How to Feel Old While Attending an Elite University’s Summer Writing Workshop
July 1, 2019 § 32 Comments
By Jenny Klion
Acknowledge that you are, in fact, the oldest living being in your class, older probably than the classroom itself, and definitely older than your eye-candy teacher.
If and when you are not the object of any classmate’s romantic or sexual affection: let it go. You had your turn, and you did it well. Remember that at one time, you too might have wondered who that random older woman was—the one looking to get laid at the summer writing workshop.
Realize you may miss out on some late night social intrigue, since you have opted out of staying in the dorms due to the nightmare scenario of shared coed bathrooms. Harken back to the time when you knew you were done doing circus work, because you ultimately couldn’t live without porcelain.
Know that your work may scream Boomer themes and concerns—your poor little rich girl saga, for example—and that your story might not be as fresh as your classmates’ stories, with their contemporary radium-filled toxic hometowns and their coming-of-age slaughterhouse sex patrols.
Comfort yourself with a lunch at the documentary-famed pint-sized burger joint in town, which traffics in cash only, offers no condiments, only tomato and onion on white bread toast, with the burger cooked medium rare, and you better not ask for anything else. Do this because you know that you are not part of the popular crowd anymore. Suffice it to say that your idea of partying involves getting a to-go cup for the remains of your one glass of sangria from the Cuban restaurant you eat at by yourself.
Bless your soul also when you admit that at one point you feel like Captain “Sully” Sullenberger, whose ability to land a doomed plane on the surface of the water was due in large part to the depth of his age and experience. And that you yourself survive the crushing defeat of a bad critique, with your head held high to boot, because you’ve already been there and done that before. Many times over. And come out with something better on the other side.
Pat yourself on the back when you exchange your campus keys for a certification of completion. You have earned serious bragging rights, and that kind of satisfaction never gets old.
Jenny Klion’s work has appeared in Ploughshares, Longreads, The Rumpus, Tonic, The Hairpin, and the anthology Flash Nonfiction Funny (Woodhall Press 2018), among others.
Too perfect. I just moved to a super-diverse urban area from a teensy town in whitebread land that was full of old people. I found myself in a writing group at the library where I was not only the only white person (except for the librarian), but easily the oldest one in the room. IT WAS SO FUN!
This hits home as I am the oldest participant in a seminar fellowship right at this moment. I am not into the drinking or going into town. I’m the only one in the class who personally remembers the 70s. And I totally agree about the dorm rooms, but hotel was not an option. I’ve been the recipient of snippy remarks because my diabetes precludes pizza. I’ve been left waiting by millennials who are younger than my son. Next summer, I’m staying home.
And some of us were never “part of the popular crowd.”
HA! Sweet piece of writing. I’m guessing you were the most alluring young lady at the workshop.
Reblogged this on lifeunderwriter.net.
Holy moly yes! And I also remember the 50’s in vivid detail and I get testy with the young’uns who do not have THE LONGVIEW. But then I pull on my striped tights and polka dot headwrap and totally forget that I am the oldest one anywhere. Until someone else with gray hair asks if I need a glass of water. Or a 50 year old colleague calls me cute. And 20 year olds speak loudly and kindly in the obsequious tones I used for my grandparents. This is so great. Except you look about 40 years old.
Not even 40 years old.
God reveres your absence of self-satisfaction and treasures your sorrow in not serving him. 🙏
Loved this post! In writing we need to be resiient as hell. I’d rather die trying than quit. Here’s to over 40s (and 50s and 60s and beyond) writing their hearts out and never giving up.
Hilarious and so true. Thanks @jennyklion for keeping it real.
Love this post. I was just composing a similar theme post for my Blog: nursingstories.org. I can’t do better than this one so I will reblog for my weekly post this Wednesday. Thank you so much.
PS You do look too young to think you are so old.
How well you’ve captured the irony and wisdom of a writer living with mature skin. Groovy!
Excellent and dead-ringingly timely! I’m auditing a workshop in order to discover if I can still write a play (I wrote a few decades ago). Enjoy the fellow students, the instructor, but I am painfully aware that I am the only old white male in in the class. Although the feedback I get seems fair, I still get the feeling, “Hey, you’ve had your turn.” Nevertheless, I go forward.
Well, yes, this about to me for the third and final time.
I went to a workshop a few years ago and was clearly the oldest one there including the workshop leader. I felt so much older than I was. Not eager to relive that experience even though the process was enlightening and productive. Mature writers, along with all other experienced workers in all sectors of society are too often tossed aside because of age. I say too bad for those that can’t or won’t appreciate the value of experience. My time is not over until I say it is, and I will always have something to say, not despite my age, but because of it.
I relate, oh boy do I! Got my MFA at 60 – low-residency program. I could “hear” the late-night parties and definitely did not sit at the “cool kids” table. I loved being told, during critique, “oh, but people didn’t say that in the sixties,” of the f-bomb, as if later generations invented profanity and many other things. Who knew!
Oh I feel your pain being older, having no one hit on you, and getting odd critiques of your work🙄 Thanks for making me feel less weird.
Thanks everyone for the conversation! Carry on!
I am not sure how people write before reaching their late-forties, early fifties. Funny. A woman told me you spend the first half of your life building experiences, and the second half untangling all that it means. She said this to me about thirty years ago, and I was not convinced. Like Mark Twain’s father, she got awfully smart awfully quick over the years.
I love this article as I can soooo identify. I just returned from the Jackson Hole Writers Conference. I’ve just written my first book and I’m turning 74 in a week. My editor is like a mom and she’s the age of my oldest daughter. I’ve loved starting a whole new career. It is invigorating and challenging. “Go big or go home,” is what I say!
I’ve never been part of the popular crowd so being left out (or choosing to be left out) wouldn’t be new for me. It’s one reason why I’ve never attended a writing workshop or conference after grad school. It’s enough to be a shy introvert without my age being a issue as well.
Love this. When I was 62, I enrolled in college as an English major. Forty years previous, I had earned a journalism degree at the same college. When I first walked into the classroom, I saw that the teacher could be my daughter and the students my grandchildren. I loved my five semesters because after the teachers figured out that I was there to learn, not call them out on any misrepresentations, and the students realized I could relate to them, we had a great time. When that first semester came to an end, one student said to me, “It’s been a pleasure.” And he meant it. And it was.
Hi everyone! Glad the conversation keeps rolling! I’m listening! Thank you all for reading and engaging! Carry on!
If and when you are not the object of any classmate’s romantic or sexual affection: let it go. Ha!!!!
I’m the just one in the class who actually recalls the 76s. Furthermore, I thoroughly concur about the apartments, yet the inn was impossible. I’ve been the beneficiary of curt comments on the grounds that my diabetes blocks pizza. I’ve been left holding up by twenty to thirty-year-olds who are more youthful than my child.