The halls are alive with the clack of crutches as an inordinate number of my colleagues have recently injured themselves: one stepped off a curb wrong, one fell off her shoes, and others are suffering flare-ups of old injuries. A colleague in a knee brace claims that all these injuries are an outward sign of the pain we're all feeling after recent budget cuts hit the faculty hard, so the awkward clanking of crutches in the hallway speaks for dozens of achy-breaky hearts.
We haven't yet developed an effective way to process the impact of these budget cuts. When a colleague dies, we go to a funeral, share stories about his life and teaching and foibles, and spread hugs all around; when we hear that a position has been cut and the colleague will be leaving at the end of the year, we lack a ready-made ritual or a method to manage our emotions.
Further, the most human responses don't help the hurt: withdrawing behind closed doors to congratulate ourselves on surviving the carnage makes the wound fester, while spewing anger and bitterness all over the hallways spreads the suffering.
So instead we carry on doing what we do best: teach, research, attend endless meetings where we talk and talk and talk about the cuts without finding a way to stanch the bleeding. Maybe there isn't a way. Maybe this pain is something we'll have to carry long into the future, along with all the other burdens that weigh us down. In that case, maybe what we all need is a brace, a cane, a crutch to lean on.
That clanking you hear is the sound of a damaged faculty hobbling onward through the pain.