Hitting Bottom

Every semester has an emblematic moment. This semester’s finally arrived today, in the moment when, walking along talking with the dean, I stumbled on a bit of uneven sidewalk and completely face-planted on the pavement.

Falling gets harder every year after 30, I think; one has both come to assume one’s verticality to be stable, given, and lost some degree of the flexibility that makes sudden changes negotiable. Actually, I think both states might be summed up in the term “dignity,” and boy, is mine bruised.

I keep reliving the moment, and its aftermath: turning to look in the direction the dean had just pointed, turning back to ask a question, feeling my toe hit the obstruction, and that clear interval in which I knew I was going down, but had not yet hit. And then: lying on my back on the sidewalk, saying “oh, shit” and trying to start breathing again; seeing the dean’s quite evident shock and concern as he asked whether I had hit my head; attempting to reassure the two students who stopped to see if we needed help and offered to call security. Then limping off to the meeting I’d been heading toward.

I’m banged up, though nothing is more bruised than my pride, I think, with the exception of the notebook I was carrying and the sunglasses I was wearing, each of which has a pretty good case of road rash. I don’t want to make too much of this, but it’s awfully hard not to feel like there’s something allegorical in this moment.


  1. Ouch! This seems like a story in need of some Writer’s Embellishment, a la the old Letterman show. Perhaps something about you selflessly throwing yourself upon the uneven concrete to save your dean a more costly injury? Or a freak ice storm in SoCal? Spice it up to save some pride…

  2. I sooo feel your pain, having done the same thing in September in front of about 15-20 senior colleagues. I still have massive scars on my leg to prove it. (I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.) Take care, girl.

  3. Having experienced something quite similar (scene: moon slowly rising over the Capitol Building down Pennsylvania Ave, the white flash of the crosswalk light blinking invitingly, the soft rush of DC traffic… all quite lovely really with one toe firmly caught in a pedestrian pot-hole and rushing past at whatever velocity I managed to attain before face-planting with a dull thud in front of my colleagues) I can assure you that, in fact, the advantage of hitting bottom is that it is an enviable position to be in when you would like to move *up*. Or, failing to find refuge in that bit of comfort, to quote my three-year-old daughter’s favorite book at the moment… “Today was a hard day. Tomorrow will be better.”

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