When did you realize that you were a grownup?
I had an epiphany today while sitting in a math class at my local community college. I should start by explaining that I am 34 years old and a returning adult college student. I attend Arizona State University full-time but am taking some of my general education classes at the community college to take advantage of the reduced tuition costs. I have taken the long, winding road to my college education and am not ashamed of that in any way.
Okay, back to math class. I sit in front of two young women, maybe 19 years old at most, who are clearly not as invested in their academic success as I am. Overheard from one of them on the first day was; “Oh. My. God. How am I supposed to sit here and listen to the same teacher talk for two hours straight? I mean, when am I supposed to smoke? She is such a Nazi.” You get the idea. Well, these two women talk incessantly throughout the lecture. Of course they are not talking about math, but about whatever they deem to be important gossip today. For instance, today it happened to be about how much of “a total nerd” I was for-OMG-carrying an actual backpack to school each day.
I have four points to make here. First of all, I am sitting right in front of you, and although I am like, ancient to you, I can still hear you. Second of all, unlike the two of you, I have purchased actual textbooks that need to be carried to class; thus the backpack. Third of all, how old are you? Finally, how bad do you feel about yourselves that you have to pick on me?
At first I felt the rush of shame that any young, well-prepared high school student might feel for being-gasp-a little different from everyone else, but that quickly dissipated into pure exasperation. I’m not even angry at these imbeciles because in that moment I realized something very important. I just don’t care about what they think. I am not going to college to make friends, impress my classmates, or put on a fashion show. I am there to gain an education hat will hopefully prepare me for success in my life.
Let me tell you, this was a very liberating moment for me. Knowing that what others think of me has no impact on my self-esteem or worth makes me feel a little gratified. Of course I am not the first person to ever say this, but how I wish I had known this feeling as a younger woman. I would have been so much more productive and successful along the way. Now I am looking for ways to extend this feeling of freedom from judgment into other areas of my life. The trickier part will be to be comfortable in my own skin when I am with people who really mean something to me. Somehow after all of this I think I’ll be just fine.
Now I’m wondering when other people had their own epiphanies. When did you realize that you were at the stage of maturity to let go of other people’s criticism of your life choices?
As I go forward I am going to try my best to extend a bit of compassion to these two clueless women in my class. If only they knew how much they will be judged in life for choices far more important than how they carry their materials to class. I only hope that one day they feel confident enough with themselves to leave others alone.