Why I’m 9.25 times older than my first-year students

Sometimes, I get the impression that my students think that I don’t really know what “life is really like.”  I’m going to use some simple math to suggest that they’re wrong.

Let me explain.

When were you old enough to take care of yourself? I don’t mean just not die doing something stupid like licking an electrical socket cuz your parents had gone out for an hour. I mean fully able to not only survive but thrive on your own – live on your own, take care of your own necessities, pay taxes, work responsibly, and all that.

When I ask students this, I usually get answers ranging from 15 years to 18 years. This is not unreasonable; some people just mature faster than others.  Let’s be liberal and say 15 years is the average (it’s low in fact, so I’m handicapping the calculations in your favour).

The average first-year student is 18 or 19 years old. Let’s be liberal again and say 19 years is the average.

This means the average first-year student has been an “adult” (for all intents and purposes) for four years.

Now, I know I was definitely not able to take care of myself at 15. (Those were, as they say, “different times.”) But I surely was able to do it by the time I was 18. So lets handicap the math in your favour even further and say that while the average first-year student was mature by the age of 15, I didn’t mature till the age of 18.

I’m 52 years old now.  That means I’ve been an adult for 37 years; so, I’ve been an adult 9.25 times longer than a first-year student.

To my first-year students: think of all the cool things you’ve done in the last four years, then basically multiply by 10. That’s how much cool stuff I’ve done.

I would urge students to consider this when they think about whether I have any clue what “life is really like.”

2 Replies to “Why I’m 9.25 times older than my first-year students”

  1. i like the post. good thinking. However, here is a design book I really like: “The design of design” by Frederick Brooks Jr. I think he might be few times more life than you – especially in terms of design (don’t get me started how you are when you are at U of T ;-).

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