Wow! I remember my WordPress password. So now that I’m here, let’s write a blog, shall we?
People often ask me if working on a college campus keeps me young or makes me feel ancient. I always tell them it’s a little of both.
I work directly with students and sometimes they actually like me. They stop by my office just to say hi, compliment my outfit, or friend me on Facebook. Now and again they might even “like” one of my status updates. And that small click is “fountain of youth” worthy! Feeling young doesn’t mean I’m their best friend. I don’t have the desire or energy to feel 19-years-old again. It’s more like the cool aunt who because I am slightly younger than their parents, I am deemed acceptable to have a conversation with devoid of eye-rolling or texting. It is on these days when I think to myself, “Caryn, you are still hip!” I give myself a little high-five, pop up my collar, blast some T-Swift, and so very quickly, any youthful vibe is erased (but that liked status update lasts FOREVER).
But lately I have just felt old. Like “maybe I should take down my diplomas so they don’t see the year I graduated” old. Thinking back over the years of my career in higher education, I have pinpointed the following reasons why this may happen:
Pop Culture Differences
Every generation has their Beatles, their New Kids on the Block, or their Justin Bieber. And I love talking about who or what was popular “in my day” with students because sometimes they have heard of Nirvana or watch The Cosby Show on Nick at Nite. But everyone now and then, there is a disconnect that will leave you deciding that since you don’t even remember the 2.5 years you spent in the seventies, you will just tell people you were born in 1980.
I’ll never forget discussing the demise of Saturday Night Live with a student a couple of years ago. Generations have been having this conversation for decades, so there is nothing new here. And I felt a commonality with her as she lamented that she missed the “classic” seasons when the show was groundbreaking and funny. I thought, wow, here is a teenager who gets it and understands the legacy of sketch comedy people like Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd created. And then she added, “like when Will Ferrell was on it.” Okay, we’re done here.
The Blank Stare is an important signal that you are about to feel like your grandmother. It is not uncommon for one to say something to a college student on any given day that will be met with an expression of concern that you may have just suffered a stroke because the words coming out of your mouth made no sense.
In a few weeks, I am taking a group of students to New York City for a study trip. I couldn’t wait to tell them that I had secured tickets for us to attend a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman! And there was plenty of excitement. But all I could focus on were the couple of Blank Stares in the crowd. “Who is this David Letterman of which you speak”, their faces said to me. Geez, it’s not like I said we were going to Jay Leno. (That would be less cool, right?)
Similarly, a classic story I like to tell is when, as a career counselor, I was explaining to a student the importance of using LinkedIn. I told her it was like an online rolodex. What’s a rolodex, she asked? Enter my own Blank Stare.
Assuming it has nothing to do with an action item I may has assigned them, the memories of these kids are amazing. They can tell me in detail about their weekend, semester-long study abroad, or four years of high school (and I’m glad they do, I love hearing their stories!). Meanwhile, this morning, I spent a good five minutes in the shower trying to remember if I had already shampooed my hair or not.
Look, I am nowhere near ancient. And I think one reason I enjoy my work so much is because I am youthful and can relate to students, developing relationships with them that allow me to feel like I might actually make this transitional time in their lives just a tad bit easier, more enjoyable, or supported. And if I am being honest with myself, the times when I do feel old, I am really feeling a twinge of jealousy. For the unique friendships they are forming, the new experiences they are having, and the adventures ahead of them.
Luckily, we all have new experiences and adventures awaiting us at every stage of life, and if we can go after them with the same zest and energy that college students tackle theirs, I think we are in good shape.
But first, a nap. I’m exhausted and I think I need to wash my hair again.