SWARTZ: The advantage of being a klutz

Matilda Swartz

The other week I committed a devastatingly, not to mention socially, unacceptable deed. I fell in public. It was the post-snow-day morning and I figured I could brave the wide, daunting snow-capped expanse that is Mendel Field. The presence of a mere two, maybe three courageous souls on the field with their arms outreached for divine balance should have been the first warning.

Nonetheless I was wearing my boots with the most traction, so I kept on, making my first couple of baby steps smoothly into the crunchy fallen precipitation. Suddenly, I found myself faced with a patch of ominous-looking ground. One more forward step and all five-foot-two of me was sprawled on top of the inconsiderate ice. Without looking behind me at all, I picked myself up, straightened my Ray Bans, bandaged my ego and completed my journey.

The pedestrian faux pas became my bedtime story of the night for my floor-mates-a bonding experience which proved that I have not been the first to suffer a seasonal slip nor will I be the last. Sharing these icy stories triggered some reflection on my own record.

Despite being only a second semester freshman, the mayhem on Mendel Field was not my first tumble since arriving at Villanova. I have been falling since orientation week which is just what happens when no “Piso Mojado” sign is posted next to the aftermath of a neon-juice spill, and a klutz like myself disregards such dangers en route to the Spit’s salad bar. It would take more than my own fingers and toes to count the bruises I have donned from tripping both up and down the stairs of Katharine Hall.

Whether in dining halls, residence halls, fields, or even for my Philosophy professor, I have accomplished all forms of collegiate falling.

After reminiscing on these countless trips I find myself obsessively watching my feet as I walk down the steps in Connelly or up the stairwell in Tolentine-an excessive neuroticism that I have no room for in my daily routine. Yet it seems that people, especially in the college setting, share this extreme fear of falling. Not to say that everyone gets anxious over the type of fall executed by yours truly on Mendel Field; falling can take on multiple forms.

Sometimes it is the social fall we worry about: what if I wind up with no plan or direction this coming Friday night, what if all of my friends are graced by the basketball lottery fairy for the Big East game but I am not, what if I get into not my first or second but third choice Greek society?

Then there is the identity fall that curses the best of us: the way that we maintain our current selves and our pre-college selves as separate entities, the parts of our personal histories and families that we care not to divulge, the way we craft our Facebook profiles just so and live with the pressure to meet the expectations set by our virtual personalities.

So we walk around with a subconscious fear not just of slipping while walking into Intermediate Spanish, but slipping up in life in general. This fear of falling is unwanted, unneeded and very much able to be overcome.

I remember sitting in the Pavilion during Jeannette Walls’ One Book presentation not long ago, jotting down almost every pithy Walls-ism she had to offer. One has resonated in my mind for the last couple of weeks. It stemmed from an anecdote about her mother. She called Walls one day, excited to report that she had just fallen off of a horse. Her mother explained to the perplexed Walls that anyone can ride a horse, but the real feat is in knowing how to fall. Rose Mary Walls is exactly right.

It is one thing to tiptoe around covering up, constructing façades or counting steps, but it is an entirely different deed to tumble unexpectedly in Belle Air Terrace, laugh at yourself, then live to tell about it. Sometimes we need to allow ourselves to fall just to avoid monotony in our lives. I would much rather don my welts and bruises with clumsy glory than pride myself on being graceful enough to have never been face down on a floor. There is no adventure in having perfect balance anyways.


Matilda Swartz is a freshman communication major from Longport, N.J. She can be reached at [email protected].