If anything was to dispel my notion of being a young person who deserved some kudos for "adulting," it was going back to Humboldt State University at 37. Compared to my classmates, I wasn't just "adulting," I was a full-ass adult on the parent-age spectrum. Among the underclassmen who use "retro" and "'90s" in the same sentence, I felt somewhat like a walking fossil as I kept pushing up my shirtsleeves to silently say, "Look — I'm covered in tattoos. I am not your mother!" Unbeknownst to me, it was exactly something their mothers would do.
I entered my first round of college in 1999, having only been on the Internet once in my life, and it was to vote for the blue M&M. The classes I take now are filled with hip, young avocado-on-toast-ers who have never known a world without the blue M&M, and they all seemed to be reluctant to hear about how I was a pioneer, shaping the colorful candy world that they live in today. "Tan, I tell you!" I proclaim in the quad with my cane held aloft. "The blue ones used to be tan!" But their earbuds, magically wireless, drown out my frail old old-person warble, so I give up and shuffle forth to check the Depot salad bar for prunes.
The first week of the fall semester, two freshmen stood leaning against said salad bar, looking confused slash worried and holding plates of food. I struck up a conversation and learned they had forgotten their J Cards in their dorms and were trying to Venmo anyone Internet bucks in exchange for some cash so they could buy their already plated food. The gal's tofu was getting cold and they weren't having any luck. I paid the $9 for their meals — something which seemed totally crazy to them — and they tried to get my info to pay me back.
"It's OK. I'm, like, you know, old. I have a job and stuff," I said, ending the exchange with, "Thank you for talking to me." I had essentially tipped a couple of kids for interacting with me on their turf. They were semi-flabbergasted. It 1,000 percent made me feel like a rich old person for the first time in my life. That is a dragon I intend on chasing.
Being an older college student increases your chances of being a grade grubber and teacher suck-up by, like, 90 percent. Not only did I end the semester with a grade sheet looking like the cartoon bubble above someone falling off a cliff (AAAAAAA), I also stayed in constant email contact with my professors, one of which was younger than me, and I asked a buttload of questions in class. I would have hated me when I was 20. The magic about being older though, is that you know more about the relative importance of things and can weigh them against each other. I can save myself an eyeroll from the overly bothered twentysomething or I can get the information I need from the professor, but I can't have both, so get familiar with the inside of your eye sockets, my dudes.
HSU is a little insular, especially for the younger students. The campus grocery store is pretty much a mini Wildberries, the library loans out laptops for free and the pool and workout areas are better than anything in town. If a campus dweller doesn't have a particularly exploratory spirit, there is no reason for them to even leave the grounds. I'm old enough to think about city economics and how much this sucks for the surrounding area businesses. A girl in my Environmental Writing class was baffled that there was a place you could go to hang out by the river in the summer. She had never heard of Willow Creek. She also hadn't heard of Trinidad or Blue Lake, and when I explained them she shook her head at the idea of traveling so far away. I had already been to Blue Lake that day because that's where the good thrift store is. When you are an older Humboltian you know where the good thrift store is. So, I might not be invited to the cool house parties, but this leather bag was $7.
It's weird something that was so distasteful at 20 is so utterly joyous at 29 plus eight. Sitting next to the river is somehow less important than sitting in a tiny right handed desk because, you know, delayed gratification is a real thing. I love being a student. If I was independently wealthy, I'd just put "College" on my business card. It's a plus, too, that my classmates are too young to make Rodney Dangerfield jokes at my expense.
Sarah Godlin is a writer and a long-term Humboldtian who will never turn her nose up at candy, no matter the color.