I’m not on a campus anymore, working instead in a system office. At 49, that means I’m around people within a decade or two of my own age. To varying degrees, we’re hard-working, overscheduled, and at the apex of our lifetime effectiveness. It’s sobering to look around a public bureaucracy and realize this is the top of our game.
The corollary is that after this phase, we won’t be. However unhappy it makes us when people keep making demands on us, we’ll be unhappier when they stop.
At 49 I already notice physical signs of the step after now. Minor cuts don’t heal as fast as they used to, and the other morning I had a new ache in my arm that made it hard to lift things over my head. On a macro level I may have a few good career moves still ahead, but microscopically my telomeres are already unraveling.
We can’t see the futures we prepare our students for, but if they succeed the way we want, then it’ll feel a lot like this. At their meridian, they will be stressed out, overscheduled, and scrambling to make things happen, before age catches up and they make the next hand-off.
I think that’s why we need colleges. The adults I know who skipped it turned out fine, but when you learn on your own it takes longer, and longer is what we don’t get.