I have entered my mid-twenties. I will graduate when I am 25 — not just a quarter of a century old, but of child-bearing age, of “being successful” age. I am decidedly old (most certainly so compared to almost all undergraduates at Yale).
I have back problems now, and an ugly hump on the back of my neck (smartphones came around in eighth grade — it’s been a while).
I used to do my homework on paper. I didn’t have my own laptop until I was a senior in high school, and I also didn’t have an email. I don’t understand ChatGPT or all of this new-generation web stuff.
I entered college at 21, after two gap years. I went to frat parties when I was 13 back home in Bulgaria. When I started college, I was past that stage of my life; I wasn’t interested in getting drunk on vodka or staying up late. I love my bed. I love staying at home.
Even if I go out and don’t drink, my body can’t handle staying up late anymore. During senior secret society tap night, I pulled an all-nighter and went straight to my 9 a.m. class. At 2 p.m. I couldn’t function: I couldn’t walk, talk or keep my eyes open. It took me three days to recover — but then it was Friday again. And then my entire immune system gave up; I am still coughing from Spring Fling. It’s been three weeks.
I thought: Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m not cut out for this crazy undergrad lifestyle. But no: It’s my age. It was the same for my old friends back home.
I ruled the world at 19. Nothing could stop me. I was out and about, eating and drinking whatever I wanted with no consequences. But now I have to be careful about my blood sugar. Apparently my insulin is high.
I will say, it’s nice to be older sometimes. I look at my friends who are 20 and feel a bit younger. But at the same time, I am ready to leave college. At this age, I should be doing more than just homework. I am ready to go out into the world and use my energy (or at least what is left of it) to create something bigger than myself.
I am not sure if Yale is built to support old people like me. A lot of times I feel the things they teach us or expose us to are targeted for younger people who haven’t necessarily been out in the real world. Sometimes I feel stuck, and other times my age allows me to appreciate this in-between time I have before I really need to grow up.
I am old and I don’t hide it. I don’t mention it if not asked, but I am not ashamed. Some people even find it cool, this whole “getting old” thing.
Kaia Mladenova is a rising senior in Pierson College.