A couple of days ago, I was in my Honors Seminar class and, in an attempt to get us all to talk more, our instructors set up what they called “Speed Friending.” Speed Friending is basically speed dating, but you’re not trying to get into the pants of the person in front of you in under thirty seconds. Instead, you’re trying to get to know the other person better because we might as well be friendly with each other since we’re going to be stuck in the same class for the rest of the semester.
Anyway, they gave us a list of questions that would help us get talking and one question that everyone answered similarly was, “What makes you feel old?” And the answer to that question is: College.
I don’t know if anyone else meant going to these classes and pertaining to a university, because I kind of meant that, but mainly I meant the everyday things that happen while I’m going through this first semester of college.
Beverly and I go to the same university, UNLV. She is a transfer student and I am a freshman. We have this ongoing conversation about our experience there that has to do with that same question, “What makes you feel old?” In a sense, we feel as though college is forcing us to grow up.
At any point in our lives before college, when we met someone, we talked and were polite and kind and then we’d say, “See you tomorrow.” Because that is the way that life was. The people you met and talked to and said goodbye to were people you saw on a regular basis because they were in your class. Now, things have changed. I can approach someone at UNLV and strike up a conversation and they will be kind and polite and engaging during that conversation. However, when it’s time to part ways, we’ll say, “It was nice to meet you.” then shake hands and go our separate ways. Maybe we’ll run into each other again and exchange a few curt words, but, for the most part, you just move on.
No one is telling us how to do this, either. We’re all alone in a sense. No one is saying, “Hey, get to class. Turn in your work. Make friends.” These are things you have to figure out how to do yourself. Wake up on time and get to class because if you don’t pass, you’ve just wasted a good couple hundred dollars. And I feel especially bad for those kids that live on campus.
I made a friend in my English class who was sick last week. He told me about how horrible he’d been feeling and that he’d missed class because of it, so I asked if he’d called his mom to ask for her help. And he had. But there wasn’t much she could do since he lives on campus. She gave him advice about how to stay functional until he got over his cold. I then asked if he was getting enough to eat, to which he responded, “I don’t even have silverware. All I eat is Ramen or junk food.” Then I called him a stereotypical college student and suggested he get some sort of soup and stay in bed for a couple of days. And I realized, how do I know that? What gives me the authority to suggest that?
I’m just a teenager. What the hell do I know about taking care of people while they’re sick?
Another point I wanted to make was that everyone is also alone in the literal sense.
Because everyone is on a personal path towards their dream careers and ambitions, their schedules are completely different and unique. Before, if you were alone, you’d get sympathetic stares or hushed snickers; you were singled out. Things are not the same in college. If you’re alone in college, so is pretty much everyone else. It’s completely normal to eat lunch alone. It’s normal to attend a lecture or sign up for a club or go to an event alone. And, coincidentally, all those things help to make you feel older.
College changes your life completely. Personally, I love it. I feel as if I’m doing something worthwhile. My friends said something about this a couple of days ago. They said they weren’t really feeling college because they have to do so much thinking. They have to put forward an effort that they have never had to put up before and it’s exhausting. But that is the very reason why I love college so much. I feel as if my actual potential is showing and my mind is being challenged and all the thinking I do on a regular basis is actually being put to use and means something now. I actually have to try in my classes to understand what I’m learning and I’m happy about it. I feel like everything I do is actually worth doing.
And because I’m doing work that will mean something later on in my life, I feel old.