17 Year old Me in Coat Form by Rufaro Faith
Usually when I look back on a particular year of my life my mind connects to a couple of things. An album that I danced to obsessively, a book that put everything I was feeling and wanted into words, a kaleidoscope of memories I made both good and bad, a person who had a significant effect on my life, but this year when I look back on the time between my last birthday and the one coming up I see one single object in my mind. A coat. A lilac, woollen, thigh length coat that I bought on a rushed trip home that at the time I only kind of liked.
For the longest time I looked at clothes as just things that you put on your body. Sometimes expensive, sometimes beautiful but always just clothes. Getting dressed in the morning often felt more like an inconvenience than anything else, the whole process of buying, picking, washing, ironing and storing clothes was just another necessary evil in my life that I had to deal with but didn’t particularly enjoy. Yes I had a few items that I loved; dresses that reminded me of parties, pyjamas that made me feel safe, but no other item of clothing has ever had as profound an effect on me as that lilac coat.
I bought it a few days before my 17th birthday and in the 12 months preceding that I hardly took it off. To the annoyance of my mother and probably everyone else around me I have this habit of buying new clothes and wearing them every single day until the magic wears off, but with this one it never really did (even when the fabric became bitty and rough). The lilac coat was like this constant companion, there for so many of the most important moments of my 17th year. Going to the other side of the world without my parents, making new friends and learning to leave toxic ones behind, my first year of a levels, the last days of summer, disorganised but memorable family holidays, first moments, adventures, everything. But it was more than just the places I went and moments I had wearing it.
I have this theory that every year of your life has this specific purpose in making you the person you’re meant to become. At 15 I learned to expect more, at 16 I finally realised the importance of going with my heart and 17 was all about learning how to give zero cares; embracing the good and bad and trying to grow from it all, becoming more positive and learning to hold onto my values, actually going after the things I dreamt of, seeing every moment in my life both the awful and wonderful in the eyes of a movie camera lens, understanding that things really do happen for a reason and that every person who comes into my life, even only for a short time, is valuable in some way. I learnt so much and experienced so many new things and the coat, now at the back of my wardrobe, reminds me of that.
I don’t even think it’s the coat itself that I’m attached to, it’s the feeling of being 17 and confused, trying to figure out where I’m going how I’m going to get there and still having this sense of wonder that I worry I’ll lose one day.
When I look at the purple coat now, greying and machine washed out of it’s softness that’s what I see. Not a coat that I wore too much regardless of whether it looked good, I see myself, 17 year old me who learned to live with joy rather than waiting to see if everything she did would be approved of by the people who hardly mattered to her.
And that’s why I’ll keep the lilac coat, at least for now, as a reminder that even though in a matter of days I would’ve left this age, she will always be there. That version of me will still remain somewhere inside even if that me doesn’t resemble the girl of a year ago, and if that version of me changes and evolves and grows and buys a whole wardrobe of brightly coloured coats identical bags and pairs upon pairs of the same black jeans, I will remain and feel as much me as I did when I was 17.