College has changed a lot since my day.
For posterity and all, I’ve documented the top five ways:
It is apparently now required to document one’s escapades/posing ability daily on Instagram and Facebook. In some Greek organizations it seems as though it might even be mandatory. Certain sororities also appear to be very strict about the throwing up of the organization’s hand signals. Maybe they can even communicate this way when geographically separated--like lifeguards on a beach. But as I think about it, it’s probably only the social media aspect that’s new here. I can vaguely recall sophomore year a few friends who went Greek behaving very much as I imagine new cult members behave, at least for the first year or so of their membership.
I went to college in the era of Grunge. We wore a lot of flannel. In my senior year college portrait I’m sporting a pair of jeans paired with a denim shirt. It seemed to make sense at the time. I was also wearing big clunky boots—I look as though I’m all set for a day of spot-welding. Girls today are not all about the practical shoes. Even at my school’s eighth grade graduation, the thirteen year olds teeter to the podium in four-inch heels. I do not envy girls today. I got to walk comfortably through my twenties. I may have looked like a lumberjack doing it, but at least I wasn’t the only one.
|She could be a farmer in those clothes.|
When I used to chaperone school dances as a young teacher, I’d be the only one in flats: I felt like Tai in Clueless when she shows up in her sensible clothes and all the Beverly Hills girls are more dressed up than her even though they’re in gym class.
3. Sticker price
I had a student a couple of years ago who applied to about nine hundred colleges (also different from my friends and I back in the day—we each applied to an average of three—but that may have been just my hometown). At any rate, she applied to my alma mater, and it was the most expensive one in her book. If it cost that much back then, I might have had to take up spot-welding on the side just to pay for it.
I went all through college working hard and thinking of my future success in vague terms...I wanted to write, I thought it would be swell to create my own TV show...but I never doubted the success part. I think being a child of the eighties instilled in me a blind and unreasoned faith in my future prosperity. This unrealistic worldview combined with a recession in the mid-nineties to allow my dream of becoming a full-time substitute teacher to become a reality. I also drove straight from that job most days to an evening of clerking at Borders (RIP). In between I ate fast food in my car.
I think kids today have grown up hearing about the crummy economy so much they are probably less deluded about how tough it can be out there. So, if they do end up having to move back in with their parents, like I did, at least it won’t come as a complete surprise.
This one is sort of Captain Obvious. None of my students seem all that enthralled with the epic story of how I navigated all of college with only a Smith Corona Electric Typewriter, though, so I won’t recount it here. I'll only say, young ones of today, before you tell your teacher about your computer problems, just imagine trying to move blocks of text while squinting at a four-line liquid-crystal display, or pressing the up arrow for about half an hour if you forgot your heading.