Old Man on Campus

Jason Arican '15

Jason Arican '15

By Jason Arican '15

A recent event was a jarring reminder of my own mortality.

Last week, I increased the font size on my web browser and, quite honestly, it is so much better. But recognizing that the default font size on Google Chrome is too small for me to read comfortably is something that bothers me to no end. It is an acknowledgment that I'm not as young as I once was, or as I still think I am.

I am subtly reminded of just how old I am on a seemingly daily basis through various interactions here at Booth. People are often shocked when they find out that I am nearly 32 years old (which, to an extent, I understand because I do make it a point to take great care of my skin) and way too often my stories start with, "well when I was your age." In fact, it is fairly common to have an exchange like this:

Classmate: You went to Northwestern? So did I! I graduated in 2011, how about you?

Jason: Oh. Me? Well I... uh, er... graduated in 2005.

This is usually followed by an awkward silence while we both try to think up something else to talk about. Or worse: the other person blurts out the name of an older brother's friend who went to Northwestern in the off-chance that I know her, since the two of us have nothing else in common.

This is usually the point in my column where I make a profound statement or proclamation. Well, I don't really have that for you today. Being the old guy in business school just sucks and there is no other way around it.

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There was that time when a professor began the quarter by showing a slide that highlighted her background. I looked at the year she got her PhD from Harvard, worked backward, and realized that she was actually younger than me. So as I sat there and was lectured on something I knew nothing about, from someone who would have looked up to me ten years ago, I had a small existential crisis and wondered just exactly where it all went wrong for me.

"You guys were probably too young to remember this," another professor once said, "but during the first Iraqi war..." He went on to talk about the spike in oil prices. As almost everyone else nodded their heads and listened intently, I slumped in my chair and pretended to be invisible.

I won't be taking any trips this spring with the rest of my class because I used a big chunk of my signing bonus to pay down debt. Another chunk went into the condo fund. As you get older, you often have a different set of circumstances that force you to think about these things more. This isn't to say that one is better than the other; that I am somehow above everyone else because I'm saving money. It's just different, that's all. And sometimes those differences make it more difficult to relate to everyone else.

So anyway, let's just get this out of the way once and for all:

Yes, I had a pager. In fact, at one point I also had a two-way pager. I wince when I put on a coat because I hurt my shoulder playing softball. Old School and The College Dropout were important to me because they were released (brace yourself) when I was actually in college. Growing up, I got my news from Kurt Loder and Serena Altschul. Titanic was sad, but What's Eating Gilbert Grape was heartbreaking. I like morning classes because I'm up by 6:30 AM anyway and I would prefer to get my day started thank you very much. I didn't go on ski trip. I have a hard time making eye contact with Booth Scholars. I'm lactose intolerant. Sometimes when I read, I put my glasses on the tip of my nose and that freaks me out because old people do the same thing.

Phew, well that was cathartic. Now if you don't mind, I need to go pluck the gray hairs out of my beard.