Seventeen-Year-Old Self

I have an alter ego. He’s always there, when I least expect it, waiting to pounce. Easily recognizable in the shadows, his disproportionately long and frizzy hair forms a halo around his face. A chunky body is a dead giveaway to his presence. But when he talks, that’s when you know with absolute certainty that he is there.

He is my seventeen-year-old self, and he is dangerous.

When I was 17, I was a bit different than I am now. The world seemed simpler, and I seemed bent on a mission to prove I knew everything there was to know about it. I overthought about the simplest things, I corrected people’s pronunciations at every turn, and I acted like I knew everything… because I did know everything. If somebody had a comment about pink turtles, I was there to give every fact I knew about pink turtles. Seventeen-year-old Matt was arrogance incarnate.

Oh, and I also didn’t have any friends.

Yes, apparently being really smart does not automatically grant you friends if people go around calling you a smart ass behind you back. I don’t use that term casually, that’s what I was called more than anything else. And for the longest time I was offended by the cruelty of people for calling me that. But then the thought finally hit me that that’s exactly what I was… the dictionary definition of a smart ass.

Basically, I was a monster.

And this monster had a bit of a crisis because he could not stop overthinking things. He could not trying to prove he was smarter than everyone else. This is the creature he had developed into because of introversion, rejection, doubts, Bible studies, acquaintances, environment, and entertainment. Encyclopedias are great until you become a walking one, and are about on the same social level as one as well.

But I’ve changed for the better.

It’s amazing what you can learn if you shut up long enough to truly watch how others form relationships. It turns out listening is a better fuel than talking, love is a better character trait than arrogance, and the conversation is more important than the details. It really is about winning the heart, not the argument. But sometimes… sometimes I’ll say or do something and out of the corner of my eye and there he’ll be…

My seventeen-year-old self.


  1. Poor guy. But what you go through makes you who you become. And everyone is a smart ass at some point. Usually in the teenaged years because teenagers are immortal and smarter than everyone else. It’s known. At least to them. The old ones (like me) just smile and remember their own smart assed period of life and move on.


  2. 17 year old you was insecure – one of the greatest afflictions of human-kind and often dressed in arrogance because it feels safer that way. I am glad you had the epiphany that listening is the greater and greatest part of good communication and you should be glad and proud that it has happened at a relatively young age. I know many a person of my own age and older who have not learned the lesson and who I would gladly asphyxiate 🙂


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