If I try really hard, I can remember getting my braces off. Over Christmas break in 2004, I was re-introduced to the slick, slimy insides of my lips in a hasty arrangement that only a hairy and very foreign orthodontist could procure.
It was a bright moment in my life; I was 13. I was loaded up with society-approved teeth and I wasn’t afraid to use them.
One cannot, however, exist in a single moment forever. I have learned this by trying to do exactly that. It is a special day when you realize that while you may have deserved something once, you can’t keep it if you terminate all effort.
Put simply, you gotta polish the trophy if you want to keep it on the mantle.
Just like my teeth. I sacrificed corn on the cob, twizzlers, and ice cubes for about a year. I flossed and brushed all of the time. I treated my pearly, metal-studded whites like 26 little Bentleys all parked cozily next to each other in the car lot that is my mouth. I knew that one day, I’d get to take them for a spin.
So when I received my license to chew, I chewed too quickly and too recklessly. I disregarded my retainer. Then my wisdom teeth grew in. And now the bottom half of my mouth looks like a Ford Pinto pileup.
What I find interesting and quite symbolic is that my top row of teeth is still pretty much intact. That merchandise is still straight, as far as you’re concerned. So people don’t see anything but a well-kempt smile when we meet, which is lovely for me.
But I know the truth: I know what the whole picture looks like. I know that what happened is my fault, and that it could have been prevented. When I reveal my teeth, I reveal a great personal flaw. I reveal a deep-seeded pattern of self-destruction. I reveal my dusty trophies.
Is it normal to take things for granted? Is it normal to laboriously achieve something just to prove that it is attainable?
Is it normal to not only feel, but to know that you can do better?
One day, I will do some damage control. I will reveal all of my dust laden trophies. Then I will clean them. And then, I will be proud.