I loved being 17. To me, 17 meant being a perfectly aged teenager: too old to be confused with a child but too young for the realities of adulthood. It was a year of firsts, learning and change. When I was 17, I could finally allow myself to think about college and my future without terror burning through my gut. It was the year I had my first boyfriend, the year I got my first job, and the year I realized that my family was different, but in a good way.
That age was not entirely pleasant. It was the first time a boss sexually harassed me and I thought it was my fault because I had flirted with him. It was the year that I realized my “cover” personality was too quiet but the real me wasn’t always likable. It was the year that I hated myself for dropping out of AP history because I was getting a D. It would be many years before I realized that each of these led to positive character changes and growth, but at 17 they all felt bad.
You know what’s also bad at 17? Carpet.
I know, that’s quite a pivot, but hear me out.
Many years after I was 17, my husband and I moved with our two kids into our current house. Our brand new, never-before lived-in home smelled like fresh paint and sawdust; the wood floors were gleaming, the carpets were soft and cushy, and the windows were sparkling both inside and out.
Now, 17 years later, the walls have been painted several different colors, the wood-floor is quite scratched, and the outside of the windows could use a good cleaning. (The inside, too, if I’m being perfectly honest.) After 17 years, the house smells like us: bleach, Pledge, grungy sneakers, cologne, candles…and old carpet.
Most things in this house have changed, we even added a third child, but the original carpets remain. We had them professionally cleaned twice a year, so they’ve exceeded the 10-year life expectancy of carpeting, but the formerly fluffy is currently compact.
I had never bought new carpeting before, but all signs pointed to this being the time to learn how. I gave myself the best carpeting education the internet could offer…then threw myself at the mercy of a flooring sales rep.
“Do you want solid or multi-colored?”
“Solid, for sure.” I said. I sounded so confident.
I left the store with a stack of samples, only one was a solid color and that was immediately eliminated when I laid them on the floor of our house.
We let my in-laws vote.
A flecked gray called “Nantucket” got all the votes except mine. The majority won.
Because new carpet will make the marked-by-family-life walls, trim and curtains look worse — those are being changed, too.
A lot of living happens in 17 years and remnants of ours, visible only by the trained eye, will be hauled away with the old carpet: baby spit, bloody noses, child illness, ballfield dirt, food…so much food. The time I tripped and spilled coffee right next to the table and the time I dropped a tray full of paint from the top of a ladder.
One of the greatest adult lessons I’ve learned is that I’ll never stop learning, never stop having new experiences, and buying new carpeting was just another one of them. Seventeen-year-old me was looking forward to growing-up to the point that she knew stuff; that she had experienced enough so that the unpleasant feeling of the unknown was gone. 2019 me knows that feeling never leaves, but it becomes familiar and, often, even welcomed.