The thousand yard stare of incongruity
Updated: Aug 18
I started my time at Texas State married, with a one-year-old. Not many other students do, and that difference is unequivocally present. The social and psychological gap between myself and the other students (and some professors) was vast and tumultuous.
I found myself navigating my way through an unfamiliar campus amongst a sea of young, blossoming students – almost all of which with groups of friends, or sharing an inside joke with a buddy. When I got to class, even on the first day it seemed people already knew other students, had their own groups. Not that I was there to make friends with a 19-year-old, but it kinda stung that they weren’t interested in knowing me either. Going back to college at an advanced age already feels like being sent to the ‘kids table’ of society, so it hurts when the other kids neglect you.
In order to watch our daughter Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays so my wife could work, I took 12 hours of classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays – which makes for kind of a long day. I would leave the house around 6:30am, and be driving back to the house at 6:30 at night and realize that I hadn’t talked with another person in twelve hours, yet was surrounded by thousands of them. And I’m a pretty outgoing, gregarious person, but its hard to be that way if you feel that you have no one to be gregarious to.
There would come a time in almost each class where it comes up that I’m a parent. Every time I told another student, or whole class, the other students would all have the same look. Eyes widen, but in an effort not to further alienate you they try to not look surprised but all the expression says is, “I’m so far from relating to that.” And the conversation changes.
Something that I don’t think many people mention when talking about becoming a parent is that you’ll lose friends. At least, you’ll lose touch. So to throw yourself into relatively unknown territory, (on top of the unknown territory that is parenting) where you’ll clearly be out of place and be met with such isolation can be eviscerating.
It got better though. During that first semester, I mostly ended up connecting better with my professors, since I was closer to their age than my peers. And the next semester I had fewer auditorium classes, and classes with group work (which deserves its own post) that I was able to connect with a few people that way.
I was a little more comfortable, but as I said before I wasn’t there to make friends. I already have my own friends, and they’ve helped me talk through all of this. I should thank them sometime.