For six years, I lived with a set of metal teeth in my mouth.
For six years, there was a constant pain as they bit into me and tortured my own teeth.
For six years, the agony of having a mouth that was not my own marked each day that passed.
At the age of seven, I experienced an accident that would alter my childhood memories and become a part of my personal identity.
In the midst of a heated game of tag, I rushed up the stairs in an effort to reach the slide. However, the sensation of swooping down gripped my stomach before I ever reached the yellow tube and I found myself falling. I watched the brown bark which guaranteed a soft landing disappear before my eyes; it was replaced by a cold, beige sheen as the metal rods of the stairs inched toward my face.
My day care teacher, Jeanie, sat next to me and gave me comfort while I remained motionless with shock. Tears did not run down my face, and I did not scream with the piercing wail of a child in pain.
My tongue explored the inside of my mouth and, I registered that something was missing that should not have been gone: where my permanent front tooth should have been, there was only a gaping hole. Tears finally leaked through my eyes as I saw my mother round the corner to pick me up.
My mother arrived and Jeanie said that I had not cried at all; she came to me and softly said, “You’re a brave boy.”
I later found out that my tooth had been smashed straight up into my gums; it miraculously survived despite the trauma. However, I would know the pain of braces starting from second grade and ending as I approached high school.
Eventually, I realized that, like all hardships, no matter how much I complained and whined I needed to deal with the braces.
I soon came to see my braces as just another hurdle to overcome. There was no way around it, no way of evading it. My attitude toward daily life began to change: whether there was a pile of homework still to be done or projects yet to be completed, I could only move forward and progress.
Joy flooded through me the first time I overcame an obstacle without complaining; there was the sense of gratifying satisfaction of doing something well.
I knew that there was no way I could dodge every metal rod that came smashing into my life; I knew that whether or not I would look forward to see the result or cower in fright was entirely up to me.
My braces taught me about the confidence and determination I need to face those rods and to endure with the hope that in time, whether it be six days or six years, those perfect teeth would be on the other side.
Although life is filled with adversity, I am determined to constantly address each one, move on, and grow a little stronger; and as I triumph over each hurdle, I can just hear Jeanie softly say, “You’re a brave boy.”