Seventeen Going Under

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See, I spent my teens enraged
Spiralin' in silence
And I armed myself with a grin
‘Cause I was always the fuckin’ joker
Buried in their humor
Amongst the white noise
— Sam Fender, Seventeen Going Under (2021)

When I was seventeen, it felt like the whole world was going to end. I was probably the only sexual minority in town that I knew of, and the headteacher asked that I stay home so the other kids could be rid of my “bad influence.” Also back then, never in a million years had I thought of one day turning my intellectual curiosity about what “learning” entails into a career (be it cognitive science or machine learning). Still, I fought for every opportunity that might yield some ambiguous reward someday, not knowing where it would lead β€” be it undergraduate research, graduate school applications, job interviews, or something “productive”.

People joke about rock stars dying young β€” I always thought I was gonna join the “27 Club”, if not earlier. My life is far from perfect, yet I’ve made friends with whom I could be myself and traveled places where I felt calm, inspired, or mesmerized. People say age is just a number, which is only partially true — we all die before X years old — this number isn’t just a symbol, but truly brings us biologically closer to the end. I’m mindful of this ultimatum, but getting more comfortable seeking what I carve with years — be it knowledge, love, or wonders, I shall steer myself there.

You have brains in your head
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself any direction you choose
— Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!