Feeling like you’re old? Deny. deny, deny, deny

Diary of a Non-trad 

Philip J Perez, a 53-year-old father of three, is single and enjoys long walks in the buffet line. He recently returned to Del Mar after several years away.

At what age did you realize you were getting old? Maybe it’s not a certain age but a specific moment in life that causes an “Oh Hell, I’m Freaking Old” realization. 

Perhaps it’s the moment you let out an involuntary grunt as you got off the couch or maybe it was the sudden urge to snag multiple packs of crackers from a restaurant. Maybe all it took is one look in the mirror to notice a random hair growing off the bridge of your nose.

Heck, it could even be a combination of multiple things or maybe it was the moment your kid said, “Dad, you’re getting old,” because you have been in denial of every other sign of age. 

Denial is one heck of a drug. We all know reality is inevitable, but all it takes is a shot of denial to make us forget all about it or purposely ignore it. Hell, as I sit and type this, I sit in denial even though I’m straining my eyes to see the screen and keyboard because, not too long ago, I could see a shard of glass in a sandcastle. 

Despite all those signs, reality did not set in until I was walking into the Harvin Center and a pretty, young co-ed ran up and gave me a hug. I was stunned at first because, hey, a man my age should not get a hug from some random 19-year-old. So, I apologized and asked, “Do I know you?” 

“It’s me, silly,” she replied, all while we were getting awkward stares from other students. “You were my mom’s boyfriend when I was 5.” 

That was moment No. 1.  

This is my second semester back in school and my moments of realization continue to pile up into this dark closet of denial I keep in my mind, hoping the walls won’t break from everything being stored inside.  

There are those awkward moments during a class discussion about something historic when the instructor turns to me and say, “You remember those days.” There are those moments when the 25-year-old sitting next to you complains about one random grey hair and you can’t hide that look of disgust even if it hurts to do so. There was the one moment when a landline phone rang and a student screamed in delight because she thought it was just for decoration. 

My favorite so far is the moment I stood up to talk and announced my age only to be interrupted by a round of applause. It was a nice gesture, but it is almost embarrassing. 

I will say, for many of us nontrads, being able to return to school is definitely an accomplishment. I won’t discount that. We have all been given another chance to reinvent ourselves and create a new path or to advance in our current journeys. That being said, there is a bit of vulnerability that the nontraditional student faces that traditional students do not experience and if all goes well for them, will never have to.  

We tend to move at a slower pace. We sometimes struggle with technology. Our bones crack randomly. We appreciate elevators and will walk an extra distance to find a working one because stairs freaking suck. (Maybe that’s just me.) But for Pete’s sake, just because I was born in the ’60s does not mean I knew where I was when Kennedy was shot! 

Now, there is a reason for this rant and here it is. As a journalism student, I may need to approach many of you for interviews or simple quotes and I may carry a camera at times. If you spot me, please don’t call security on me and report an old guy with a camera on campus. I’m just another college student trying to get a degree like everyone else. 

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