Confessions of a Mature-Age Student

I am an old jerk.

This was not a conscious achievement. It happened much like the onset of obesity does – slowly and unnoticeably over time. It wasn’t until I stood against a comparatively skinny candidate (a young non-jerk) that I came to realise the results of my evolution.

It’s a very interesting experience to be a mature age student. People eye you suspiciously; pondering the missing chapter.  For all school-leavers, the preface is easy enough to surmise. Grade Twelve is finished, next comes university. Some students have an exciting ellipsis; indicating a mysterious gap year spent abroad. A gap decade on the other hand is all the more of an eerie a concept.  ‘What has he being doing for the past ten years? Why is he only just starting uni now? Where did his life go so terribly wrong?’

It’s probably unlikely that most people are thinking as far into this as I am.

Mature age students are old jerks.  This I’ve been told this by many friends, citing the irritable superiority of over twenty-five year olds who inexplicably bark advice from atop their pedestal, despite their pedestal being a now-defunct, crumbling edifice complete with engraved plague that reads “Please don’t ask me why I don’t have a career and family.”

Initially, I attempted to reject this generalisation. I thought it was unfair to pigeon-hole every dear soul brave enough to plunge backward in time in an effort to obtain that which at some point may have been considered unachievable.

I myself came from a working class English background, where tertiary education is considered the privilege of the ‘better’ echelons of society. It took time for my immigration to Australia to eventually break through the cast-iron outer shell of jaded, cynical British twittery. I defended the role and purpose of the mature-age student. I pleaded for equality. I just wanted to earn esteem, decorum and friendship.

But then I met one in a tutorial and I realised that every single thing people say about mature age students is entirely and completely correct.

Good lord, we are painfully intolerable.

We are talkative, so opinionated, so superior and so awful.

It turns out that age does not equal wisdom. Nevertheless, I am to be judged by the actions of others, such is the inherently human pastime of generalising easily identifiable minorities. And as the saying famously goes; if you can’t beat them, join them.

Now, rather than deflect blame – I have embraced the responsibility of carrying on the fine tradition of mature-age jerkiness.

I shall carry the torch of dick-headedness through the valley of darkness. I shall play my part as pall-bearer and share my load of the coffin of adult decency and respectability. I shall chant my unsustainable, un-googled opinions as my colleagues and I drop the corpse of hope into the endless midnight abyss, drowning out the sweet dulcet tones of youthful enthusiasm.

As Marcus Aurelius famously said;

‘Accept the things to which fate binds you’.


By Tom Overend

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