Monday, November 10, 2014

How Old Would You Be If You Didn't Know How Old You Were

I have always been a big believer in living how old we think we are, rather than how old we actually are.  My parents live at least 10 years younger than any number printed on their government IDs.  I spent most of my 20s first having a job way too serious for a recent college graduate and then a job that involved living like a recent college graduate when I wasn't one.  And now, in my 30s...I have no idea how old to be.

I should preface what comes next with the fact that for most of my life, I have been pronounced "young."  I even wrote about it when I turned 30.  It's a compliment and a superior-than-thou put-down all rolled into one.

I was numerically young, lived young, called young - and felt young, if only because I was told I was.

I am dealing with a completely different set of pronouncements these days.

To me, graduate school was always something that people did when they were older.  Literally, for the first 21 years of life, graduate students (aside from Doogie Howser, M.D., of course) were older than me.  Then I spent five years working as my friends went to grad school and came back with degrees that cost them money *and* job interviews because employers figured they were over-qualified and would demand salaries higher what was on offer.  I was now at that older, grad school age, but the whole idea was seriously disincentivized.  

So here I am, finally in graduate school because I am "older" and everyone is so young!  Aside from two part-time students in their late 40s, the oldest person in my counseling psychology cohort is 8 years younger than me.  In the SPH, there are two married PhDs in their mid-30s, and everyone else is 30 or younger.  My lab TAs this summer were six years younger than me, and they each have masters degrees and are two years into their PhDs.

One of my favorite party tricks is reminding them that I graduated from college before Facebook, Wikipedia, or Youtube existed.  That I didn't have an email address when I showed up for college or a cell phone until I was a sophomore. {Minds blown.}

The vast majority of time my peers and I get along gangbusters.  I skip the hard-core drinking shenanigans, and know they leave me off certain invites that I'm kind of relieved to miss, but I am included far more than I am not.  'Cuz I'm fun and come with a bunny ;)

On the other side is my professors.  IU isn't a starter college for faculty (Professor Beeball, aside), so for the most part they are older and established, but a few are closer to me in age than some of my classmates.

What about my extracurriculars you ask?  This is where the bottom falls out.  My usual swimming group is comprised entirely of high-school students.  Biologically, but not always socially acceptably, I could be everyone's mother.

With the start of the high school swimming season, I am moving down a swim group for the winter.  This group is comprised entirely of middle school students.  Biologically AND socially acceptably I could be everyone's mother.

One of my favorite party tricks there is making them realize that I will treat them like a peer and teammate, not act like a parent.  [Though a lot of eye-rolling is hidden behind goggles when the 11-year-olds decide to act their age.  It's arguably worse when the 17-year-olds act their age.]   {Minds blown.}

So now: I am considered comparatively old; am numerically comparatively old; live a little bit old - but feel young.  If you asked me how old I am based on how I generally feel, I would say 23 to 25.

Interestingly - and very much along the lines of that post I linked above, written when I turned 30 - I don't have any inclination to be a younger number.  I spend nearly my entire day around people younger (and far younger) than me, and generally keep up with them in practice and the gym, and that makes me feel young.  To feel young is enough because what comes with my older number is just as beneficial: I am so much more prepared for the intricacies of grad school and team membership than most of my peers in any given setting.

And, even more importantly, I don't have to be in high school anymore.

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