I have heard many a parent’s anxious comments about their high school graduate taking a "gap year" off before settling into college. One of my friends dramatically proclaimed that her daughter probably wouldn’t finish her degree until she was 30.
As I look into their furtive and worried eyes, I want to reassure them, but I cannot. I can only ask myself: Am I the world’s oldest senior? Or to add my own kernel of drama, the world’s oldest super-senior?
I will be going to my 40th high-school reunion, so you can do the math on my age. When I tell people that I am like Benjamin Button, I get the eye-roll. Studying, taking tests, writing papers, and working on teams has transported me to a time where my physical (looks, age) do not matter. Getting younger as you get older is entirely possible in certain realms.
When I graduated from high school, a term did not exist for the year in-between going from high school to college. Going to college was not a given. The pressure to get a higher-level degree is pervasive to kids graduating in current times. To me, going to college is a passage and not all about the piece of paper at the end.
I started at RCC, and each class I would enter looking for my kind. There would be a cluster of oldsters — or as I call myself, "eager oldster" — scattered through the class, and our eyes would meet knowingly. My daughter and I were in school at the same time for a while (of course, she graduated before me). To make me feel included, she would say, “Mom there are some oldsters in my class.” I would ask how old they were, and she would answer, “I think in their 40s.”
It felt much better being compared to 40-year-olds.
You would think that with my years of wisdom I would know exactly what I was doing. Wrong. Statistics show that college students change their majors three times, and I was no exception. My extreme case of senioritis also does not set me apart.
Now I am in online school, and the anonymity of working with my classmates not knowing that I am possibly the oldest senior gives untold freedom to forging through. But this story is not about age. It is about giving yourself permission to meander.
While a linear path is applauded in our culture, and the goal is to reap rewards that are usually monetary, being able to go off the beaten path (like going to college after everyone else has already graduated) can bring meaning that might not have been there previously. It is being at exactly the right place at the exact moment you are supposed to be.
So parents, don’t worry! Your kids have time to finish college. And one day I will, too.
Katie Yasui lives in Medford.