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The Age Gap

Posted Sep 07 2009 12:00am
So I'm sitting in histology lab examining slides of pancreatic cells when I overhear my labmates chatting up a storm.

"WTF! My slide's all f'ed up!"
"OMG! There's a bar downtown with $1 dollar beers."
"Yeah and chicken wings, don't forget chicken wings"
"That's friggin' awesome!"
"Anyone up for karaoke Friday night?"
"Sweeeeet!"

WTF? OMG? They're actually saying the letters, as if the actual words took too much effort. I look at them wondering how the younger generations could have butchered the English language, and then it hits me...I'm old(er). I'm out of touch with the slang. I'm not hip or with it. (It actually pains me to write such an awkward sounding sentence!) And if that wasn't enough to make me want to get out my walker and orthopedic shoes, I turn to the other side of the group where two students are reminiscing over the good ol' days of college (which for them was 3 months ago!).

"Yeah, my roommate and I would just roll out of bed and head to class. 10am is so early!"
"I know! These 8am classes are the worst."

Now I remember my time in college (many years ago) when I was able to stay up late into the early morning snacking on pizza and fries while chatting (and also studying of course) with friends. But that was way back when....nowadays I can barely keep my eyes open after 9pm. My idea of a great night is staying in with a nicely cooked dinner and maybe a rented movie. And my stomach can no longer handle greasy food at midnight.

I've aged. I've entered a new phase of adulthood where life seems to be settling. Thoughts of career, marriage and kids, aspects of life that seemed so far in the future, are now coming into the forefront and are actual issues that I will have to seriously think about soon. And I'm looking forward to it. I'm tired of moving, I can't wait to have a house of my own where I can plant roots. I dream about having a kitchen full of family and friends, all gathered around a table and happy. I long for the day when I can finally say I have a career, when I'm in the middle of it and feel like I've found my way. But these thoughts are on the opposite side of the spectrum, far away from the immediate impulses of $1 beers and karaoke night.

I look around at my fellow classmates and I often feel that age gap. There's a considerable difference between early 20's and late 20's. And I wonder if maybe I should be someone with more authority, more knowledge, or even more confidence. Should I be someone these younger classmates can look to for advice? I'd be willing to share those traits if I had them myself...Sure, I've had some life experience after graduating from college and it's certainly given me more perspective of the world, but I still feel like I'm learning. And honestly, I hope I never stop feeling that way. And that may be the one of the most important things I've learned from life. Medical school humbles you. It reminds you that you are in a class full of fellow over-achievers who are used to succeeding in academics. So, I'm not too proud to ask for help from younger classmates when I don't understand the subject matter. And it feels better to openly admit my frustrations and show that I don't completely have it all together, because it turns out I'm not alone.

So even though I'm reminded of the age gap when my mention of "Jem and the Holograms" or "He-Man and "She-Ra" earn me vacant stares, it seems that the one constant in life, no matter what age, is that we're all learning and figuring it out.

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