I was playing throw the ball with Duncan on campus at the liberal arts college next to my house when two female students approached and asked if they could pet him.
Eli: Sure! If you can get him to come to you.
Student 1: So do you live here on campus?
Eli: No. But thank you for thinking I'm young enough to be able to!
Student 1: Obviously I didn't think you were a student. I thought maybe you were a groundskeeper or something.
Eli: Like Hagrid?
Student 2: Anyway, we don't have age restrictions here. This is an inclusive safe space.
Eli: Sounds like my dating life!
Student 1 & 2: [blank stares]
Eli: So . . . are you two freshmen?
Student 1 & 2: [with scrunched-up faces like I had offended them greatly]
Student 2: We don't say that word here.
Eli: Did I swear again? I've gotten into a very bad habit of calling people ass--
Student 1: You said the F word.
Eli: I did? I could have sworn--
Student 2: [whispers] freshmen.
Eli: . . . is that . . . a swear now?
Student 1: It's not a very inclusive term.
Student 2: News flash: women can go to college now too!
[both look at each other like they just schooled an idiot]
Eli: So what do you say instead of fr . . . uh . . . the F word?
Student 1: We say "first year."
Student 2: Except I don't like those labels because they put people into boxes and make it harder for others to respect them.
Student 1: Right. Because when someone is called a first year others might be willing to disregard what they say just because they haven't been in school for very long.
Eli: Well, can't all the first years just sort of stick together in the dorms?
Student 2: Yeah, we don't say "dorms." They're called "resident halls."
Student 1: And it's an inclusive community living space.
Student 2: Super inclusive.
Eli: I guess things have changed. Back in my day freshmen lived in the dorms and nobody cared what they said or thought because they were still children and they hadn't poured their blood, sweat, and tears into at least a decade of grunt work in order to begin to earn the smallest dot of respect and competence.
Student 1: You said the F word again.
These people are going to starve to death in the real world, right?
Also, as I started to walk away I realized that it has somehow been FIFTEEN years since I was starting my freshman year of college. That number looks and sounds so wrong that I swear to you I actually pulled out a calculator to check it because I haven't done math in, well, almost FIFTEEN years!
A few months ago I met the son of a colleague of mine who told me he was about to be a freshman at the high school I attended. I told him this, prompting him to ask me what year I graduated to which he responded, "cool. That's the year I was born."
COOL? NOT COOL, Brad.
The point is, when did you people get so old?
I remember filling out physical papers and mailing them into the school to register for classes. I remember talking to my parents sparingly because long-distance calls were expensive.
Usually I don't think I entered adulthood very long ago, but then I think about all the ways the world has changed and it makes me feel like, well, not a first year.
Please tell me something about what the world was like back when you were graduating high school or starting college, even if it wasn't very long ago. How have things changed?
And while you're thinking about it, here's a picture of what Duncan looked like during the entire conversation above.
~It Just Gets Stranger