As a freshman, I was often naively irritated by the non-traditional students in my classes. While everyone in my cohort was within a couple years of having graduated high school, the classes often had a few students out of that normal range. Whether they were in their late twenties, responsibly chipping away at a degree when they could afford it, or in their forties having returned to school despite knowing it would be an uphill battle. They always provided a stark contrast to their young starry-eyed counterparts.
I’m ashamed to admit that I was often baffled by how distracted and rushed they seemed, how technology seemed to confuse them, and by how tired they all looked. Now, having been a part time student for a year and a college graduate for a month or so, I feel all too strongly the divide between myself and the more traditional students in my classes.
While they walk over from the dorms complaining of too short breaks between classes and third world food conditions at the commons, I’m showing up ten minutes late sweating from the marathon run it took to avoid paying for parking — convinced I’ve left my car running and jumping whenever my phone rings in hopes that it’s a hiring manager. Beyond that, I can’t seem to understand Blackboard since the update, everyone in class has a more advanced phone or laptop than me and I keep finding myself chuckling at horrible puns made by the professor while I catch glances of derisive judgment flung by all the younger faces in the room. Somehow in the span of a year, I’ve become too old for college.
So, why exactly am I back for another semester of punishment?
Well, first there’s the matter of my degree. As lovely as a degree in economics sounds in a time of prosperity and impossibly high oil prices, these days the standard response to hearing my qualifications is a long pause and a polite, “So, what do you know how to do again?” It’s the fatal flaw of any social science degree, and one that I’d been dreading for years. In fact, most of my peer group has either decided to double down on their bets and attend grad school, or diversify their skill set and gain another undergrad degree.
Being completely unwilling to subject myself to even higher learning, or another two to four year stint as an undergrad student, I’ve decided instead to get my EMT certification as a nice compromise. It’s a way to continue my learning without sucking up all my available time for employment, and will give me a specific marketable skill that doesn’t suddenly fall out of fashion every time the global economy sees its shadow and retreats back into a recession. And even better, it means that I’ll ideally be able to help patch my friends up each time they fall through a lake, or burn their hands lighting bonfires, or most recently, nearly remove their hands with an axe.
Of course, there’s always an ulterior motive to these decisions, as I don’t recall ever deciding to act like an adult simply because it’s the right thing to do. Part of my decision to continue learning comes from a desire to re-take backcountry skiing as a cheaper alternative to actually buying a splitboard. Having spent the full last season forced to trail behind the pack, slowly stomping up the skin track and angrily cursing all those lucky enough to have skis strapped to their feet, I’ve been issued an airtight promise of securing a splitboard.
So, for one last time (and I’ll be damned if this isn’t the last time) I’ll strap in for my last semester of college. Its been two semesters since I should have graduated, one semester after I did, and a good many years after I should have focused on adult pursuits such as employment and housing rather than how to cheaply snowboard.
Don’t interpret that as a regret or the beginning of a semester long complaining streak. If I have to play the role of the too-old, out of touch non-traditional student to squeeze a few more adventures out of college, then so be it. Besides after haunting every dorm on campus, earning more parking tickets than I could pay in a lifetime and undergoing nine rounds of midterm and finals stress, it’s about damn time to have a semester with only a few night and weekend classes. And if I can still fool you all into letting me write once a week, then that’s just a bonus.
So here’s to the end of college as I know it, and to new beginnings as the crotchety old super senior lurking in the back of your classes. After five years, I can stand firm in the decision to swear off college forever after this last semester. Unless of course they offer a new outdoor course. After all, nobody’s perfect.