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Sep 20 2017
by Jonathan Gardner

How Having My Wisdom Teeth Removed Taught Me A Life Lesson

By Jonathan Gardner - Sep 20 2017
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Three weeks ago, I had my wisdom teeth removed.

The day of the operation, I woke up fifteen minutes before we needed to leave. I took a Valium, as instructed by my oral surgeon, and woozed my way to his office. My mom and I sat in the reception area for at least twenty minutes. I spent those twenty minutes with my mind emptier than it had been for the past 18 years of my life.

I finally understood why people take prescription painkillers to get high. Cerebral silence carries an odd pleasure.

A nurse came and walked us back to the operating room, where I sat down beneath numerous bright lights and proceeded to fall asleep; the combination of laughing gas, Valium and intravenous sedation knocked me out.

I awoke approximately an hour later to the same bright lights. I stood and walked out to my mom’s car, while a nurse I didn’t need held my arm to prevent a fall that didn’t occur.

I felt surprisingly awake, considering my system still circulated enough medication to knock out a small elephant. My mom drove to a nearby pharmacy to pick up my antibiotic and painkillers, and I picked up a chocolate milkshake. My mouth was still too numb to talk or truly eat, which infuriated me. For every sip I took of that milkshake, at least half fell on my shirt or pants. When I wanted to take a sip, I had to remove bloody hunks of gauze from my mouth. My speech came out garbled and indistinct, as if the sound waves traveled through water before reaching the ears of my audience. Needless to say, I was pissed off. Although the painkillers felt good and I floated on a hydrocodone-induced cloud, my mind didn’t function. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t eat and my reflexes and muscles were shot. "I took off three days of work for this?" I thought, annoyed with the entire situation.

My befuddled reflexes revealed themselves fully when I returned to my parents’ house and started playing video games with my brother. Three hours disappeared into the hydrocodone ether, and my brother killed me at least 150 times on Call of Duty. After the first few rounds, I could tell he started to go easy on me, which aggravated me further.

Drool dripped out of my mouth and onto my clothes every few minutes, as my jaw was too numb to contain anything within my mouth. I felt like a disgusting waste of space sitting on a couch playing video games when I should have been working to pay for my oncoming college expenses. 

After the hydrocodone wore off, I left the remaining pills in their bottle. Not that I was in agony. I took Advil to reduce the swelling and relieve the majority of my pain; I just wanted to be mentally present.

My girlfriend told me to lie down. She said I wouldn’t recover from my surgery if I didn’t rest. I refused rest. I stayed on my feet and continued to do all of the things I ordinarily did, aside from eating any foods that weren’t soup, yogurt or ice cream.

I hated being stuck at my house. I felt the pressure to heal and get to work, but I couldn’t. I experienced a considerable amount of inner turmoil: the struggle between the need to work and the need to rest.

I spent the first day trying to do everything as I normally would. On the second day, I heeded the advice of my girlfriend and rested. I climbed into bed with ice packs strapped to my cheeks, picked up a book, and rested.

I started reading and completed the book within the first day. For the first time in almost two months, I felt the familiar urge to write.

I felt at home in my mind once again.

Despite the continual urge to get up and go, I sat and wrote a journal entry. It read in a childish, rusty voice stripped of emotion and detail. I wrote a short story. It read the same way. As I wrote more and more, my previous skill returned, as well as my passion for filling empty pages.

Over that brief, but much-needed, break, I expected a constant flow of anxiety and stress stemming from unearned money and tasks left incomplete. To my surprise, I felt content.

Had I not taken that break and allowed myself to rest, I might never have rediscovered my self and my ability to write. I might never have achieved the contentedness that accompanies self-actualization.

All in all, a moment of rest is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be infuriating, particularly when one has important things waiting, but it remains invaluable as a moment to slow down and find oneself.

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Jonathan Gardner - Emerson College

Creative Writing major at Emerson College and avid procrastinator.

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