I don’t live here. You do. It makes a big difference.
This is a blog about non-traditional (= older (= old)) studentdom, or that at least is the tissuey excuse I shall use to write about more interesting things. So it may interest you to know that we non-trads have our own House. Well, house. It’s a 1942 Colonial near Marietta and River; stop by some time when it’s not finals week. Our coffee is probably much better than yours.
OK, it’s just me and my daughter, and my wife, our House Don. I pretty much encompass the non-traditional cluster at F&M; my apologies to anyone I’ve missed, and again, I’ll buy lunch. This is a stunningly homogeneous institution. That’s common, of course, at liberal arts colleges (with some exceptions), probably because few adults competent enough to amass a quarter million dollars would spend it on working like a fiend while living in a tenement house. They’d get a condo in Maui instead.
My recollection sucks (drugs, age, all that), but I don’t recall talking with anyone about living or not living in a House. Maybe it was just assumed. It’s too bad; I had wanted Slytherin. Instead, I was assigned to Ware, in what I continue to view as a warm, embracing gesture on the part of the college and that fine House. I’m on an email list which regularly invites me for evening movies and dawn bagels, though that latter experience still lies ahead, and will probably recede further; I have not risen as early as Professor Eigen in a very long time. And yet he still smiles that much. Go figure. I am, however, good to go for beignets at the Café du Monde at three a.m., if there’s a Learjet handy.
But let’s move to the point of the post. Houses, not classrooms, are where friendships happen, and sometimes last a very long time. Why Houses rather than classrooms? The degree of structure. In a classroom we dance to the professor’s tune, which is as it should be; they are like gods to us. Right? Or, whatever. And since, by one of their divine laws, a professor always shows up with more material than time, it’s necessary to keep things pretty darn focused. So the connection is generally student-to-professor, not student-to-student. As it should be, of course; despite pleasant rhetoric, don’t expect to learn all that much academically from other students. That’s why they’re, like, students. Duh. Me, too. Student tutors are godsends in their focused ways, as are the good people in the Writing Center. But at the end of the day you’ll learn fermions, folk dance, Faulkner, feudalism, and Frantz Fanon from people with Ph.D.s and MFAs.
In contrast, friends come out of that other education, the one you’d be working out for yourself, just in a different way, if you were working right now. This just happens to be a cool place to go through it. A House can be defined as a group of intelligent people attempting strange and uninformed experiments on their adulthoods, a process that provides many, many opportunities to locate compatible people. (As well as people you desperately wish were now at Gettysburg. The battle, not the college. Also a critical friendship learning process.) And you’re almost forced to become friends with your roommate, or to find a new one with whom you can be friends. After which you’re friends with her friends, etc.
All of this will not happen to non-traditional me. (Us? Seriously, there must be one more. Maybe if we both wear orange Dickinson hoodies for a month . . . ) But that’s totally OK. Between the ages of 17 and 25 I had experiences of a weirdly adventurous kind, so no envy there. I have a family, complete with wife and children, that is so much better than the one I grew up in. Right now the window is open, and I hear a lot of birds and no voices. I like this. One might think that my 2014 cohort should envy me, rather than me them. That would be error. We’re all lucky to be here. College is more fun than almost anything, for a lot of very good and different reasons.