I'm now a couple weeks into the creative writing class I'm taking at the university. This is a Beginning Fiction Workshop, and, being the only non-undergrad in the room, I am the oldest student by about nine years. In fact, I graduated from college a year before the instructor did.
I remember, in college and grad school, what it was like when some weird, older person had somehow infiltrated the classroom. It was very off-putting: a reminder of mortality and the inevitable passage of time that would turn our bright, naive minds, as well as our taut undergraduate bodies, into something older and more weary. It was basically like the Grim Reaper had decided to enroll in the class.
Well, now that symbol of time and death is me, and I prefer to think of myself as an elder statesman. Perhaps it's because I feel fairly passionately about short stories and creative writing, but I find myself chomping at the bit to talk in class. To be fair, many of my proposed comments fall along the lines of: "John Cheever! Awesome!!" or "Alice Munro! I kind of named my daughter after her!" I wasn't like this when I was in college; now I'm just really excited to be there.
So far I have loved the stories we've read, and the chance to really dissect them in class. I've been familiar with much of the work we've read, but I've appreciated the chance to read with fresh eyes, and I'm learning more about amazing writers I haven't yet encountered. The big advantage I have over the undergrads, I'm realizing, is those nine extra years I've had to read and live. I do feel like I have more writers under my belt, and a little more life experience to draw on when thinking about stories or trying to write my own stuff.
Not to say that I'm the hotshot in the class, although a part of me clearly wants to be. I just love that now I have a sheaf of short stories to read during the week, and a creative writing exercise or story to mull over at any given hour, and a paragraph of instructor comments on last week's assignment to ponder and reread to the point of memorization. I feel very thankful to have a space to really think about this kind of thing, and explore why I love it so much and why it is so beautiful and powerful.