• Charlotte

Age is definitely more than a number.

I'm not entirely sure where to start, as so much has happened in the last fortnight. I had intended to get straight back into writing, but of course, best intentions went sideways given the amount of marking at this time of year!

I think the main thing I have noticed following from my PhD viva is the difference not just in the way I’m spoken to, but also the way that it is so imbued with expectations, especially around age.

I’m not going to lie, I have milked the absolute shit out of being a not-quite-but-almost-doctor so far. My students are just wonderful, as well as my colleagues, who understand the effort it takes. Even my family, who quite don’t understand it (I am the only one to have gone to university on my moms side, and out of close family). The one thing that is common across the board is the sense of achievement in relation to my age. 'Gosh, you’re so young!' 'You should be so proud!' (Thanks - I know it’s meant well, but I don’t need your approval for this *sassy hair swish*)

However, at an event just a few days after my viva, I was repeatedly questioned about my position at the University, because of my age. I was repeatedly asked if I am a graduate student, am I sure I’m not a grad student and not a lecturer. Look. I know it’s not necessarily common across the sector to get a permanent lectureship at this point in my career. But it is true. To then throw in the mix that I’ve completed my PhD, the ‘gosh you’re *so* young’ was said with a tinge of something that I still can’t quite put my finger on. But I know it wasn’t a positive.

I’ve also had my successful PhD completion followed up with questions relating to anything other than what it’s about - mostly, explicit reference back to my age. Like that thing where it’s not really okay to ask someone their age goes out of the window because they want to use it as a point of comparison, to make a statement.

It really does make me think about the expectations we push onto people. To complete a PhD is a great achievement regardless of age, not because of your age. And I think that carries for many things.

Why should age be important when you get a tattoo? Because of expectations around responsibility as a young person, or mid life crisis as an older person.

Why should age matter when you have a child? Because you’re considered a child yourself when you’re young, and you’re considered past it when you’re older.

Why does it matter what age you start a career? Because when you’re young you don’t have enough life experience, but when you’re older, you should have your life sorted out by now?

I’m not stupid, I recognise that age and comparisons and expectations are not going to disappear. But I think there is value in questioning these, and thinking about what actually it says about ourselves, rather than others.

Come say hey! @CharlotteJD

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