“Sixteen Going on Seventeen” is a show tune from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. The song was sung by Leisl (played by Charmain Carr) who was actually 21 years old with the song was filmed. In the motion picture version, the song was filmed in and around a gazebo which is still visited by hundreds of Sound of Music fans as they tour Salzburg. Though, when you see the movie, the gazebo interiors were filmed in Hollywood.
Sixteen…going on seventeen. I remember that age all too well. It was the end of my junior year in high school. Summer on the horizon, job waiting, needed to earn money for whatever 17 year olds needed money for. Letting go of my youthful ways, I began to embrace adulthood, which in our culture is 18…only a year away. That would be the time I’d spread my wings and fly at college. It was there that I’d seek to figure out what I wanted to do with my life…big decisions for such a young age.
Yet, you just don’t know what you don’t know. 17, the midpoint between having learned to drive and deciding what to do with your life. A lot to think about in a short amount of time. You feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, yet nothing is earth shattering about the upcoming decisions. But nonetheless, your young mind feels like it is. No one tells you the decision of what to do after high school is just really not that huge of deal. The much bigger decision is who to marry, where to settle down, and what church to go to. But at that point, with the end of high school set in your sights, the world is your oyster, and you have so much youth and vitality to throw at it.
In the end, there’s no need to worry about where you’ll go to college. It will find you. Tuition costs, scholarship opportunities, location, proximity to family, will all play a role, and it will become clear. There’s also no need to stress over what you’ll major in, the average college student changes majors 3 times over the course of their college career. Too, it’s no big deal if you don’t know what you want to major in to begin with. It’s estimated that 20-50% of students enter college undeclared. Further, that’s what college was intended to solve for you to begin with. Back in the day, you’d enter college and take this course and that, and eventually find your way to your preferred career track. Nowadays, we start kids out in high school on the STEM track and pressure them to declare they will be in an engineer at the way too young age of 18. Their course work guides them through calculus and chemistry, all the while they miss their chances of taking courses on music theory and world history. Entering undeclared gives you the opportunity to explore all academic disciplines and sample what works best for you.
Yet, it all feels so real…so heavy. This isn’t to minimize the decisions that lay ahead of a 17 year old. It’s simply to put them in perspective. Your Senior year should be heavy on having fun, making lifelong friends and working hard at school and a job to earn money. Not worrying about what lies ahead. Rather, a 17 year old should look ahead with excitement of the journey that awaits. Knowing full well life’s path will find them. Don’t sweat the small stuff, embrace a bigger future.
Why all this talk about 17 year olds? Today, my daughter, Eliana, turns 17. I’m so proud of her. I’m so excited for the journey that lies ahead for her. But, like any kid her age, we’re talking a lot about what’s next. We’ve done a few college visits even. But I don’t want all this to get in the way of her being a friend to those who need encouraged. Or a good sister to her siblings. Or the best receptionist she can be at her summer job. I want her to enjoy the journey. To enjoy her upcoming Senior year. To never look back with regret at how much she missed today by worrying so much about what will happen tomorrow. Rather, I encourage her to embrace today, while keeping an watchful eye on what’s ahead, full of life, full of love, full of forgiveness and perseverance. Ready to fight forward and embrace the day that God has gifted her.
Sixteen going on seventeen.
Happy Birthday Eliana!
I love you…