I was going to write a post about my experience as a first-year full-time English faculty at Folsom Lake College.
But I fell today.
Not metaphorically fell. I fucking fell walking to class during one of the busiest times on our beautiful campus.
Here’s what happened: I was walking next to a bed of plants and one of the plants had this large tentacle-like leaf that somehow wrapped around my goddamn foot.
If I was less sane of a person I would say that the plant was trying to get me. Attempting to take me out.
Luckily, I’m sane, but that fucking plant had it in for me from the very beginning.
About the fall:
On the way down I thought, “What the fuck are you doing, you disgusting plant?!”
“Fuck you!” I thought. “Just sit there and be a stupid plant for once in your life!”
To make it worse, I think I was smiling when I fell. When I play the scene back in my head, yup, I was smiling, and I look like a big smiling, falling asshole.
I kept falling. “I can’t believe I am going to hit the ground,” I thought, smiling like a fuckface.
It was so surreal that I was taken out by a plant. Of all things. If I look back on my life, I thought it would have been crystal meth. Or a gang member. A fucking plant. The fall was so slow. I had so much time to rationalize the fall that by the time I hit the ground I’d already accepted the fact that I had fallen and then even had a little laugh about it. I actually had a bit of time at the end of the fall where I had no thoughts at all. It was just me and my blank mind. It was nice.
I fell onto my knuckle and my knee hit the ground with a crack.
“Fuuuuuck,” a student said.
A group of students stopped chatting. “Are you ok?” one of them asked.
I couldn’t tell.
A student put his hand gently on my shoulder. It almost made me cry.
Another English professor was standing there when I got up. “Are you ok? Do you need worker’s comp?”
I don’t know what I said to her. It’s been a rough couple weeks. My neighbor was murdered. The guy across the street’s house burned down. I got the flu. My wife got the flu. I started a new full-time position teaching English and I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing. My son got Hand, Foot and Mouth disease at day care, which, of course, he passed on to me. My feet are now covered in red blisters that feel like I’m walking on fire and broken glass.
“I would give you a hug,” my coworker said, “But I don’t want to get sick.”
I limped to class. I told them that I fell and they laughed really hard. Too hard. My knuckle was bleeding. For some reason I had a band aid in my pocket, as if I knew that one day I would be the smiley asshole professor that would fall onto the ground and break his knuckle open.
While the class laughed, I applied my band aid. I wanted to die, but there was a class in front of me. They needed to learn. We talked about David Foster Wallace. We watched his Kenyon College commencement speech where Wallace discusses drudgery and complacency. The self-centered nature of mankind. He talks about seeing and compassion. And empathy.
“The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day,” Wallace said.
I wanted the students to love what he said. I wanted them to think about it. When I told them he killed himself a few years after giving this speech, they gasped.
When the class ended I stumbled back to my office across the campus. My knee throbbed. My finger was leaking blood through the band-aid.
When I told my office mate—a hilarious Nutrition professor—the story of my fall, she laughed, and said, “How’s the plant?”
I texted my wife:
It wasn’t until I set my fingers on the keyboard in front of me that I noticed they were trembling. My whole body trembled.
I opened up my email and there was a message from a student. “Hey Professor,” It began. “I just wanted to thank you for showing us that video today of the commencement speech. It opened my eyes.”
“It opened my eyes,” I said to myself. The words shook through my trembling body.
I shut off my computer and I watched my trembling hands. Maybe it was the combination of lack of sleep, horrific sickness, death, destruction and falling in the middle of a walkway like a complete fucking asshole, but I wanted to cry at the simple kindness in that email.
“in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism,” Wallace said in his speech. “There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”
My finger bled onto my hand through the band aid. My knee throbbed.
And, I guess that’s exactly how my first year of teaching English full-time at Folsom Lake College has gone.