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I am a Middle-Aged College Student

Updated on March 2, 2013

Being an Older College Student

At 38-years-old, I feel sort of weird telling people that I am a college student. Although I look relatively young for my age, the words "college student" and the age "38" seem contradictory.

College students, after all, are supposed to be teenagers and early 20-somethings just starting out in life. And 38-year-olds are supposed to be middle-aged people with careers, families, and mortgages.

But I have none of those things, and I am ok with that (not happy, but ok).

And while I admit that I would have preferred to have gone to college straight out of high school and graduated by age 22 or 23, I don't feel THAT bad about doing it now.

Because, as I've aged, I have become more tolerant, both towards others and towards myself. And I realize that the "one-size-fits-all" method of thinking is antiquated and out of touch.

People come from all walks of life and have different backgrounds, upbringings, and experiences that mold them and make them the unique beings that they are.

Therefore, what works for the majority or the masses may not work for you the individual.

Personally, I had way too many emotional issues early on that prevented me from really dedicating myself to the college experience.

For a number of years post-high school, I suffered with social anxiety disorder and self-esteem issues that made attending college all but impossible. I simply did not feel comfortable in a classroom setting.

I did, however, manage to go to junior college over a period of several years, but it was not fulfilling in that it was such a disjointed and chaotic experience: I would take a few classes one semester, miss the next two semesters, return for a semester, miss the next two, and so on.

That whole time period I was mired in a fog of depression, social anxiety, and loneliness that made attending college excruciatingly difficult. But somehow, I limped through junior college, slowly amassing credits.

Finally, at about age 26 or so, I was ready to transfer to a four year university. But a full-time job, life stress, and time conflicts prevented me from being able to commit to the university experience; however, I did complete one full semester at university (Cal State Long Beach) back in 2002.

So, here I am. 38-years-old and ready to embark on the college experience that I regret not commencing at a younger age.

I am still not completely comfortable in classroom settings, as being the center of attention or having all eyes on me still makes me nervous.

But as I have aged, I have relaxed more in social settings and don't feel the abject terror that I used to feel in social surroundings.

It's a damn shame, however, that I had to waste so many years in order to get to this point. I look around and see so many successful, college-educated young people embarking on careers and grabbing life by the horns, and here I am as a much older person stuck at the bottom of the heap so to speak.

But that's life I guess. I'm still young enough to where I can still achieve and accomplish a lot; I simply have to accept the fact that I am an extremely late bloomer who is late to the game.

And it does hurt when I look back and think about how immobilized and constrained I was due to my social anxiety/self-esteem issues in general -- not just in school but in life as well. It caused me to get stuck in neutral for many years, while most of my peers were shifting into first, second, third, and beyond.

I would love to hear from others who might have had or have similar experiences with returning to college at a later age.

Thank you!


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