“You’re older than my mom!”
I have heard that a lot, and it goes with the territory when you enter Temple at 39 years old, rather than 18.
“How do you get along with the young people? I bet that is tough.”
I have heard that too. Many people had opinions about what it would be like to attend a major university 22 years after graduating high school. I had gone to a junior college for a year, and let’s just say it did not go well. But enrolling at Temple at the age of 39 was one of the best experiences of my life.
When I arrived at Temple, I found that most of my classmates were not born when I graduated high school. They did not remember the conflict in Vietnam or the Watergate scandal. They’ve always had home computers and could not believe I did not have cable or video games as a kid.
Imagine their reaction when I revealed that televisions ended at channel 13. In fact, TV sets used to be furniture! Anyone who has ever seen a console TV set will know what I mean.
At times, I feel like my grandmother talking about the Great Depression when discussing my youth. But my age has rarely become an issue. Younger students accepted me easily.
There was never a clash between younger and older generations, and we could talk about what was happening to us at that moment. Pass the next exam or get all the reading done that we had for the next week? Those were the questions we had and they apply to students of any age.
Of course, there were differences. When invited to socialize with someone, I usually declined because I had to pick my kids up from school. Not only that, but because I have arthritis in my hip and knees, it’s hard to feel energetic about college while in pain and worried about getting children ready for school.
On the other hand, there are some skills older undergrads have that younger students don’t have. One is perspective. As an undergrad History major, I came to Temple with a two-decade work history.
I knew what it was like to work 40 or more hours a week at a job that I did not like. I had married, fathered three children and been divorced. I knew how to focus on what was important and how to trust myself.
Not only that, but by reading extensively over the years, I gave myself a great deal of background knowledge.
But do not think for a moment that I outshone everyone in my class. I remember one class in particular, where a young woman started citing authors and quoting people I had never heard of.
We spoke after that class, and to make a long story short, we found we had many interests in common. Two years after she graduated, we are still friends.
As a non-traditional student, an open mind is a necessity. I still do not understand tongue piercing, but nobody is perfect. However, I must admit I might have gotten a tattoo if I was younger.
Anyone who wants to return as an older student should go for it. Going to class with people half your age is easier than you think. I must say that my fellow, younger students always treated me with a lot of respect, and they even make going to class fun. You can’t ask for more than that.
William Lodge can be reached at Wtl1959@aol.com.