Dorming after 50


(Photo by Francisco Medina)

Marivel Guzman

My family lives in Southern California and I left them behind to pursue my dreams.

I’m a 54-year-old mother of four — Christian, 27, Ali, 26, Majd, 25, and Christina, 21 — as well as two grandkids, six-year-old Khaled and four-year-old Amir.

My family was very reluctant to accept my decision to come to Sacramento State for further education. They argued that I could have just accepted the offer from Cal State Fullerton, which is closer to home. I thought that being in Sacramento, where all the laws of the state originate, would help me with my journalism career in the future.

From the first day I arrived at the residence halls on campus, I felt like a total stranger living in a hotel. It was as if I was on a vacation of some sort and the small studio room at the American Residence Courtyard was just a place of refuge at night. Here at the dorms, once you leave in the morning, you don’t come back until nighttime.

The first three days, I was in an exploratory mood and decided to go from one hall to the other, trying to remember names of every building to get acquainted with the massive size of the Sac State campus. But even with that, I still wandered on campus and occasionally felt lost — not only physically, but spiritually. I felt alienated living among the faces of smiling students being young and happy.

Of course, there is a big difference between the ordinary students coming straight from high school or the 22-year-old transfers and me, a mother and a grandparent living past the mid-century mark.

For instance, I’m continuously being mistaken for a faculty member. Sometimes I see that look in a group of young students’ faces as if they were thinking, “Really? You’re a student here?”

I met five other students who live across the hall from my studio. We promised to meet but I haven’t seen them since. It’s not that I’m planning to party with them, but seeing and talking to them again would be nice.

Don’t get me wrong, most of the kids in the residence halls are beautiful, respectful and have bright minds. Whenever we cross paths, they greet me or hold the elevator for me, but I think that the idea of having an older person in the dorms is still kind of strange for them.

After all, I thought that living here was going to give me a boost in my career, but what I’m finding is that I’m practically trapped on campus and unable to move at my will – at least this is how it has been for these past three weeks.

Maybe I will get used to dorm life but, for now, it hasn’t felt too rewarding.