A small misstep with big discoveries

How a fall down the stairs taught me to slow down


It was Saturday evening, and I was buried in the stacks of Alderman Library. I wasn’t looking for a book; to be honest, I’ve never actually checked a book out of the library. Instead, I was hunched over a study carrel — pouring my heart and soul into a research paper on the inequities of deaf education. I had planned to stay in that little crevice of Alderman until the library closed, but my stomach was aching for food. So, against my better judgment, I abandoned the carrel and left my paper unfinished. That left a disappointed pit in my stomach, sure, but it was nothing compared to the actual aching I’d feel seconds later when I fell down the stairs at Alderman Library.

I will be the first to admit that I have zero hand-eye coordination. The fact that I was ever able to play sports was a miracle — or a testament to my stubbornness. The point being, though, I’ve taken my fair share of spastic falls. If there’s a sheet of ice within my vicinity, I will slip on it — guaranteed. If I’m in wool socks and walking too quickly on hardwood floors, I am going down. 

At first, I was worried that people were going to accuse me of having a few too many drinks at a party — after all, it was Saturday night — but no. That did not happen. My friends found the original story way more believable: that I was writing a paper at the last-minute and then soberly, lucidly fell down the stairs. Not sure how I feel about that, but I’ve just come to accept that this clumsiness is just an embarrassing constant in my life — like taxes and death.

Admittedly, part of me is a little frustrated with myself that I didn’t see it coming. After seven hours at Alderman, I was mentally exhausted, starving and, to put the final nail in my coffin, I was checking my phone for bus times. What did I expect was going to happen? That I would be competent enough to make it down the stairs without using 100 percent of my attention? Oh, silly me.

Now, I’m not a wimp. All my life, I’ve had a big threshold for pain. But the way I landed? Man, that hurt. In a pathetic attempt to catch myself, I landed hard and awkwardly on my ankle. I must have also knocked my shoulder against the corner of a step; while I don’t remember it, the black-and-blue bruise was unforgettable.

The next day, a pair of adamant and overly-concerned friends brought me to MedExpress, and the entire check-up process took nearly four hours. We spent that time watching a NBA game and playing a million games of “I Spy” with the random five year old that was seated beside us. When we finally left, I was on crutches and my foot was secured tightly in a brace.

At the time, the implications of this seemed devastating. How was I going to get to class? It was the beginning of our last full week, so classes were important. I had clinic hours to complete and office hours to attend and events to support. Most days, I move to-and-from buildings, constantly, for eight hours a day. How was I meant to do that while on crutches? Spoiler alert. I wasn’t. For the first time in forever, I had to slow down. I still attended each of my classes, but I let the other obligations go. I gave myself a break. It only lasted a few days, but it was so nice.

The first day, I was restless and itching to go out and do something. When I did leave my dorm, it was incredibly difficult to get to places. Once, I waited a full hour for my DART ride, because my driver thought that New Cabell was downtown. By the third day, I cancelled all of my big obligations and just spent the morning in my dorm. I slept in until 9 a.m., sipped a cup of coffee in bed while watching my favorite sitcom and did some light textbook reading. It was actually a really nice break to my busy schedule. As soon as I was physically-able, though, I ditched the crutches and slid right back into my routine — only, with a new sense of reinvigoration.

During the semester, I become paranoid and restless when there is nothing to do. I’ve been conditioned, it seems, to always be doing something. By falling, I secured guaranteed me-time. Time that was not dedicated to my six classes, heaps of homework, clinic hours, RA responsibilities or even job and housing applications. I just laid in bed, foot elevated and iced and watched Netflix for three consecutive hours. It was strange and different, but incredibly nice.

As students, it can be difficult for us to find time for ourselves. When we do, it’s usually plagued with guilt and thoughts that “we should be doing productive things.” Despite this, it is important, for our own peace of mind, to take things slow sometimes. To avoid burnout, we need rest and recuperation.

Madeline Seymour is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com

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