I fall a lot. I fall almost daily, but I’ve learned to cringe away the pain and continue on my way, letting out an uninhibited chortle as I go. I believe in laughing at yourself when you fall. No matter where you are, no matter who you’re near, laughter can transform the unpleasantness of any fall into a glorious realization of the wonder of living.
When I went to school in Boston from my sheltered suburbia of Colorado, I was overwhelmed to say the least. I felt lost, but I tried to put my trepidations behind me as I attacked my new surroundings. I typified the eager freshman with an oversized backpack stuffed full with books and notes to accommodate an overloaded schedule. One cold, rainy autumn afternoon, as I rushed from one class to the next, I was bombarded with the harsh reality of the Boston streets, literally. I hit the pavement, hard.
As I shook the grogginess out of my head, and tried to stand, I realized that my efforts would be met only with futility. My backpack was like an anchor, holding me fast to that inhospitable sea of cement. My oversized umbrella was turned inside-out and suffering a violent attack from the wind, forcing my body to flail in convulsions as I held on for dear life. The excess books which didn’t fit in my backpack were strewn all over me and the sidewalk, like papers thrown from a window high above. And worst of all, my foot was stuck in the uneven cement that was cracked and bowed over an unruly tree root. As I tried again to get up, I noticed the crowd of onlookers who gawked and pointed as I rolled around like a beached whale, struggling to regain not simply my verticality, but any shred of composure I had left.
The decision I made at that moment shaped the course of my life. I lay on the harsh, wet sidewalk, my body contorted over volumes of Plato and uneven cement, and looking into the faces of those staring back at me in wonderment, I let out a booming laugh that I’d never felt before and have never felt since. I laughed until I hurt, not just my ankle from the fall, but also my sides and stomach from being worked to such an extreme. And as I laughed, those strangers around me laughed to, and eventually assisted me in extricating my foot, standing up, and collecting my belongings and even a scrap my dignity. I had stumbled, but I was ok, and I could still smell the rain, and I could still feel the humid air, and my life would go on.
When I stood up, I knew I could tackle school, and Boston, and life. I knew that I would be faced with many tumbles, but I would be ready to greet them with a hearty laugh and an appreciation that tomorrow, I will fall again.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.