Old people sometimes forget what it's like to be young.
And being young is special. Of any age a person can be, there is no better choice than seventeen.
Sure, it's great to be a child. When we're younger, say eight or ten, our problems, while monumental at the time, are very much focused on us. We don't worry about world peace, the impact of pollution on the ozone layer, or whether suicide bombers are awaiting us at the airport. There are no problems the trusted adults we look up to can't handle, and we know, we just know everything will be right with the world when we open our eyes each morning.
In our twenties, we get to come alive. We hold a job, and we get a paycheck. It's all ours, and we get to spend it the way we want. Party all night? No one tells us no. A new car? Sure. Boyfriend or girlfriend, the choice is ours. We are independent, masters of our fates.
As we age, we gain perks that go with our maturity (and lose some, too). However, seventeen is when we're at the cusp of all that's possible for us. All our lives, our bodies have been getting better and better. Taller. Stronger. Prettier or better looking. We're at the pinnacle of perfection.
And at seventeen, all possibilities are ours. We can get married and have a family. Gay or straight, we get to choose. College? If we want. Maybe even a doctorate or higher. We could become an internationally known scientist, a specialist in our field. Lead singer in a band? Sure. Or a football hero, earning millions in the NFL. You see, at seventeen, the hard choices haven't been made yet. Yale? Harvard? Or junior college? Become a teacher, or is the extra effort to enter the medical field what we want? Bam! We can do it all.
Once we turn eighteen, our choices begin to narrow. College after high school, or get a job so we can get an apartment? One choice made, the other lost forever. Marriage after high school, or start a career? Choice made; choice left behind. At seventeen, it's still a wide-open field.
Nikolai Borovsky. He was young and he was strong. That's why he was hired. At seventeen, he was quick, too. Nikolai had a choice to make: Let all options remain his, or choose one and take what came his way. Nikolai chose to leap for the entrance to the cave when the firedevils came through the mirror, and in his decision, he gave seventeen other people a chance to fight for their lives.
Nikolai could have stayed home, gotten a job... or gone to college to become a teacher or a doctor. Instead, he made a choice. He wanted to be an adventurer. He wanted to leap through the mirrors and discover what life had to offer him.
That's what makes seventeen so special. At seventeen, we're willing to leap into the unknown, to take the risks that come without regards to the consequences. We're willing to risk limbs and reputations just because we can. At seventeen, life is forever, and nothing is beyond our reach.
We live because we can.
At thirty or forty or fifty, we choose to live safer lives because we become fearful we'll lose something. Safety, security, or material possessions, who knows? We take careful steps, we watch our words, and we only travel to the safe places in the world. Danger becomes a red flag, and we're afraid to ride the knife-edge of adventure, because we might slice away our safety and security along the way.
Let's be seventeen. Let's always be seventeen. Let's never turn eighteen, because we begin to give up things we can never get back. Choices lost. Options cast aside. Steps we can never retrace. We begin to live the safe and careful lives of the very old, and what's the fun in that?
Nikolai died at seventeen, but he lived full and hard until he reached his end. He did one other thing, also. He took a firedevil with him when he died. Nikolai didn't go quietly into the night. He leaped into the sun and ended his glorious stab at life while crushing his enemy with a death blow of his own. He never backed down, and he experienced everything he could until the very last moment.
Let's be a Nikolai, no matter our age. If we can be seventeen, just for a moment, we'll grasp something that's special, and we'll be able to live, truly live, once again.