Last Friday, I went in for oral surgery.
By way of background, these past few years my stress levels have been especially high; I have felt heightened pressure, like many folks in their early 30s do, to pour myself into my work as much as possible and make something of myself before the invisible “the window closes”. this window an insidious creation of both a culture that praises at the altar of 30 under 30, and an industry in which I don’t see a single face over the age of 45. I have dug deep down and to process my own hypocrisy – on the one hand chiding Trump voters who don’t understand that it was automation, not immigrants, that took their jobs, and on the other hand knowing that I am single handedly playing a massive role in this automation and am myself putting structures in place that will allow for fewer people to do more and more.
There was a scene on this Sunday’s Billions where Mick Danzig has a session with Wendy Rhoades. In it, he relays his nightmares about Russian hackers destroying his portfolio. Wendy weighs this crisis of conscience and suggests his nightmares are reflective of the very real fears he has about the negative impact of his work on the people of Sandicott, who are about to be unceremoniously bled dry by a bad investment.
Thoughts similar to these and the stress it creates manifests itself in something very real, and that is grinding the ever loving shit out of my jaw. Despite wearing a mouth guard, I have spent what is now tens of thousands of dollars to correct issues arising from the crushing weight of my grinding, until last weekend I woke up with a partially swollen face and knew something terrible had happened. And I was right; I had, as a matter of fact, fractured a bone in my jaw, which had created a pathway for infection that caused half my face to swell. I saw two specialists first thing Monday morning.
Multiple scans later, I was given the news.
“I’m so sorry to tell you this, but we aren’t going to be able to save your tooth,” she told me, as I broke down into tears. “And we’ll have to do a bone graft to replace the one you have so that your gums don’t collapse.”
33 years old and already losing teeth, I thought. At this rate, I won’t have any if I’m so lucky as to live into old age. For me, this was devastating.
Friday afternoon, I went in for corrective surgery. I wish to God I hadn’t been awake for it- it was grizzly and painful and I wouldn’t wish it on an enemy. And two thoughts kept going through my head- 1) I am so Goddamn lucky I have dental insurance and 2) I am even more lucky that I can pay for what isn’t covered without a second thought. Because in addition to being painful and awful, this surgery would have bankrupted anyone, and that is a horrifying thought. And a proof point that health care is a fundamental human right.
I spent the weekend at home recovering, and was kind enough to have so many friends and family check in on me constantly. But I had a lot of time to think; and I realized that I need to get fucking serious about my stress levels and my health and what I want out of this short life. I have proven to myself that I can “do it all”, that I can start a new team at work and plan a wedding at the same time, that I can do right by my clients and do right by the example that my tireless parents set for us every day. But I also understand now that it is okay to set limits on what can and cannot be achieved, and that using fear to motivate myself to work harder, better, faster, stronger- is landing me in dire straits. When I look at what I want out of life – to have a happy marriage, children, to be nearer to my family and have more access to the outdoors and to read and write, and pursue joy, I realize what is not at the top of that list, and never will be.
That’s okay. And okay will have to do for now.