Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Certain Slant of Light

As many of you may know, I am 24 and continually amazed by the surprises that come with "growing up."  Just over a week ago, I spent an evening with friends.  One of us mentioned that we are 24, a number that made me say, "We are?"  I don't think 24 is old - certainly not by any means - but I am still surprised that I am 24, the same way my mother, each time I tell her her own age, gasps and forces me to do the math, adding the years since her birthdate to the current year.  "Weren't we just graduating high school?" one of my friends asked.  "Six years ago," another said, "And in six more years, we'll be 30."

On Monday, I attended a faculty dinner for one of the universities I'll be teaching at this fall ("this fall" being next week).

It was funny how very adult-like I felt at the dinner.  It is strange, spending so much of your life feeling like you belong to one group (child) to realize, over the course of a few years, that you are generally accepted by another group (adult).  At my age (and with my love of jeans and the junior's clothing department), I am still able to shift between the two groups somewhat.  I am quite often mistaken for a student at the college I have been teaching at, yet when I stand at the head of the class, the students treat me like an adult.  It is really dependent on two things, in my opinion: how I act and carry myself, and how I dress.  During the summer semester, one of my students noticed me walking across campus after class.  She called out to me, using my last name like students are supposed to do with teachers even though she was two years older than I am.  When we met in the path, she immediately said, "At first, I thought you were a student from far away.  A really nicely dressed student though."  When I go to the gym on campus, dressed in a ratty old shirt and shorts, makeup-free with my hair pulled back, I am consistently mistaken for a student.

But Monday evening, sitting in the faculty dinner at round linen-covered tables alongside department heads and other new adjuncts, I felt like such an adult.  I felt like I had joined a part of a community - us adults who wake up each morning and have our jobs with bosses and rules and work events and HR departments.  No one thought I was some rogue student stowaway on board for the free vegetable lasagna dinner.  I was an adult, clapping loudly after speeches by important members of the college community and accepting business cards from full-time faculty.  It is really quite remarkable to take notice of those moments when you feel yourself stepping into a new quadrant of your own life.  I couldn't help but sit there and smile.


Jamie K. said...

well-written post filled with adult thoughts :D im 22, i look older than me, people ask me if where i am working when i havent even graduated from University!
but i feel you, those thoughts and instances of 'growing up'. :)

Jenn Milt Art said...

This post is beautifully written, I can relate really well. I am also 24 and teaching at a university this fall.

Enamel Girl said...

i like the positive spin you put on growing up. i felt akward in my mid twenties but now i'm enjoying adulthood. enjoy the new you!

Megan Harmeyer said...

Well said! I still find myself in that "oh, I'm an adult" frame of mind. I used to always be the youngest one in the clinic but now I have to stop and realize I've been there forever now (7+ years) and there's people there who were BORN the same year I graduated high school (1994). How is that even possible?! LOL Congrats on your teaching job.

AggiePigeon said...

This is so true on so many levels for me too. Since I am still a student (graduate) it's a little less right now but I teach a class and it is strange being looked up to...to me, I'm still in just as much need of mentoring as them, but at the same time I'm the mentor/teacher

Pretty said...

Aww you are so cute... hehe
I feel like all you can be is be yourself..! there is no age/label/limit.. on who you are...

I've found that a lot of 'adults' are really big children. Try working in a small office for a while. It felt like the 40+ year olds were really childish.. ie. throwing chairs around.. yelling.. petty arguing... ehh!

Oh and I think 'students' are adults too. well at least college students.. I'm a student again.. due to changing careers.. ! I'm not young...young/or old.. I just am... just there to learn..

I think we are too caught up on labels in our society..

just be free! :-D

Fleur said...

I can totally see where you're coming from. I'm 24 too, still a student though, but I can see the thing you're talking about. In our language there is a clear distinction between young people and 2adults, in terms of respect you show them. And I'm more often being refered to as an adult now - it's stunning to me, because I still think of myself as young:)

And when I think about how my life now is different from say my mother's when she was my age.. She was working full time, married, had children... And I'm sort of dreading those responsibilities, because I'm still a youngster inside...
Wow, I sort of lost my trail of thought. I wanted to say I'm still in that phase where I can't really picture myself as an "adult".

Laynie said...

I spent a lot of time with a friend of mine from college and her family. Her mother told me a "secret" once: grownups are only big kids who are pretending to be in control so the little kids aren't afraid. It's so true, too.

I'm 38 now, and I honestly don't feel that different on the inside from when I was 25. It's strange, really, but interesting.

Enjoy this time. It's good that you can see the change, and appreciate it.

Unknown said...

Jamie, thank you for your kind comment! It is funny feeling 'older.' I had a conversation with my boss this morning about the way times passes so much quicker when you're older than when you're younger. I guess it is all just relative, right?

Thanks Jenn, that means a lot coming from someone with your educational background. I appreciate it :) Best of luck teaching this fall!!

Thanks EnamelGirl!! It's exciting experiencing new parts of life. I think a lot of time we (myself included) forget to realize that we ARE experiencing something new until later (I look back at my high school years and wonder why I wasn't amazed at how strangely bizarre high schoolers can be).

HAHA, Megan, I feel the same way!! Right now, I am, without a doubt, the youngest new teacher and it is weird. But someday (not long from now) I won't be the youngest or the newbie. So I'm enjoying it - even if it is weird walking into a faculty meeting where everyone else knows each other! lol. Thanks for your kind comment :)

Aggie, I kind of feel the same way, because I am SO close in age to my students (and my sister has classes with some of them, so some of my students are my sister's friends, which is odd). I'm so glad you can relate too :)

Pretty, ah, so true - so many adults are big children (and I am, technically, an 'adult', but I still enjoy acting like a child now and then :)

Fleur, that is SO interesting - I hadn't even considered that. How interesting to find yourself referred to as an adult that way! I notice that people treat me differently now - like when I am shopping, I am regarded more as a serious shopper and treated with respect, instead of being ignored as many teens are. That is also an interesting point that life was different for your mom at the age you are now. My sister's boyfriend's mom had him when she was two years younger than me. The thought of having a child right now is completely unfathomable. I can scarcely take care of myself - I can hardly imagine having a child. I think I would certainly feel more 'grown up' though. I really enjoyed your comment - that is a lot to ponder - I like that! Thanks so much, Fleur :)

hahaha, Laynie - so true!! I don't feel much different than I did when I was younger, either (although a little more aware, observant, and certainly more intelligent - although I believe our most formative years end at 25 or something, so I guess this is as good as it's going to get, right? haha). My sister turns 20 soon, and it is really quite surprising to me that she is that age, since I still see her as my 7 year old sister, or the 12 year old sister, or my 16 year old sister just learning to drive. It is incredible that she is nearly 20. I assume I haven't caught up with my own age the same way I haven't 'caught up' with hers :) Thanks for your funny comment, Laynie :) It brought a smile to my face.

Donna said...

That feeling that time flies, or time is getting away from you goes even faster the older you get. It makes sense that it does too, when you are 5 and thinking on New Years Day that it's going to be FOREVER before the next Christmas, well, you have to wait a fifth of your life for a whole year to go by. When you're 50 a single year is now only a fiftieth of your life.

And yeah, I'm 47, but I still feel like an adult imposter. It's not that I'm childish or immature, although I have my moments! lol I really expected that the time would come that I would just feel something telling me that I have transitioned to adulthood. It never came.

Unknown said...

Donna, it does makes sense, doesn't it? It is all relative. It is amazing how quickly a year passes! I love that you say you're 47 and still feel like an adult imposter :) I'm sure I'll feel the same way at 47!! :D Thanks for stopping by, Donna :)

Unknown said...

Donna, it does makes sense, doesn't it? It is all relative. It is amazing how quickly a year passes! I love that you say you're 47 and still feel like an adult imposter :) I'm sure I'll feel the same way at 47!! :D Thanks for stopping by, Donna :)

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