The Non-Traditional Student: Lessons In Irony

EPSON scanner imageAs a “traditional co-ed”—i.e. someone who enters college in the same calendar year that he or she finished high-school—I thought I was so cool walking to the art building in my oversized flannel shirt and shredded jeans while listening to Pearl Jam on my headphones. Yes sir, in the mid-nineties, grunge was in and being between the ages of 18 to 22 was even more so.

The “non-traditional” students were a phenomenon my friends and I could not wrap our heads around. Thus, we enjoyed making fun of them. We thought they were musty, crusty and old and we wondered why in the world they would CHOOSE to put their ancient, arthritic asses on the hard wooden seats in the same stifling lecture halls that WE had no choice but to drag our hung-over selves to at the ungodly hour of 11 a.m.

I mean, they had jobs and houses and families and cars and probably unpronounceable medical conditions and doctor’s appointments for crying out loud! Why did they feel the need to spend their “spare time” with us intentionally exposing themselves to the likes of English Comp, Abnormal Psych or the Geologic History of the Dinosaurs?

I remember at the start of each new semester taking a passing glance around my new classes, trying to get an overview of my fellow attendees while simultaneously looking for hot guys. And each time my gaze got snagged on someone sporting a fanny pack or grey hair, I would roll my eyes in bitter disgust, groaning and dying a little bit more inside. I would be stuck with the know-it-all geriatrics for the better part of five months.

It was incomprehensible. And it was annoying. Because fifty bucks said they were always going to have the answers FOR EVERYTHING. And another fifty said they’d have a nice long-winded story to accompany said answer. AND they asked a TON of questions. It was excruciating. The only saving grace was the possibility that I’d be paired up with one of them for the final class project — since they had, in fact, roamed the earth WITH the very same dinosaurs we were studying. I bet they had some real side-splitters about that ornery, ‘ole Velociraptor.

Imagine now, if you can, the calendar pages flying as I invite you to travel with me briskly into the future to a new chapter called “Irony’s a Bitch” … or “Getting What You Deserve” … or “Here’s To Me and MY Arthritic Ass” … whichever title you like best, go with it. The point is that since I’ve enrolled in a course at a local college of art and design, the irony is not lost on me that I have become the very butt of my own joke. I am the punch line. I am the “non-traditional” student.

I am the one with the answers and the long-winded story to accompany them. I am the one staying after class to ask the professor “one more question” in order to “get my money’s worth.” Yes, I have a job and a house and a family and a car and the pharmacy on speed dial AND I just happened to have a doctor’s appointment this very morning…

But I implore you, Dear Beautiful Young Blonde Coed Who Sits Beside Me With The Bright Red Lipstick and Super Trendy Glasses Looking Stunning Even Though You Are Totally Hung Over… please try to forgive me when I launch into a lengthy story about my recent vacation and the amazing architecture, rich history and Spanish moss of Savannah… For I—the non-traditional student (sans fanny pack and grey hair, of course)—am NOT too old to learn stuff too.


15 thoughts on “The Non-Traditional Student: Lessons In Irony

  1. Oh, stop! You’re not old enough to be considered a “non-traditional” student, yet! You are so right about the constant questions and long-winded answers. I had one of those older ladies in my same major and year, so I had several classes with her. There was no escaping her observations and connections between what we were learning and her long life.

    • Bless you Katie! I didn’t write this to receive a bunch of “you’re not old” comments… because I really do think it’s kind of ironic. I don’t think I’m “OLD” but it makes for more fun reading to say so at least. But I AM guilty of the stories. Not so much in class but everywhere else. I guess you just live longer and thus have more to say 😉 haha

  2. Congratulations! I know that feeling of going back to school and being that “non-traditional” student. Don’t let age and lack of a hangover get to you. You know the real world. They haven’t a clue. You know how to drink in moderation. They’re just learning. You know about the “freshman 10” and they’re still wondering why their jeans have gotten so tight lately. Since it’s YOUR money that’s paying YOUR tuition, you will study harder and give 110%. Good luck! And I’m so proud of you (taking this on when you’ve got a wedding to plan)!!!!!!!

    • Hi Paige! Yes, we KNOW now some of what we didn’t know then, that’s all it is 🙂 Thanks. The wedding stuff isn’t too bad b/c we’re planning to do it so simply but what I didn’t plan for that has been harder was signing up for the class and LITERALLY getting a job the NEXT day. Something Lee predicted with 100% accuracy would happen. Not that he discouraged me. He though taking the class was great, but he just thought it would work out that way… You know, ironically!!

  3. Oh Dear…recent memories of grad school are flashing before my eyes. Did I do THAT to the younger students (much younger)????? I do remember having STORIES. But I thot they were appropriate. I DID keep my mouth shut PART of the time to hear the “younger” version. Hmmmm…that must be why the classes were so fun for ME. I had a captive audience. Well, here’s hoping they learned SOMETHING from my experience. And Joanna, your post was hilarious!!!

    • Well, since I wasn’t there, I don’t know if you were annoying… but I totally understand about the wanting to share with the class part. It’s just so hard to keep our mouths shut when we have something to say! haha 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  4. Ha! – loving your post and you are certainly not old and everyone is there to learn:) I did the non-traditional full-time night school accelerated degree programs; 4 year done in 3 years, Masters done in 13 months. I love learning and taking in a class when I have the time. Have a Great One!

    • Good for you Renee! Apparently, there are so many “non-traditional” students now that they are reconsidering calling them non-traditional! I did a little research and found that so many people are going back later in life. Hope you are well 🙂 Thanks again for stopping and saying hello!

  5. JT says:

    Now take all you have said and add to it driving your mother to the school and being around each others classes …. they don’t have an emoticon for that yet!

  6. Donald Miller says:

    Pfft. You’re probably the hottest chick in the class. Just chew lots of gum, say “like” a lot, and curl your hair around one of your fingers, and you’ll fit right in–until you start asking too many questions. Psst. Leave ’em for the prof’s office hours.

    • Awww… shucks. Thanks man! I don’t think so, but it’s nice of you to say! I am actually not the OLDEST. There is one woman who is older than I am by at least 30 years… so it could be worse. She’s actually quite quiet now that I think of it… and kind of blowing my theory here. I guess I could leave the comments and questions for after class… but they just seem to fit at the TIME that I want to share them, you know?!?! Thanks for the tip, though 😉

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