With winter break right around the corner, students look forward to the journey of heading home and reuniting with their families. However, what seems to be an uplifting time heralds darker notes. Let us take a sneak peek into the future: Honorary Portlanders blink their eyes as they step off of planes into the familiar but forgotten California sun, while the other 2% who are not from the Bay Area are greeted by a blizzard back in the Midwest.
Back at home, sitting around the dinner table, well-meaning relatives will peer at you and exclaim eagerly, “Why by golly! You’ve gotten so tall. Now, what grade are you in? Seventh? Eighth?”
You will reply, aghast, “Grandpa, I’m in college now.” They will laugh it off, but your heart will be sinking at the reminder that you are far older than they assume, and the innocent, albeit awkward, days of middle school are forever in the rearview.
Snap back to the present where the age panic is already setting in. College is synonymous with youth, yet it is also a transition to adulthood. We are acquiring crucial skills, like how to microwave popcorn without setting off the fire alarm — well, some Copeland residents are still getting the hang of that. However, as we mature, classic doubts creep in: what if I turn into my parents? Or worse yet, every Lewis & Clark student’s greatest fear, what if I conform to capitalist society?
In a school that was ranked number one for highest percentage of students with dyed hair (barely nudging Reed out of first place), students sporting colorful styles are shocked when their roots grow in. And as natural hair color starts peeking through, they might find every zillennial’s greatest fear: a gray hair.
I recently was speaking with a member of the class of 2023 who had become alarmed after spotting a few of these dreaded strands.
“I’ve only just hit drinking age and I’m already becoming an old man,” the junior said. “It might be vodka for now, but it won’t be long before I’m taking shots of prune juice.”
However, it is critical to understand that this is not only a panic about growing older, but also one about having wasted what precious time we have. It is common knowledge that if you have not started your own nonprofit, published a novel or two, backpacked across Europe and invented a cure for at least one life threatening illness by the time you reach your sophomore year, you might as well drop out.
While we might not seem old to boomers, when sixteen year olds are winning the Olympics and all we have done is, at best, hit 100k likes on TikTok, the envy can set in.
Due to COVID-19, there are more students than ever who have taken gap years. Being a year older than their peers, they feel this struggle even more. I am only eighteen and already I feel the undeniable urge bubbling up to call nowadays tweens “whippersnappers.”
Luckily for us, the Career Center is expanding its repertoire of resources. In addition to assistance with jobs, internships and grad schools, they now provide retirement planning. Fields Dining Hall student workers are now beginning to put their earnings into 401K’s, and some members of the current graduating class are looking into concurrent enrollment in Yale University and Sunny Acres Assisted Living.
So, when you go home for the break and feel panicked by your relatives’ assumptions of age, fear not. There are not only plenty of resources to guide you through these changes, but also plenty of fluorescent dye to cover up those gray hairs.