“I feel too old to be here,” said the young man next to me with a laugh. Watching the crowd of teenagers and young twenty-somethings milling around the concert venue, I was feeling the same way. I had heard on the radio that a band I really like was coming to Nashville and quickly bought a ticket; not knowing or caring that the venue was a teen hangout. I asked him how old he was, hopeful for someone – even a stranger – to commiserate with. He was six years younger than me. I sighed inwardly, still feeling “too old to be here.”
Several years later I stood at the door of a classroom, looking at a room full of classmates who were young enough to be my kids, and that feeling came rushing back. I bolstered myself with stories of other adult students who had come back to college and paved the way before me, and found a seat.
It’s not always easy to step away from the crowd and be different. It’s even more difficult to walk into the crowd with your differences on display. Sometimes you just want to stay comfortably in your comfort zone.
Since that first day of class I have met other “returning adult students” around campus, even attending a Launch & Learn meeting hosted by Vol State that addressed issues and concerns that adult students in particular share. Such as feeling too old to be here. It’s good to have someone to commiserate with. Most of all, as I started to participate in classroom discussions and assignments, I saw that the differences were not as big of a gap as I made them out to be. We’re all students here.
How did the concert go? Once the music started and I let go of my hang-ups, it ended up being a memorable night. And that young man became an important part of my life. I stepped out and found a new comfort zone.
If you’re a returning adult student here at Vol State, chances are that you can relate. If you’re someone who is considering returning to school, be brave! There are plenty of people here ready to welcome you and help you find your place.
Gaynell Buffinet Payne
P.S. If you have any particular questions or concerns about being a returning adult student, contact Briggette Moore, Secretary for the Office of Veterans Affairs and Adult Learners at Briggette.Moore@volstate.edu or call 615-230-4861