In the first week of my final undergraduate semester at LSU I fell down. Like most things I start my blog saying, this event isn’t notable on its own. I happened to do it while taking a shortcut through a fence that had some boards missing. Fell down, leg got caught, snap, pop, ow! Broke both the bones in my lower leg just above the ankle. My trip from the apartment parking lot to the hospital and then home again is amusing, but I’ll save that for another day.

I bring my accident up because after getting out of the hospital I relied on crutches, both literally and metaphorically. I had some snazzy wooden numbers they gave me at the hospital. For Mardi Gras I customized them to catch and hold beads. I ended up having to drop a History elective I was taking because hobbling across campus on them was too much. But I also relied on crutches of action. My girlfriend was kind enough to pick me up where I’d fallen and take me to the hospital. Then, when I couldn’t drive because of the hardware inside and outside of my leg, she’d drop me off for class and pick me up every day between work. My roommate and friends took turns grabbing things for me so I wouldn’t have to get up and hop around…a noble offer.

On another level, denial was one of my crutches. I didn’t fall down in some noble pursuit. I wasn’t responding to a call for help or sound of an accident. I wasn’t even running home from a late study session at the library or an interview with an employer. I was stumbling home drunk from a bar like a feckless slob. I just didn’t see it that way at the time and no one called my stupidity out. My friends laughed, my girlfriend rolled her eyes, my parents came and checked on me. So I chalked it up to just one of those things that happens to everyone at some point.

Crutches, for the physically weak, injured and invalid, can be the difference between mobility and motionlessness; between being self-sufficient and helpless. They are a temporary fix to help you get around until something heals or can be fixed. If it can’t be fixed then you look for alternatives. Crutches, for the emotionally / motivationally / cognitively weak, injured and invalid, can be what keeps them in a state of need and dependence. In this sense, they are like physical crutches in that they should only be used as a short-term bridge during the discovery process.

But eventually you have to do without them. You have to be able to stand on your own. You can’t always have something, or someone, holding you up.

In our college crutches can include someone planning your schedule for you, a Career Coach going over your career search plan, or me sending you an Announcement each week telling you what’s coming up in class. In all of these examples, eventually you need to take ownership. College of Business programs are not complicated. Your Career Coach can’t apply for jobs for you. You have a video introduction, a syllabus with a class calendar at the end, and Webcourses with Assignments.

Since the classes are new, I will continue to send weekly Announcements to all classes that include “what to be doing next” suggestions. In the future, I will probably keep it up in GEB 3003, the first class. But students need to know that as they progress through 3005, 4223, and 4004 the announcements will become lighter on instructions and heavier on news and events. Your Career Coach will stop helping you with what you should be doing in your job search and expect you to be doing it. And schedule planning will be limited to extreme situations. Note…your academic probation or other poor academic performance is not considered an extreme situation.

It took the death of my mother and my struggles to deal healthily with it to shake the cobwebs from my head and make me realize that I don’t need crutches. My crutches were just excuses holding me back, even when they were offered out of a sense of service and goodwill. Sometimes I think these classes are a wake up call. Not as emotionally shocking, but a poke in the chest nonetheless. Some of you will come to this realization after missing a quiz. For others it will take something more severe like failing a class or having to sit out a semester.

You don’t help a man by giving him crutches, you help him by teaching him to walk without them. And if he’s reluctant to give them up then you poke him with a pointed stick to move him along!