I have never felt as old as I did during the Tufts Dance Collective (TDC) shows last weekend. I enjoyed TDC no less than I did when I participated freshman year, but back then I remained in awe of the senior girls who seemed so much more sophisticated and glamorous than I was, and this year, I was staring at the freshman and sophomore girls in my dance wondering how it is that someone as ancient as me is still permitted to go to school at the same institution as people as young as them. I’m only 22, and I know that I cannot be considered old by any reasonable standard. However, the four years that stand between myself and my youngest classmates may indicate a generational gap. This gap is defined by significant changes to the bank of pop cultural influences that informs our senses of humor, worldy wisdom, and even our idea of school and the scholarly experience.
For most of us, going to class has been a full-time job for the majority of our lives. For me, Boy Meets World still represents the ideal classroom experience. I still haven’t seen High School Musical. I get my book smarts from Wishbone and my street smarts from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. When faced with an open-ended dilemma like graduating from college, I still think in terms of R.L. Stines’ Goosebumps series—the ones where you choose what happens next from several different options.
These important influences of my childhood have outlasted their golden age of popularity to become structures that mold my thought processes, those of my peers and the interactions between us. The incoming class of freshmen was too young to see The Lion King in theaters when it came out. They were probably marathoning Gossip Girl instead of The OC and some of them probably even read Twilight without a hint of irony. Once the class of 2011 is gone, the vast majority of people on campus born before 1990 will be professors. When we who hold the references and affinities for these juggernauts of cultural wisdom graduate and leave Tufts behind for other pursuits, a new host of iconic people, animals or vampires are sure to project their influence on the dialect commonly spoken at Tufts. If I come back to Tufts in four years, I may not be able to decode the new dialects of the future Jumbos. I guess that’s why I’m being forced out of this place, and out into the real world, where I will continue to seek out the people who idolize Cory and Topanga and can sing every Spice Girls song. To the Class of 2015: make this place yours—own your influences and let Tufts become the place you make it. With that, I leave you with a Spice Girls lyric that I hope will always characterize my own life, “Never give up on the good times, living it up is a state of mind.” O