My sister got braces today and she is not necessarily the happiest about it. I can be the first to admit that I whole heartedly understand the feelings of frustration, discomfort, and insecurity that come along with braces. My mouth has been my biggest insecurity for the entirety of my life.
I was the kid with shark teeth and head gear.
I was the kid who had to take her teeth out to eat, from the time I was in elementary school and into college. It was always really hard meeting new people and having to explain why I have to take out two of my teeth every time I eat.
I was the girl who got braces at the end of senior year, just in time to have them for prom and graduation and college.
Braces are common though, right? Most children and teens you meet have had braces for some stint of time. Sometimes though braces are foreign. Sometimes they are something a child has never seen.
When I was 19, one month before I was scheduled to get my braces off, I set off to South Africa to spend a month volunteering in an after school surf program. There I was a full set of braces and rubber bands crossing the front of my mouth in a second world county. What I didn't expect was the confusion and sense of intrigue that the kids had when we met.
"What is on your teeth?"
"Why do you have hair bands in your mouth?"
"What do those do?"
"Is that gum?"
Questions that you never expect to hear. It's funny trying to explain that, no my teeth won't all fall out if the metal comes off but its just moving my teeth around.
Everyone one I've talked to who has volunteered will tell you that they walk away with a new sense of gratitude. I expected this, but I didn't expect to feel grateful for all the dental work I have had. I am so incredibly fortunate to have had braces and head gear and fake teeth. That is not a reality for everyone. And I still have my rough days, days where I am in a dentist chair for 6 hours hating my teeth. But I'm in the home stretch, I'm almost done. I am still taken a back by a compliment about my smile because it wasn't until recently that I actually liked it. And on the days that I'm frustrated I try my hardest to remember the surf program kids. I try to remember that I am incredibly lucky to have had braces. It's been a long time coming but I can finally say I love my smile and I am a firm believer in how important it is to love yourself.
I guess what I am saying Lane is, it sucks now. It gets better. It will be worth it in the long run and I hope you know how lucky you are to be able to fix what makes you insecure. Time flies, life moves forward always, and in the grand scheme of things this next year and half is such a small part of your life.
I guess what I am saying to anyone who happens to be reading this is, always be grateful for what you have. You are beautiful. Your differences are what make you unique. Oh and smile more. Always smile more. Smiles are a beautiful magical thing and the world can always use more smiles.