College in the 40s
(Continued from 1)
When I was born, there were only 49 states, and I soon
learned that most important events in the constitutional
history of the United States have happened during my
lifetime. This means that my fellow students study history,
while I study current events.
In many classes, Ive been the oldest person in
the room, leading to an awkward sorting out of social
convention. Will the instructor treat me with the respect
due my age, or with the disdain appropriate for an undergrad?
At the beginning of each semester, professors often
question students about their future plans, and
my classmates mention doctor, lawyer and engineer. Me?
I want to be a Social Security recipient because there
isnt enough time between graduation and retirement
to actually have a career.
When I tell my wife about some of my class discussions
discussions where life experience clearly colors
my opinions she says, Dont frighten
the children. And its difficult not to think
of my classmates as children, even though many of them
are in early adulthood, because my 21-year-old son is
among them, and I often find myself enrolled in courses
with members of his high school graduating class.
In a university where students of my generation can
probably be counted in single digits, theres little
opportunity to develop friendships. Even sincere attempts
make me feel like the creepy neighbor my mother always
warned me about.
But I have tried to experience college life the way
a traditional undergrad might.
I've eaten cafeteria food, quickly realizing that
the cast-iron stomach I had as a teenager is now
one of the seven largest methane producers in Texas,
and I must monitor my diet.
My wardrobe slowly devolved, and T-shirts
emblazoned with one of Baylor's many logos are now
my apparel of choice.
I joined three academic fraternities,
but soon decided that my days as a chaperone ended
with my son's high school graduation party.
Although I've yet to pull an all-nighter,
I've certainly had my share of late-nighters, not
opening my textbooks until my family finally retires
for the night.
Along with other Baylor students,
I've sat in the stands through losing season after
losing season of football, and sat glued to the
television as our women's basketball team advanced
through the NCAA tournament to take the title.
While my son speeds through college without stopping
for marriage, children and career, I relish the few
advantages of being a college student at my age. I especially
enjoy the reaction at the local multiplex when I request
the student discount, and my wife takes
great pleasure in telling people that she sleeps with
a college student.
Ill be 48 when I finally receive my B.A. in professional
writing, having spent six years finishing half of my
undergraduate requirements. At this glacial pace, dare
I even consider grad school?
is a 47-year-old senior at Baylor University in Texas.
His latest book is Yesterday
in Blood and Bone, a collection of short stories published
by Wildside Press. "College in the 40s" first
appeared in the June 13, 2005, issue of Inside Higher
Ed and is reprinted with permission of the author.