In honor of my friend Nova Ren Summa's book 17 & Gone which released today, she has asked other authors to talk about what haunted them at 17. So here is my attempt.
Seventeen was a hard year for me for a lot of reasons, and it was marked by a significant beginning. I turned 17 on 9/11/01. Yep. I was grounded for having a car wreck two weeks earlier(stupid, because grounding me didn't help me drive) but my mother ungrounded me for my birthday. It didn't matter. The whole town shut down. My one friend and I found a solitary fast food burrito joint open, grabbed a burrito, and took it to a park. Just being out felt spooky. On a normal day, the place I grew up feels like a ghost town. On this day, there was literally no one around anywhere. I took it in stride though. It's just one day. My dad didn't call for my birthday, even though someone flew planes into buildings. My mom was happy to point out my dad didn't call on my birthday, in spite of the terrorist attack.
In Payton's Place, you pay for your sin and the sins of anyone you might know. School was so bad for me, I'd already put myself in home school. I worked days at a fast food restaurant to pay for it, and took my classes online at night. I contemplated graduating early and getting on with my life because things weren't much better at home. But I didn't really have money to move away, or a plan for when I did it. I knew I wanted to go to college. I had no idea how to pay for it. Then it happened. The decision maker. I don't even remember what the fight was over, but something set my step dad off. He hit me. If you know me, you know I have a temper like the devil. At the time, I was small. I was nearly 100 lbs. lighter back then, and I don't think I stood 5'2. But he hit me in the face, so I balled up my fist and I hit that six foot man in the chest--couldn't reach his face--as hard as I could. What happened next is a blur, but I remember being knocked into the back door, and my mom screaming not to touch her kid again or she'd leave. She wouldn't. He stormed out, and she blamed me. I shouldn't have said/did whatever I said or did. Looking back on it with the perspective of eleven years, whatever I said did not cause his reaction. He was soley responsible for that, and she should know that.
Anyhow, four months after my 17th birthday, I moved to the city and started college. But the year didn't get better. I involved myself with many guys--lots of them bad--that I shouldn't have. I screwed up relationships that could have potentially been good, and put everything I had into people who were toxic. I was so afraid of being alone--of being unlovable that I contributed to my own pain. So there it is. It took me all these words to find the truth. I really didn't know the one word answer to what haunted me, but I've found it. The fear of being unlovable. The fear that the adults in my life were right about my lack of worth.