Not just a number

I remember when my 20-year-old friend and I were in class talking about fashion trends. I mentioned how I wore gladiator sandals in 2006. She gave me the strangest look. I could see that she was trying to add the numbers in her head.

When I told her my age she looked surprised and disappointed at the same time. Then she uttered those dreaded words: “You are the same age as my mom.”

I am 40. I was born in 1979. I once had a pager, wrote my first resume on a typewriter and I have an 18-year-old son. My peers are half my age when I’m lucky.

Letting go of my 30s was really tough. I wrapped my 30s around me like an insecurity blanket. Turning 40 felt so ancient — like I should rub Bengay on my knees and play bingo on Tuesdays.

I worked as a hairstylist for 14 years before I decided to go back to school. I was 37 when I enrolled at Orange Coast College in 2016. I wanted to get my associates in fashion merchandising.

Going back to school as an older student isn’t the easiest transition but majoring in a field that everything has to be fresh, young and relevant can be especially challenging.

My first fashion class was exactly what you’d imagine. Everyone looked like they were straight out of a magazine. I sat there with an outfit I stressed about all morning. To my surprise I blended in with all my fellow classmates.

No one even bothered to question my age, they all assumed that I was roughly their age. It is flattering at times and it has been an easy transition for me, but I sometimes feel like a fraud. My ego takes over and tells me it’s OK.

Often, I feel like my academic achievements are viewed as lesser in comparison to my peers because of my age.

I sometimes think about how it would have been easier if I just went to college right after high school. But then I think about the life experiences I gathered throughout the years. I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

I’m wrapping up my final semester at OCC. Next semester I will transfer to Cal State Long Beach and have accomplished a lot so far.

Despite imposter syndrome rearing its head now and again, I have come to terms with the fact that my age is not a discrediting trait.   

I am still trying to allow myself to celebrate my milestones as a college student and trying not to take it too personally when I see a person half my age sail through a class I struggle in.

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