The First Injury
Don’t worry mom, it wasn’t me.
We all know I am arguably more danger prone than Daphne Blake (if you don’t get this joke, message me immediately and we’ll binge watch Scooby-Doo for three days), so I am always getting into trouble and hurting myself one way or the next. However, aside from a trick knee that I inherited from my lovely mother, I have been injury free throughout this class. I can’t speak for the whole class, unfortunately. I have seen people with muscle strains in their chest and bloody feet, but nothing beats the journey that was Thursday, February 25, 2016.
Glissades are the newest technique added to our class’s repertoire. Lauren was demonstrating, and as we often do, we were mimicking her for practice. From the corner of the room, there was a thud, followed by gasping from 20 girls in tights. I didn’t see what happened, but when the fog of dancers cleared, I saw Lauren kneeling beside my classmate who was clutching her ankle. Ten minutes later, class was over, and the advanced class began to fill the mirrored room. I ran to grab my laptop as I had planned to stay for the advanced class (it’s a mindful environment for writing) when I saw that my classmate was on the floor with a bag of ice. Her face was almost green, and there was a knot on her ankle the size of a golf ball. She said she couldn’t walk but needed an x-ray. It became very clear that I wouldn’t be writing a new blog post in that hour.
Let me tell you, she is a trooper. After we hobbled up several flights of stairs, out of Woollen Gym and over to Stallings to see the athletic trainers, I told Maria I had a meeting to get to, and I gave her my phone number in case she needed any help getting around.
Not five minutes later as I strolled through the Pit, my phone rang, and Maria asked if I’d be willing to pick her up because the verdict was she needed to be taken to Campus Health. Of course, I told her that I would help, hung up the phone and double-timed home to my car. We drove a couple streets over to Campus Health where they gave her the disheartening news that she probably couldn’t be seen until 4:00 p.m. I really cannot make this up. She. Couldn’t. Walk. What was she supposed to do until 4:00 p.m. considering it was 11:36 a.m. when we got to Campus Health? So, we drove away to get some food with plans to return around 2:00 p.m. in hopes that the doctor might be in early and might see her sooner rather than later.
Before this day, we’d never met, only exchanged polite smiles in the dance room, and all things considered, I’d thought her to be a shy girl with a pleasant disposition. I never thought of us as extremely different but not extremely similar either. On the outside, Maria has dark hair and is sort of short, and honestly she’s not that short; I’m just abnormally tall. But aside from our physical differences, there was no reason for me to believe that we were so alike or so unalike. I thought she was probably a science major, maybe biology, and probably a junior. I guessed she lived off campus, maybe towards Carrboro, and I thought perhaps she was a vegetarian. And why? Why is it that we so often see people and allow our imaginations to ideate who they are when we have no idea what their story is? Most of that was wrong. It was impossible for me to know that she, like me, is an advertising major. It was unlikely that I could have guessed that she’s a senior and lives in the most lucrative dorm on campus, Old East, right beside the Old Well. Then, I was shocked to learn we’d been in Gary Kayye’s course (see interesting Twitter account here) together fall semester, but it was a sizable class, and she was unaware, too.
It has become very clear to me since Thursday the kind of judgments, ideas, and decisions I make with little to no insight on the viability of those assumptions. Not always am I wrong, but I am most certainly unfair. All that we do provides unique opportunities for us as humans to experience other humans and the beauty of humanity. There is a chance to understand that not everyone is having his or her best day and to simultaneously recognize that it may not be your best day. In most if not all cases, we have no idea where someone passing us on the street is coming from or what they’re going to do. It is not easy to guess at things you haven’t taken the time to understand.
Just as I write this, I’ve given a friend relationship advice saying, “you can never ask someone for too little.” I’m very happy to say this was a joke because of course all healthy relationships and those we hope to sustain for any amount of time will include some degree of expectation. At the same time, I consider myself. I trust only a few people to know the secrets I have and that’s not because I’m cynical (which I am but this is not why I hesitate to trust). It is because of my low expectations for others. Just as we have no idea what people are experiencing, we also have no idea if they are in a place to have expectations placed upon them. The feeling that you were let down is undoubtedly the worst feeling I have ever had. To avoid that I accept that expectations cannot be universal. What I can do that requires nothing from anyone else, that does not set anyone up to fail and that never makes anyone else the bad guy is to set expectations for myself. I have to decide when I wake up what I’m going to represent on that day, what version of myself the world will see.
Last Thursday, I decided that what was important to me that day was someone else’s needs, which is really something I should do more often because I’m a lot more useful this way. In a moment that I wanted to have for myself, I saw a classmate who needed my moment much more than I did. She had no expectations, and she kept saying to me, “thank you so so much,” or, “I really can’t thank you enough.” To me, this is what I would’ve wanted anyone else to do for me in the event that I had injured myself — again I’m danger prone — and it seemed like the right thing to do and all, but at the end of it I had to have, at some point, expected that of myself as another classmate, another dancer, another human.
When Campus Health finally took Maria back in a wheelchair at about 2:15 p.m., she seemed calm. She’d prepared herself to hear that her ankle was broken, and when she turned to me as they called her name, I smiled to assure her I wouldn’t leave the waiting room. After an episode and a half of Mad Men and the completion of ad media homework, she still wasn’t out. I sat for a little long, and around 3:45 p.m. the doctor handed me her left shoe as she slowly came over on crutches. “A small fracture,” she said. She wouldn’t be able to tap with her company or go to ballet for 4–6 weeks. I got to meet her mom, too. She’d driven from Cary to get Maria, and she over thanked me as well. This day was long, but kind of fun. It was a lot like an adventure, and I made a new friend, which means one less person to laugh at me during ballet class.
I don’t know why I felt a little embarrassed to answer the question my housemate had when I came home and told her this story. After I’d painted a picture of all the places and things Maria and I had seen that day, she was confused and asked, “Wait, did you know her? Why’d you do that?” I shook my head and said that I didn’t but after that day I felt like she was my best friend, and I told her did it because we all deserve to be helped without the hopes of getting something in return. It’s a very good life, but sometimes, it can be scary, upsetting or just plain unfair. What makes it worthwhile is the knowledge that we have friends to see us through, and even when there are no friends to be found, someone will still lift you up.