the only child…

*Note- I began writing this post shortly after my birthday on March 20th… and am now finishing it up…

Being an only child has given me unique perspectives on life, and while I often think about what life would be like with brothers and sisters, either younger or older (my only child self doesn’t like the idea), I appreciate the unique outlook I move forward with that has been cultivated through my relationship with my parents and my surroundings.  As an only child, my parents often treated me as an adult, taking me to their events, and expecting me to interact with their friends and colleagues in a respectful and mature manner (I have only recently gotten the hang of saying sir or ma’am though).  I didn’t hang out too terribly much with kids my own age, I mean I did, but I moved around so much, that outside of school, I could often, easily make my own way and fun.  Whether it was playing hockey solo in Colorado and Virginia Beach, or times where I could sit with a pen and notebook and write stories or draw for hours on end, I was fine all by myself.

No, my life was not Home Alone…

Reminders of this solo perspective and approach to how I meander through life came recently, with my first birthday here at MIT, and also just the general perception that everyone is older than me.

The birthday.  I’m not big on birthdays, I like them all fine, and I love birthday cake, but I don’t actively advertise it’s my birthday coming up.  This didn’t go over well in my office, an office of very extroverted introverts and extroverts, an office that is close knit, and where apparently you tell folks that your birthday is coming up if you are the new guy.  Honestly, I just simply could not bring myself to advertise my own birthday… and this is not a slight to anyone else, but to me, it would have felt oddly self-serving, like “oh, imma get me some free cake for me.”  I learned my lesson and had a great birthday hangout with colleagues the Friday afternoon of my birthday week, and I honestly could not ask for anything more.

The other side effect of my only child perspective – I think everyone is older than me.  Hanging out with adults throughout my life gave me the idea that I am always the youngest in the room, even when I get back into a room with my own peers and colleagues.  This came to a head at the Annual ACUI Conference in St. Louis this year, where I found out all-around awesome dude Schuyler Hall was a full year younger than me, something that boggled my mind.  Why I thought he had to be older than me, I don’t really have a good reason, but I think that my mind often classifies people I respect and appreciate as more mature than myself, which equals older than myself.  This applies to a lot more people than just Schuyler, but that incident with him really brought this idea to the forefront.

Matthew Broderick- 23 yr old high schooler. Alan Ruck- 29 yr old high schooler.


2 thoughts on “the only child…

  1. I am with you on not over-advertising birthdays. People here were downright upset with me my first year of grad school when I not only didn’t tell people it was my birthday, but I didn’t tell them it was an “important” one ending in 5 or 0. Okay, it was my 30th. We route birthday cards around the event services team for everyone to sign for the person who ages up, and sing to them in our weekly EVS meeting. If I ever run this team, it may be the first thing to go, only because b-days are not as big a deal to me as they are to others.

    I also like the conundrum of determining people’s age relative to your own – I think I’m usually safe to guess people are younger than me, but how much is a mystery. I think most colleagues are 30+/- 3 years, and all former students are perpetually 25. I used to really fool people with how old I actually was, but time is catching up and people guess much closer now. boo.

  2. I can never tell a person’s age! I think part of it is told that I don’t look my age so I constantly wonder what a twenty-____ year old person looks like. Also, I kind of think that age is a how a person acts! Everybody in my office is close in age and there was one person who was only two months older than me, but she acts like a grandma.

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