I’ve always believed that in some ways, seventeen is the perfect age (at least as far as adolescence goes). For the most part, you’ve moved past the naive and unsure nature of being sixteen, yet you haven’t reached the point of taking on the responsibility of eighteen. Seventeen is the happiest medium you get in your teen years.

For me, seventeen has been the year that I have grown to understand myself more than I ever have before. While I by no means have everything all figured out, I’ve come to trust myself, and able to move past my doubts and fears. Here are several experiences that have contributed to making this year the most memorable one of my life so far.

1. At no other time in my life have I been able to relate more to the lyrics of Abba’s “Dancing Queen”

I grew up watching Mamma Mia with my mom and sister, and listening to Abba with my dad, so this 1976 song has always been near and dear to me. Needless to say, finally reaching the point of being “young and sweet, only seventeen” make my heart inexplicably happy.

2. In the past year I was able to travel to three cities I’ve never been to before: Denver, Chicago, and Orlando.

Traveling to new cities always creates some of my favorite and most enriching experiences. This year in particular, I had the opportunity to travel without my (immediate) family by my side; instead I was accompanied by my journalism family to attend the JEA spring and fall national high school journalism conventions (and Walt Disney World, where our group rode the Tower of Terror and screamed/laughed at the top of our lungs). Additionally, my family and I ventured out the Midwest (an area of the country we haven’t seen much of) to visit Chicago, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Windsor, Canada and Niagara Falls.

3. I had my first working experience by completing an internship.

Although I didn’t receive a paycheck, learning what it’s like to work a retail job taught me a lot about communicating with customers, dealing with problems head on, balancing schoolwork and a job, and about how I personally approach certain tasks (120 hours worth). 

4. I’ve experienced some of my greatest achievements and felt some of my biggest losses.

All of the work I put into writing columns paid off time and time again; I received several awards and recognition for my writing, including a first place win from the CSPA Gold Circle. Of course, with wins also come losses that I have learned from, allowing me to better realize my strengths and weaknesses.

5. I’ve been able to participate in an election for the first time by caucusing.

Though I am not yet voting age, I will be eighteen by the time of the next presidential election, so I was able to participate in the Nevada caucus and exercise my civic duty as an American citizen. I also attended a Bernie Sander’s rally; making an effort to actively participate in my nation’s government and seeing the passion within the crowd’s of people working toward the same goal felt more gratifying than I could have imagined.

6. I attended my first music festival.

I got to attend the rock weekend of the Rock in Rio music festival last May, and saw one of my favorite bands, No Doubt at midnight while people on a zip-line flew above our heads.

7. I adopted a kitten/got my first pet.

I had never had a pet aside from the occasional goldfish (which primarily belonged to my dad), until this past August when my siblings and I adopted a kitten. Her name is Luna and she’s the light of my life.

8. I applied and got accepted to university.

I endured the process that nearly every high school senior goes through: deciding what their future holds. Although I’ve decided to stay in-state, considering different schools and deciding on a major was stressful and exciting all at once.

9. I drove a car for the first time.

Although I’m nowhere near being able to drive on my own quite yet, being behind the wheel for the first time was as exhilarating as it was nerve wracking. I’m anxious to finally be able to make my way around independently. 

10. I lost my mother.

Obviously, this is not an experience I look back on fondly; however, going through such an immense loss has changed me tremendously as a person, and is something that will continue to affect me for the rest of my life.

While it feels bittersweet to put seventeen behind me, I’m ready to move into the next chapter of my life—adulthood. Goodbye, seventeen. Thank you for all of the sweet memories, hardships, and most of all the lessons. For them, I am better and stronger.