself for getting clothes into the dryer before mildew sets in or rejoice when yet another kid has successfully mastered the art of wiping him- or herself. She didn’t realize the gift of a good night’s sleep and not having to reheat the same cup of coffee four times. She took for granted non-sticky surfaces.

I’m glad the artsy-fartsy girl I was in high school had no clue where she’d find profound happiness and meaningful pain. That’s the beautiful and curious navigation of life—to set sail, but to then torch the map to light your way in the darkness of the unknown.

To have a plan, but then welcome unexpected waves and the ebb and flow of life with arms wide open—how formidable and exhilarating!

Hey, 17-year-old me: I ended up happily wearing the apron of domesticity, and I’m totally rocking it.

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