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Wisdom teeth lost, wisdom gained

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

While many fortunate college students spent spring break sipping colorful drinks on tropical beaches, I had the pleasure of getting my wisdom teeth removed. As someone who had never had an invasive surgery, the post-op recovery period was an entirely foreign experience. Out of this rite of passage that those of us with impacted wisdom teeth undergo, the most surprising revelation that emerged was the kind of things that I itched to do but couldn’t.

I am not a cross-country runner. I am someone who occasionally uses the elliptical indoors in a temperature-controlled environment. Yet, during the four days I spent bedridden, unable to expend much energy beyond lifting bowls of soup to my puffy face, I wanted nothing more than to slip on a pair of sneakers and race down winding dirt paths surrounded by trees.

Similarly, as someone who lives in a city without much of a need to drive more than twenty minutes on any given day and who rarely drives while on campus, I didn’t expect to miss being behind the wheel of a car. However, the moment my swelling had subsided and the painkillers were out of my system, I jumped at the opportunity to drive my mother to the grocery store and listen to the sweet sounds of KFOG on the radio.

When it came to food, or lack thereof, I found myself craving the texture and heft of solid food over the shakes and smoothies I was slurping up. It wasn’t so much the density or the satisfaction provided by solid foods that I craved, but rather the act of chewing that eating solid food necessitates. Who knew I would dream of munching, crunching, gnawing and chomping just for the sake of the act of breaking down food for myself?

I longed to do things that were out of character and things I had taken for granted and unwittingly written off as mundane, as soon as I felt the slightest bit constrained. The moment my world of options was even slightly limited, I dreamt of all the small pleasures I felt I was missing out on. Now, a few weeks out of recovery, I’d like to say that every drive is more exciting, that I’ve started running outside on a regular basis or that I slow down and focus on the experience of crunching on tortilla chips and chewing through bagels. The reality is that I still wolf down my food without thinking and I rarely run, let alone outside. However, appreciating that these options are available to me, should I pause and give myself opportunity to reflect, is something I never expected to gain from the loss of my wisdom teeth.

 

Contact Cecilia Atkins with your wisdom teeth removal stories at catkins ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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