Having waltzed into the thirty plus club earlier this year I've been feeling pretty bulletproof in that nothing really phases me anymore. The hormonal minefield of high school is a distant memory. The square peg round hole battle of my twenties is done.
I no longer pretend to enjoy music I hate to maintain an air of intrigue. When arancini balls circulate at a party, I happily take two, unafraid of being judged. Once upon a time, I might've spun an elaborate story – "I'll grab another one for my friend; he's in the bathroom." Those days are gone, now both balls are for me.
And yet there is one thing that can bring us all down – literally. Falling over as an adult.
Trip of a lifetime
It is the one act that swiftly strips you of your hard-earned dignity and renders you a sad sight,
groping desperately at the air, as other proper adults rush to your aid.
My friend, Alice, experienced this excruciating scenario recently. On her first day at a new job, at a high school no less, she experienced the crippling shame of coming down.
"I fell over today. It took two students to lift me back up," read her depressing text.
"Then they asked if there was anyone they should call. One of them called me ma'am,"
Step by step, ooh baby
She went on to detail that when rushing off to get her school photo taken - making the entire ordeal even worse - she tripped down a few steps, letting out a low guttural moan as she melted. Much like all adult falls, it was mortification in three slow stages.
Stage one: What is happening? Where are my feet? Oh dear, I'm moving very fast but in the wrong direction.
Stage two: I'm heading down now, try not to break anything. My supple wrists won't handle this.
Stage three: Here I am on the Earth's surface, and here I shall remain. I see concerned faces approaching me, but their offers to help are drowned out by the blinding pain working its way through my entire body. Pride, dented. Back, spasming. Shins, heavily skinned
Of course, the worst part is the bit after you've hit the deck. Eventually, someone takes pity on the fallen full-grown and stops to check-in, you clutch aggressively, half tempted to bring them down also. "Come join me!"
Pit of shame
If Alice had a bad fall, it was nothing compared to my pal, Cailtin. While working for a charity in Uganda, she toppled over in a ditch and landed in a pile of rubbish. Having injured both ankles, she was unable to walk on her own and had to lie in her putrid shame-pit until some polite Ugandan villagers heard her whimpers and offered to carry her back to town.
After processing your demise, next comes the response, which typically falls (lol) into three different categories.
One: Everything is fine
This is the default for most of us as we try valiantly to paper over the embarrassment by assuring everyone that we're fine, it's all fine, everything is fine! Of course, my shin bone is supposed to be visible. Yes, I've always had bitumen in my cheek.
If in doubt, bust the tears out. If there's one thing worse than a fallen adult, it's a crying one.
Three: Let's litigate
My personal favourite is the response that looks to assign blame and make bank. You start scanning the area for possible causes - who buffed this floor? Next, are the empty threats about taking someone, anyone to the High Court.
If we can take any solace from this humiliating human experience, it's that we all fall. The more I mentioned this idea to people in conversation - I like to conduct very informal content testing - the more I was inundated with survival stories. #WeAllFall.
"I slipped over at Bunnings and threatened to sue."
"I tripped while running for my train, landing on all fours as the carriage closed in front of me."
"My mate was playing frisbee at a wedding and fell over a hundred-year wall while trying to take a catch. He ruined a relic."
My, myself, my fall
No column is complete without sharing my own adult fall, of which I've had plenty. The most recent came during a weekend stroll. While trying to overtake a slow walker, I rolled my ankle and down I went. As I slowly fell, I was reminded of the simple yet addictive lyrics to Chumbawamba's 1997 hit, Tubthumping.
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You're never gonna keep me down
The worst part is it's not like that at all:
I get knocked down, but I remain down. I don't get up again.
I'm never gonna get back up.
After continually being told to "use his words" as a young boy, Thomas Mitchell took that advice on board and never looked back. Since then his words appeared all over the place, including in the Sydney Morning Herald, Time Out, The Huffington Post and GQ. Thomas spends his days observing the unique behaviour of the Australian male, while trying not to overstay his welcome at the local cafe.
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