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Slices of Life

Campus life can be intimidating

September 29, 2010
Dysart Reporter



Jill Pertler

I visited my daughter at college today. That's the good news. Now for the bad: Never before have I felt so blatantly middle-aged.

I suppose my attire didn't help. I was dressed like a mom. You know, jeans, sneakers, long sleeved T-shirt and (get ready to cringe) fleece vest. The fact that my T-shirt didn't have the right word on the front and my jeans didn't have the correct squiggle stitching on the back pockets only added insult to injury.

All around me, people who haven't lived more than two decades apiece gazed into laptops or listened to silent music via ear buds. They toted backpacks; I carried a purse remarkably devoid of hip logos or trendy lettering that was probably older than most of the students. My ears, regrettably, were budless.

I stood out like a beacon.

I've felt out of place before, but can't remember ever being a member of such an obvious minority. I've never thought of my age as setting me apart from the crowd, but being surrounded by a throng of teenagers wearing flip flops, ear buds and back packs has a way of making you feel older than you did an hour ago.

If you are ever called upon to visit a college and do not wish to repeat my mistake (and are over the age of 24), I'd advise dressing like a professor. Professor attire differs depending on which field of study you profess to profess. In general, black is a good color choice preferred by three out of four professors and seems to be quite academic.

Professors don't carry backpacks or sport ear buds (just sport coats). They also do not wear fleece vests, so leave yours at home. I will next time. You can add to your scholarly appearance if you carry a couple of books, preferably hard cover, preferably not dictionaries from the 1980s (they just don't hold the universal university appeal). Besides, you don't need to be a professor to have a dictionary. I own at least five. (Okay, I'm a bad speller, but that's another article.)

I was summoned to the college because I was in possession of two items necessary for campus survival: a laptop and credit card (my daughter already has ear buds). I was also allowed to buy lunch. We moms boast never-ending appeal and power when it comes to on-campus presence.

The plastic card, which I held in my elderly purse, was needed in the bookstore to purchase well books. My daughter added a class to her schedule at the last minute and we needed to find out about the text (and credit card) requirements. We located the book. (Ka ching!) I bought lunch. (Ka ching!) I handed over my laptop. (Farewell dear friend. Have fun on Facebook.) I said my goodbyes (and even got a hug) before I zigzagged my way through the teen crowd toward my snazzy red convertible (which doubles in real life as a white mini van) and drove back into my comfort zone.

Most days, I understand exactly who I am and where I'm at in life; most days I embrace my status. That's because most days I frequent the gas station or grocery store and find myself surrounded by other seasoned adults. A college campus reverberates youth in a more youthful manner than I am accustomed. It is filled with kids (okay, 19-year-old adults with ear buds) who are ready to make their way into the big, bright, laptop-filled world. They are on the cusp whether they realize it or not. All too soon, they will not only be a part of the adult world, they will exert immense influence over it. As awesome as that is, it's more intimidating than any college campus ever could be.

Follow Slices of Life on Facebook. Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication." She offers writing and design services at . Email:



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