Age is just a number

Orla O'Driscoll


If life, thus far, has taught me anything, it’s the truth of never knowing what waits around the next corner. I believe the universe has a plan; we are the pattern. I didn’t go to college after my teenage education ended abruptly – instead, I learned from life, I traveled; sometimes I knew enough, other times street education was dire.

I lived through the highs and survived the lows of being self-employed for many years and somehow, less glossy and with just a modicum of sanity, I got out alive. I blame Dutch courage provided from a microscopic Italian vineyard and the delusional self-belief one attains at 2am for the University idea.

And so, 2015, September.

Having watched lives I loved leave this world and watched lives I could never imagine loving so much arrive, I  know fear – on my first day at DCU I was terrified. I stood leaning against a door frame, in a line, in a corridor, my stomach a cauldron of junked out butterflies, as others chatted. Some students seem distrustful of the mature student face in the crowd, almost questioning if it’s a plant, a spy, to catch them out before they become reckless or group up. There is a herd mentality of younger students clubbing together, finding a common denominator.

So, scared, unsure if I could juggle kids, life (the mammy bit), life (the other bit) and turn in an assignment and stay sane, I took on DCU.

The mature student meme; screams, front and centre, always eager, always wanting to answer questions even though the class may be in danger of going into extra time, or lord forbid penalties. Guilty, but mature students don’t go to college to parade their vast cache of knowledge, we go to learn.

In first year, the library was my stomping ground, not entirely due to a desire to gain knowledge, it was mostly an exercise driven in trying to look like I fit in. The effort made me stand out like an Emu in a strip club. I found defence inside a shell. In three years I rarely took a day off. I am lucky, my husband has been my fall guy. I was not sure year two would happen.

But, I outed myself. I used the one thing that has always been my go to – I wrote. Somehow, people liked how I strung a sentence or evoked an emotion and I worked with the college newspaper and people stopped looking at me like I would tell the teacher the dog didn’t bloody eat their homework.

The journey has been the education. And, now, just one month to go, my fear is not of standing out, but of not standing with my peers. I don’t go to Shite Night, or the 12 pubs, or dorm parties, but that’s not exclusion, that’s reality. Like all students, the mature student is battling through, we are not the spy, we are just like younger students, with less contour.

Life begins when you let it – age is simply a number.

Orla O’Driscoll

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