I’m just 19! Why do I feel so old?

Matt Baker

“OK, boys and girls. This is Mr. Baker,” the perky receptionist told five kindergartners as I prepared to interview them last summer. As the words flew from her mouth, I almost suffered a heart attack on the spot.

Mr. Baker?! Sure, I’m not young enough to understand their hip lingo. And yes, I’m biologically old enough to be their father.

But “Mr. Baker”?! She might as well have handed me a set of dentures, a bottle of Viagra and a lifetime membership to the AARP. I mean, I’m not that old, am I?

As her words seeped into me, I realized how right she was. After all, I’m old enough to buy an assault rifle, blow my life savings on the lottery, join the armed services and have my vote not count in a national election.

I realized that I’ve advanced from the “kid’s table” at family outings to sitting with the adults. Instead of listening to my baby cousin babble about PokeMonday, I get to hear old people gripe about taxes and how back in their day they trudged through six feet of snow to get to class uphill both ways.

I realized that pop culture has left me behind. My pre-school obsession, “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” has suddenly become cool again – as modern twist on a retro show from the ’80s. Much to my chagrin, the new program sports Japanese animation and has replaced gnarly catchphrases like “Cowabunga, dude!” with more lame one-liners than a Kathy Griffin bit.

Two of my favorite elementary school shows, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Full House,” have passed from primetime network slots to television purgatory on Nick at Nite. The only band I recognize on MTV is Green Day – and that’s because of their mid-90’s album “Dookie.” Suddenly I’m about as cool as a linear algebra textbook.

And it’s only going to get worse. Soon enough, I’ll be trading in my hand-me-down Dodge Dakota with its “Beavis and Butt-Head” decal for a sea foam green minivan with an honor roll bumper sticker.

I’ll hand in my Nikes and baggy khakis for a pair of Hush Puppies wingtips and purple plaid golfing pants held up by suspenders. I’ll stop worrying about student loans and Norris’ prices and start fretting over my 401(k) and a college fund for my own kids.

And I’m scared.

Maybe I’m still preoccupied with 1995. Maybe I’m in a quarter-life crisis about making a career choice. Or maybe I have jitters about starting my second year of college. But regardless of the reason, I’m beginning to dread creeping closer to old age by turning the big 2-0 and moving away from being a teenager.

But the big day is still a few months away. In the meantime, I’ll reflect on the past two decades and the present rather than focusing on the future’s uncertainties. I’ll bury myself in ’80’s cartoons, college parties and Nick at Nike to forget about the responsibility of adulthood and keep enjoying the freedom of being a teen.

Cowabunga, dude.

Matt Baker is a Medill sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]