I was awakened a couple of weeks ago by a nightmare in which I was suddenly, inexplicably, a senior in college. I only had a year left to figure out my life, finish all my classes and get a Monkey Head T-shirt. It took snoozing my alarm three times for the realization that it wasn’t a nightmare — it was very much reality, and I was already late for my first class — to rudely hit me in the face.
The end of the “best four years of my life” started on that very merry note, and I dragged myself to campus, growling at everything in my way. The steep Berkeley hills that turned my calves to rock over the years, the icy morning wind that my weather app has never been able to detect and the Campanile, which feels too loud at 8 a.m. But what bothered me most of all was the gaggle of giggling new freshmen, who think it’s acceptable to cut in front of me — a seasoned senior — on the sidewalk.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually excited to welcome new people. Visitors, new students and researchers bring life and change to our sprawling, beautiful campus. But there’s something about the 2000s babies, the real Generation Z, the TikTok crowd, that makes me take a step back and wait for them to pass by me. They’re new, and I don’t understand them. They talk in slang and listen to music that I haven’t ever heard. They sang “Old Town Road” before it even hit the Billboard charts, and they know how to “hit the whoa” or whatever the kids these days call it.
They make senior year feel all the more real. I woke up that morning not only to the threat of a real-life future looming ahead, but also to an alien world where I didn’t understand my very favorite thing: the internet.
Do young people still use Snapchat? Do they still care about streaks or have they moved on? Are our beloved Berkeley Facebook pages even exciting anymore, or will they migrate to a new, jazzy platform we’ve never even heard of? Will the newbies in classes think we’re clueless and boring because we don’t follow “influencers” and make 15-second music videos?
It probably isn’t fair to blame the new, wide-eyed 17-year-olds for my irrational fear of being out of the loop. They’re definitely oblivious to the crippling reality they expose in seniors who are on the uncomfortable cusp between being millennials and Generation Z. We’re that awkward middle ground that just isn’t relevant anymore; we had flip phones but we were accidentally tossed into the same category as the TikTok folks. Vine died with us — we didn’t move on quickly enough and the freshmen on campus have officially taken over.
The feeling of being “too old” for something in any scenario is very new to me, and for the very first time, I started to really worry about growing up.
Spine-chilling visions of me asking a teen to explain a meme began to plague my mind. A picture flashed before my eyes of myself opening an incognito tab to Google a “cool” phrase that I had never heard before in my life to pretend that I knew what people were talking about, and I decided that enough was enough.
I sat down and did what any self-respecting adult fearing for their future would do. I gave in and downloaded TikTok, determined to acquaint myself with the world of VSCO girls while I’m still a student.
It’s hard being in a place where you’re preparing to move into the next stage of your life. Many of us don’t know what our plans after senior year are. Some of us have career paths set out or plans to pursue higher education, but regardless of where we’re going, we all graduate with one common qualification that’s hard to accept — somewhere along the journey we grew up, and whether we’re ready or not, are on our way to becoming full-fledged, boring adults.
For any seniors starting to feel like you’re catching senioritis or spending more time rolling your eyes at freshmen than talking to them, it’s time for damage control, and I recommend lightening up by taking the plunge into their world. Meet ridiculous wikiHow jokes that you didn’t know existed and laugh at reckless teenagers spraying their dogs in the face with water guns. Jump on the Git Up challenge train before it’s too late and make it clear that you’ve still got it.
Gen Z took over the internet ecosystem of self-deprecating content, politics, trends and jokes that we thought we ran, and before they make us irrelevant on our own campus, it’s time to join their cultural movement before it pushes us out. There’s still a chance to give in, befriend and do the two-step and cowboy boogie with the kids — we’re seniors but we can be pretty cool, too.
“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the fall semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected].