This past week, 10 minutes before a class, a stair must've moved because I went from upright eating an apple and skipping through my Spotify playlist to being on the ground, my apple rolling away and my ankle burning in pain. Writing this, I hope not to sound like Michael Scott when he burned his foot on the George Foreman grill, where suddenly he had a wrapped foot and demanded sympathy. But the change in my regular routine has allowed me to see my university and other people in a different light.
1. Navigating campus takes a lot of effort
My dorm is relatively close to most of my classes. As it got later in the semester, it almost became a game for me to see how soon before I could leave before class and still get there on time and in my favorite seat. But on crutches, going anywhere is an investment in time and energy and makes me realize that even with handicap entrances on every building, there are still obstacles to accessibility such as hard-to-find entrances and sparse elevators.
2. So. Much. Walking.
You shouldn't feel bad about not making it to the rec center because injured or not, living on a college campus is a workout. In a typical day, I have walked about 15,000 steps; that's about seven miles. The past few days I have been relying on the bus and friends to drive me, minimizing my step count, but still, my arms feel like noodles at the end of the day. College students cover a lot of ground, and it is easy to see how this would be a disadvantage for someone who has a real disability or handicap.
3. You can't hit the buffet every day.
The dining hall experience that for the past few months has brightened my day with its unlimited supply of fruit and chocolate chip cookies has become an inconvenience. If I want to eat in a dining hall, I have to ask someone to carry my food, making me avoid them for fear of being a burden. There may be alternatives in place for students with a disability, but it is still a part of the college experience that can seem exclusive.
4. Adulting is daunting.
Suddenly not being able to do things on your own makes you realize all the independence of college. Not only are you able to go wherever you want whenever you want, but there is also a significant amount of "adulting" that we should all give ourselves credit for. Doing laundry, cleaning your dishes and keeping your room livable are all minor things that take effort. Using the communal bathrooms can be a humbling fight for hygiene that requires some creativity... I am not supposed to wear slip-on shoes, so I settled on wearing a single rain boot.
5. It's not strange to ask a favor of strangers.
If you're on crutches, your carrying capacity of anything is limited. But even in you are physically fine, there is nothing wrong with getting help from the people around you. Imagine that someone asked a small favor of you, like holding their coffee for a second or explaining the bus system. It doesn't inhibit you, and you would likely be happy to do it. The same goes for most people.
6. People are good.
Overall, from the moment my ankle betrayed me to a week later and getting better, I have noticed that I am surrounded by so many good people, like the faculty member who got me an ice pack, the guy I had never met that helped me up the stairs of the physics building and my friends that have brought me food.
I would not recommend falling in a student's center to anyone, and please don't fracture or break any part of yourself while you do it. Instead, just take my word for it that college is hard, and we all deserve more credit than we give ourselves. Accessibility and looking out for others is important. People are good, and it's not bad to get help, no matter the state of your extremities.