When I applied for college about a year ago, I thought, "I'm old, and I'm gonna be different."
At the same time, I thought being old and different made me special. So I continued on.
On orientation day, I felt very old and different.
And then I got out of my car.
The young man in the car next to mine asked, "Are you here for transfer orientation? Do you know which building we're supposed to be in?"
Like I knew anything. But he saw me as a fellow transfer student, not an old, different lady.
With that one exchange, my mind began to change.
Just a few hours later, I found myself in a whole room full of different people known as "non-trads", the non-traditional students. Adults and commuters mostly. Older students. People who kinda looked like me. So, maybe I wasn't so different. Or special.
And that was okay.
The first class I took was a junior-level class. Out of the entire class of 30 students, I was one of three students older than age 25. On the second day of class, one of them chose a seat closer to me and said, "It's nice to see another non-trad here." Her name was Aimee, and she and I took turns answering the professor's questions because none of the other students had learned to be brave enough to speak up in class yet.
On the other side of me was a "traditional" junior. She asked me things like when tests were scheduled and had I started my term paper yet. Like a classmate would.
It was nice.
I had just that one class this past spring. Most of the semester was spent meeting with counselors and other university staff trying to get as many of my 30-year-old credits transferred as possible. I also picked a lot of brains to find out how to test out of some classes and get credit for real life work experiences.
That was a lot of stuff to accomplish.
I was rewarded with several extra transferred credits that had originally been declined. And I managed to test out of speech class this semester because I had talked to the right people last semester.
This fall, I walked into my night class fully expecting a room full of non-trads, people who work all day like me who "have to" take classes at night. I'd been looking forward to maybe making a friend or two.
Not. One. Non-trad.
On top of that, as the instructor took attendance, he called out the name of one of Elder Son's high school classmates.
That should have been it for me. It couldn't get much clearer that I was old enough to be the mom of any of my classmates.
But I was good with it. Surprisingly good.
I also have this self-defense class. This grueling, physical, hard class.
And I'm keeping up with all the 20-year-olds.
(Elder Son's classmate is in this class with me too. She said to me, "Hey! You're in all my evening classes!" I replied, "Hey, you're in all of my classes.")
I sometimes forget I'm old and different.
I look around, and I see college students. I'm doing what they're doing.
They all look the same to me. And I forget that when they look around, they see a bunch of the same people... and me.
But they don't seem to treat me any different. The self-defense gals throw me on the floor just as hard as anyone else.
Last night in the self-defense class, I was teamed up with another non-trad.
She felt old and different. She spent time telling me just how old she felt. She told me all the reasons why she couldn't do all the self defense things everyone else was doing.
I'd guess she was 10 years younger than me, but I felt like I was the younger one of us.
I expected something so much different going back to college at this age.
I thought I'd feel really old being shoved up next to a crowd of younger people.
But I don't.
I find that very surprising.
And just when I start thinking I'm really cool, I'll catch a reflection of myself next to a classmate and realize, "Ah. There it is. I'm someone's mom."
I guess the secret is to avoid reflecting too much. ;-)