Wednesday, October 01, 2008

may be an equal mystery

Since I started back in school, I've acknowledged that I'm bound to be a bit set apart from the other students, just because I am considerably older than them. In fact, though, most of it has been by my own doing. Most of my classmates forget a lot of times, or just don't know, and really do not treat me like an outsider.

In the past few months, though, it's become apparent that there are inherent differences, not necessarily good or bad ones, just differences. I take school a lot more seriously than some classmates, and for completely different reasons. When I do less well on an exam than I'd like, I'm frustrated mostly because I worry that I haven't grasped the necessary information, and won't have that knowledge to carry with me when I start doing clinical rotations. For my classmates, they get frustrated because they're used to being in the top 5% of all of their classes, and they still haven't gotten used to that being rather irrelevant in this setting. They pool answers before discussion sections to reduce their workload. In these discussions, about 3 out of 15 students talk. The rest blink blankly at the instructor every time he or she answers a question. Or they ask questions that are so elementary that it's clear that they've been too lazy to attend lectures or listen during them.

I get it, though. Were I 22, I'm not sure I'd be that different. They haven't been on the other side of it, for one thing, haven't had to lead a meeting or discussion in which everyone was awkwardly quiet and uncommunicative. They haven't really been taught to care about anything beyond what is graded. If we had been told that we get a point for every time we speak in discussion section, you can bet there would be a 100 hands up in the air.

Similarly, my classmates take a lot of pride in skipping class, playing all week, and then pulling all-nighters 3 nights in a row in order to pass an exam. Maybe some of them just absorb information better this way, but for the most part, I think there are just so habits developed in college that take a while to kick.

Anyway, I don't mind. It's mostly interesting to see what the real differences are between someone in their 20s and someone in their 30s, taking away all the other situational changes that occur. It's only natural that I've forgotten the 20-something version of myself, but it's interesting to watch some of my classmates, knowing I must have been somewhat like them back then.

And that gets me to the part that really does tickle me about being older and in school. It's the cutest thing in the world to me, watching very young 22 and 23-year olds trying to disguise relationships. One of my classmates cracks me up, because she reminds me so much of me at that age that I seriously worry about her. She's surrounded by guy friends, generally gets along with very few women, and projects a kind of toughness that only some of us know is a complete ruse. When she gets her feelings hurt, she's heartbreakingly wounded. She's been circling this classmate for a while, and, to me, it's plain as day. So it's very cute watching her try to conceal it. She finally confessed the whole thing to me yesterday, and I went for an Emmy trying to pretend I had not suspected it all beforehand.

She was looking for approval and that, too, cracked me up. As we get older, we get more defiant, perhaps. We find someone we like, we decide on it, and if our friends don't like that person, we suspect them of not wanting the best for us or not understanding. But here's the 22-year old version, experiencing things for the first time, and wanting very much for someone to validate it. So, so precious, in some ways. It's nice to remember that, at one point, we were all like that.

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