This Fall semester, I am reentering college as an old man. Twenty-six now, I’ll be twenty-seven in November. I’ve reached a conclusion regarding my age—as flippant as it might sound, I urge you to accept my sincerity—I’m ancient.
The past few days I’ve been attending Orientation Week at the University of Rochester, and it’s been great. I’ve been floored by the level of genuineness the school shows towards its students. I’ve spoken with alumni and veteran students, and it seems U of R never lets up. The university is with you the entire way, offering help and encouragement as you progress.
But yeah, I’m older. Being surrounded by Freshmen doesn’t seem to help.
As a transfer (Junior standing), I should be a little older; I get that; I do. But even the transfers are young. Yesterday morning I attended “Breakfast with the President and the Deans,” a transfer-only event (no lousy freshmen).
Sitting with my fellow-transfer students, I quickly grasped two things:
1. The average age of the table, excluding myself, was twenty-one.
2. At twenty-six, I might as well have been in my fifties. I just don’t relate like I used to.
My wife says I’m suspended in an “Early-Twenties” Vortex. She’s creative like that.
Basically, the last few years I’ve been surrounded by folks in their early twenties: my friends, my band-mates, my co-workers. When you’re twenty-four and twenty-five, twenty-year-olds don’t bother you. You still relate.
At (almost) twenty-seven, I feel myself growing cold to the trivial discussions of “this is my first time away from home, and I need attention.” I could care less about your many trips to the bar. You got drunk, good for you.
Beer is still new and exciting for most young twenty-somethings. Personally, I’m tired of discussing the subtle differences of Keystone and Budweiser; it’s just not my thing. I realize “I drink one with dinner” is not the hippest sentence to utter, but luckily getting older relieves the stress of being hip.
There’s other differences. I’m married, so I’m not trying to get laid.
At twenty-one, getting laid wasn’t just an idea, it was a life goal; I based every decision around it: when I went outside, what I ate, why I got out of bed… I see it now in younger kids like a stamp on their foreheads; was I that obvious?
It’s cool, I guess. College is about getting laid for a lot of people. It’s about exploring and experimenting. It’s about being away from home for the first time and making bad decisions.
What if you’ve already done all that? What if you’ve already found yourself?
I desire to make a difference in the world. I’m ready to meet intellectual people and discuss meaningful topics. Cheesy as it sounds, I’m ready to make the most of my education.
Too-Cool for School
As I read over what I’ve written here, I see how asshole it all sounds. I’m too cool for twenty-year-olds.
That’s not it at all.
I had an amazing conversation with two twenty-year-olds on the first day of orientation. They were both amazing, incredibly smart people (smarter than I was at twenty) who deeply inspired me. It’s not the age I wish to distance myself from, but a state of mind.
Maybe I’m in some late-twenties life-crisis.
I once again find myself without a clear conclusion. Like a case of The X-files, I’m so close to capturing the truth but can’t quite take it home.
So goes life.
At least I can see the forehead stamp and laugh a little bit. Maybe Solomon was wrong; wisdom starts not at the fear of the Lord, but when we learn to laugh at ourselves and our pasts.
Wish me luck as I go forward.
I went back to school when I was in my mid-thirties, I was nearly forty when I finished. At least you are still in the same age range (twenties) as your classmates. Soon the course work will become your focus and you won’t have time to think about any age differences. Good luck this semester.
That is so true, Mary. Once classes begin, I have a feeling none of this will really matter. Thanks for the advice! I hope you are well.
Don’t worry about it. I truly began college at 24, and I lived in the dorms until I was 29! But it remains the greatest years of my life. There will be much for you to learn from the babies and much for pops to learn from them (do forgive).
Dorms until 29! I’ve never heard of such a thing. That’s awesome though. I hope you’re doing well!
Yeah but I was never thought of as being…that old. And you won’t either because you probably don’t look it or act it…d’oh! I didn’t mean it like that!
I’m 30 (31 in Jan.) and I am gearing up to enter my senior year at UC Davis. When I transferred in last year, I was a little overwhelmed at the beginning being surrounded by younger people, but I also learned that there are MANY that are bright, brilliant, and engaging. What worked for me, was getting involved in things that I enjoy that forced me to interact with them beyond the “I’m super old!” conversation – I work in a lab as an RA and as a peer counselor on campus. Something else that I found is that I have the benefit of experience that brings a whole new level to class discussions and study sessions.
Embrace the experience and you will not be disappointed. Good Luck with everything!
This is such good advice. Thank you so much!
I found this quote to help you join in the next alcohol/getting laid conversation —
“The only drink I like ice in is water, because you can’t water down water. I’m like that with love, too. Don’t you dare add any ice to the hot liquid loving I’m trying to pour all over you.” ― Jarod Kintz
On second thought, only say that to Megan. 🙂
Haha. I’m not so sure about that quote… Maybe on my tombstone?
Great post! I’ve been feeling a lot like this as well. I am doing a post baccalaureate program at UB before coming back for med school, and I am taking huge courses (300+ students) with undergrads. Even the seniors seem so young and unapproachable (I’m 25 going on 26, in a serious relationship, more into a glass of wine with dinner than getting sloshed on the weekends). Even in med school I’ll be on the older side of the student body. But I’ve just come to terms with it, and figure I’ll add some age-diversity. They can learn from me, and I surely will learn from the youngins 😛
I agree with you. Though I am only twenty, I tried one year of school, and found I completely didn’t fit it. I had already lived abroad for a year in Belgium, then
Backpacked alone through South America, and as you pointed out you were use to beng with younger people, I am use to being with those older than me. So, I found myself, only a year older than the people around me, but on a totally different planet. Though I will now be taking more years off (probably heading back to school around 26 or 27 like you) I can only hope the experience ends up benefiting the “youngins” and myself as well! Thanks for the write up, I could definitely relate.