Would You Take A Dollar Now, or Get Ten Dollars in a Year From Now?

How does a baby learn to latch at the sight of a nipple? Why do New York commuters tirelessly gaze to the left, when standing at the subway tracks? Why, upon reading these words, do you expect this sentence to end as a question?

It is in human nature to anticipate.

In a lifelong endeavor of identifying patterns, we draft mental connections between such linked phenomena. To every effect, we search for a cause. Did I sleep poorly because I drank too much coffee? We act, to cause an effect. I will avoid it today, so I can sleep better tonight. It can easily be said that our ability to form a predictable chronological order is the basis for learning.

It can even be argued that experts, in any specialty or field, have become experts precisely by mastering the art of pattern recognition. It goes beyond Wall street, beyond science. Just as the best taco man in the West Coast has discovered which beef to lettuce ratio draws in the most customers, it is implied that the best soil yields the best crop.

And like these experts, we use our ability to predict the near and far future to determine the next best choice of action. Why? Because it is in the best interest of any individual to operate in an economy of effort in relation to time: two of our most valuable and priceless resources. Surely, some things in life cost more self-investment than others.

Everything we do, every person we choose, and each seemingly insignificant decision whittles down to intrinsic calculations — Will this produce a profit? Do I have to apologize to my boss?  Should I microwave the hot pocket with the paper cover on? Does this person push me to be better? Do I stay in this relationship? Should I sleep in another hour? Why am I here? Is this worth it?

As a long term planner, you debate the disparity between what you anticipate and what may actually happen. You are more likely to sacrifice the present for the future. You are, to put it simply, an investor. However, as a short term planner, you act upon instinct. You recognize the far future but appreciate the present much more. You are a gambler of action: a doer. You are passion over logic, thrill over safety. Most of us fall somewhere along this spectrum.

I am naturally impulsive, but moreso logical. It wasn’t until yesterday night…

 

* * * * * *

I am chatting with a friend in the car — calm, content, eyes dim as the night sky. It is peaceful. It is quiet. My recovery has been going really well. It has been a month since the accident.

Next thing I know, I am nauseous. I think, carsick. My body floods with pins and needles. Ok maybe not carsick? I meditate on my breaths. It is slow. I think of the beach. The left side of my body seizes into a cramp. My pulse feels slow, sluggish, weak. Jay is telling me the hospital is a block away. But I’m only a few miles from home.

I can’t remember what happens next. I am drifting in and out of consciousness in a bright room; I can barely open my eyes. A bright green number reads 38. My heart rate. Someone is undressing me. There goes my shirt. I am surrounded by people with “TRAUMA” across their shirts. The nurse who wheeled me mutters why did I come to die at the end of her shift. I think, I’m dying? Or is that a figure of speech?

I have a smart answer for her, but it gets lost somewhere between a number of curse words and all the questions they are asking me. There are a lot of faces, some confused, some worried. They are asking me, what’s wrong with your hand. I don’t know, you tell me. Two nurses on either side are stabbing at veins. My blood pressure spikes, my eyes are rolling, the monitor is crying for attention…

I feel like I am in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy except Patrick Dempsey is an asian lady and nobody actually dies at the end. Just a shit load of chaos.

* * * * * *

 

I’m not the kind of person that has a near death experience and decides to, from then on, “live for the moment.” No, I’m not going to quit my jobs, get a cliché tatted on my arm, and dedicate my life to an unfulfilled bucket list. It all comes down to finding a balance.

Ambition is a great trait to have, but sometimes, I get so caught up on doing things for others and my future self, that I neglect what I want right now. I think this happens to many of us, especially those who have goals to reach within certain time constraints. I’m not here to self pity, or to create a diet plan of what I can or can’t do. Rather, I’m allowing my desires to guide me, even if it leads me beyond reason or comfort. You know the little guy in the back of your head that tells you when it’s a bad idea? I’m putting him on mute, because in moderation, new is good. New is becoming.

The take home point is: if you are an investor, become a doer. If you are a doer, become an investor. Do not remain a static point on a dynamic spectrum of planning. Your mind is three dimensional.

Which brings us back to the million dollar question: Would You Take A Dollar Now, or Get Ten Dollars in a Year From Now?

One choice over another may bring you greater success, but you’d benefit more by supplementing your repertoire with a new way of thinking, of anticipating & doing. Fuck what you’re used to. Choose the other. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood; why not take both?

 

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Left for Language, Left for Dead

Raking through my hair, the wind flutters against my neck, exposing my shoulders in brief, flapping increments to a warm glaze of sunshine. I cruise with confidence, easing my grip around the handlebars, having just dodged the nightmare of a bike lane or whatever you’d call that mess on 8th avenue. In stark contrast, Central Park West is expanse: with freshly painted, clearly delineated, white traffic lines, and law abiding, Lululemon yoga-pant citizens. Worry does not live here. 

Upon spotting a red light ahead, I stop pedaling and let my wheels roll. There are rows of pedestrians to my right, cars to my left, but we do not hurry. Life is casual, like a porch on a Sunday afternoon, a coffee shop with hours yet to close, like particles of dust that occasionally catch the light as they sift across the room…

 

I hear a vehicle draw closely behind me, and as I turn my head to look, I am struck.

Once, by the meat of the car, and twice, by pavement.  

 

Maybe, as a bullshit artist, I half-anticipated there to be beauty in destruction, like my body would somehow twist with grace and poise around the pristine curves of the Cadillac. I thought it’d be like shattering glass in a silent room, slow motion in the movies, and though gruesome, it’d be a spectacle to watch how fragile man is to metal.

But the crash itself is not brilliant. It is not slow, or forgiving, and it is far, far from beautiful. The SUV hammers my skull, shoulder, hip, and knee. It slams me into the pavement so quickly I devour my breath and lose it mid-swallow.

Lights out before I finish hitting the ground.

 

When I wake, there are voices: high frequency. My eyes are open, I think, but the faces are blurry and the sky is patched with static. There is metal in my mouth… maybe it is blood. It tastes like I’m late for a meeting and this isn’t how I die. It smells like mourning and stale bread and heather grey. Nothing makes much sense.

The straps on my backpack have hiked the lifeless weight of my body like the strings on a puppet imitating life. I don’t realize my shoulders are forcibly shrugged until I try to move, and can’t. I must get going — but nothing listens.

I blink and stay calm…. Too calm? I am not breathing. I am afraid that if I breathe, I will break.

 

I catch a glitchy screenshot of a face to my left, and I scare. I see two eyes, one nose, and a mouth, and it scares me because I cannot make sense of what it is. I cannot comprehend the arrangement and why sound comes out from the lips and how the eyes blink with fear. The face says things like: “Don’t move,” and “We saw the car drive into you,” and “Call the ambulance.” There is another woman pacing behind this one, with a cell phone in her hand. I begin going into shock. My left arm tingles with a million needles. Guttural whispers escape my throat.

To my right, there is panic. A frantic mouth speaks “you biked into the car,” and it confuses me. I was ahead of all the cars. I was in the bike lane. I was at a red light. I do not understand. I am late. I have to go. Please don’t tell my parents. Am I going to die? I can’t feel my body. You’re okay. You’re okay. You’re okay. Just breathe.

The mouth to my left is much nicer. She reminds me when to breathe. She reminds me to stay awake, though a nap sounds fantastic. She reminds me help is coming. What kind of help? I imagine she is holding my hand. That’s what they do in the movies.

 

I’m not sure if I lose consciousness again, or my memory skips, but the next thing I know, there are men in dark clothing; they look like paramedics. I am trembling, gasping for air. Stay calm, I think. Focus on the clouds. They are beautiful today. I ask, “Was it my fault? Is it OK?” I am referring to the car. 

I am either tearing up, or my vision is blurry — I cannot tell which.

I hear the man ask out loud: who was in the vehicle? The mouth to my right, the frantic mouth, raises her hand. The mouth has a hand. Immediately, it makes sense… but soon it doesn’t.

I am surrounded by curious bystanders and cell phones. I hear the jingle of keys and leashes. I have a final tomorrow. They tell me I am bleeding from my head. I have an organization to run; we have an event this Saturday. They strap a brace around my neck. I have leases to print and checks to deposit. They lift me onto a gurney. I think my hair is a mess. If I’m going to die, can somebody fix my fucking hair.

And will anyone please just tell me, is the car OK?

 

In retrospect, I want to tell my stupid brain — yes, you idiot, the five thousand pound SUV is okay. Are you?

The men prop my feet up, head down. I am going to vomit. My eyeballs are pulsing. This is what dying feels like, I think. I beg them to prop me back up, but they don’t. A nice man tapes a nasal cannula on me and instructs me to breathe through my nose. I don’t understand. He tells me to hold my breath for 3 seconds after the inhale. I feel blood trickling from my face. I stare at a loose thread on his shirt. I fall in and out of consciousness. He tracks my breaths and keeps talking to me. His voice is low, calm, and steady.  I focus real hard on it, as if I can will my heart to be as low, calm, and steady.

I inhale, I exhale, I stay cool and collected. I make jokes, and they laugh, and for one short, bumpy ride, I try to pretend my limbs are working. I imagine we’re going on a road trip, and that I’m not strapped in the back of a speeding ambulance.

Imagination can only take you so far. Turns out it can only take you several avenues.

 

The calendar says it’s been 18 days, but I have not slept 17 nights, so it’s hard to tell. It is as if I am living in a TV show; when I wake, I am reminded of yesterday like the recap of an episode. I am told through scribbles and post-its on what to do, where to be, who I am. I’ve shed the bandages and braces since, but thoughts are wading and attention is absent. My brain is screaming with pleas that will not be answered or understood.

I am struggling to place names and faces that seem familiar, but then again don’t, and when I look at photos of past relationships, I can’t remember why, and how, love used to feel. I have no shame with emotions that I once used to hide. I am impulsive and recognizant of the fact. What used to come so easy, like school and people, appear foreign and novel. The night terrors and sleep apnea keep me awake for days on end. My migraines are unrelenting; senses, hypersensitive and overwhelming. My thoughts are disconnected. It is like following a rhythm off beat with an uncertain promise of the verse meeting a chorus. But it never does.

Perspective, however, is the root of understanding.

When I went for a walk yesterday, I noticed an irrelevant speck of wings in the distance foraging for food. It was captivating. Instead of ear plugs to drown out all sounds, I played a soft song instead, and honed in on the intricate strumming of a cymbal in the background. In the past weeks, I spent time or spoke on the phone with people I love, and came to realization of who I don’t care for. I  have a newfound level of respect for my brother, my roommates, my friends. I started writing again. The left side of the brain predominantly oversees language. It is with excruciating time and effort I am able to edit out dyslexic errors, but for the most part, I am writing and speaking sentences, and it makes sense. I am breathing. I am living. I am learning to forgive the man who did not check on me as I laid at the grill of his car. I am learning how to receive from others and not feel bad about it. 

When you focus on your losses, you lose sight on what you have. So, I focus on what I have to gain, and consequently, forget my losses.

(I forget everything, anyway).

In all seriousness, I have this life. How can I complain?

To the dismay of poetic thinking, destruction itself is not beautiful. It is the creation that follows the dust and ash, that is.

 

I thank Gabe, Noa, Joluis, Amelia, Esther, Tasha, Sam, Karlie, Alissa, Leah, Cristina, Farhad, Cody, Rachel, Tiffany, the rest of my Columbia family, Esther, and my brother’s friends for visiting me, feeding me, or helping me with school.

I thank Ryan, Leah, Cuyler, Yvonne, Max, Leanna, and Faye for moving my entire apartment, and Ran, Martin, Cody for disassembling my bed.

I thank Jason, Leah, Sally, Yvonne, Leanna, Kayla, Martin, Justin, and Anna for helping me sort my thoughts and deal with my crazy emotions.

I thank my Lion KEEN team, particularly Victoria, for stepping up in my place.

I thank the countless medical providers, EMTs (Dave, Mauricio), and police officers (Officer Chris, Officer Pascua) who saved me. And Eddie Spaghetti for making me laugh.

I thank my physical therapist, David, as well as Zach and his amazing team at MSMPT for keeping me on track. 

I thank my professors and my boss for showing me patience at a time when I need it most. 

I thank Leanna, Kayla, and my brother Jae for being my rock.

Fool’s Paradise

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Back when my classmates were playing with blocks, I was stacking cartons. The glove compartment, as far as I know, might as well have been called the smokes compartment, because that’s all we kept in ours. I can visualize the plastic sealed, blanched white bodies, stacked in rows; I can still smell the unmistakeable insult of the ash that used to cling, like velcro on the lace of my shoes. He was going through two, three packs a day, habitually pounding cigarette after cigarette as if each puff was giving him life… when in fact, it was doing the opposite.

So, I’d draw family caricatures and bold, arching, colorful print that read something along the lines of “Please Stop Smoking DAD” and variations of. I’d sneak letters into his travel bag, and on the occasion I’d get to see him, I would beg him to quit. For us. For a healthier life. For, at only six years old, I was already afraid that the next time I’d see a plastic sealed, blanched white body, it’d be his.

What I had yet to learn was that the success of behavior change is determined by adherence, which can only be cultivated intrinsically. My father continued to smoke for many, many years, and despite positive behavior changes that renovated different aspects of his life, he could never fulfill the intricate web of physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, environmental, and social health. Because wellness is a cumulative interaction between these six dimensions of health, behavior change that hinders the maintenance of this balance may –in consequence– be fleeting, inefficient, and even detrimental.

The film, “Fat Chance,” portrays the journey of behavior change intended for weight loss that is later redirected to self acceptance. Rick Zakowich is first introduced, thirty pounds lighter but not much happier since the start of his plan to lose weight. Feeling pressured by cultural standards of beauty and acceptance, he uses appearance-based motivation to take on behavior change involving diet and exercise. It is no surprise, considering how heavily our society weighs the significance of body image, to hear a even medical professional deviate from motivational interviewing. The physician advises, “Best way to make yourself feel better about yourself… is to lose weight so that your blood pressure improves, so that you look better.” Inherent in modern American thinking is that looking better equates to happiness.

As Rick finds support from those who are content with their obesity, he adapts to a new perspective that directly antagonizes fat shaming culture; he ends the documentary by saying, “The way you are is fine. Walk through this world in that way.” On a superficial perspective, one could argue that Rick achieves a step towards wellness by coming to self acceptance, increasing his self confidence, and joining an empowered community. However, despite it being a step in the right direction, Rick fails to recognize the danger of extremes. By orienting behavior change strictly towards emotional and social health, he completely neglects the other essential components, such as physical health. There is no doubt that self love, in the right context, is deserving of praise, but the fact that he is happier does not eliminate the risks of being overweight. By the summer of 2008, my father ended up in the ICU. If he, then, had settled on self acceptance and placed another cigarette between his lips, would you have applauded him, too?

Fat shaming and fat acceptance fall on opposite ends of the spectrum, and through understanding the crucial interplay of the six components of wellness, we unveil the importance of moderation. Had the medical professional taken a different approach, like educating the benefits of exercise, rather than implying blame or demonizing Rick’s body image, perhaps Rick would not have fallen victim to an illusory state of happiness that is likely evanescent. Increasing studies now indicate that cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity can improve multiple aspects of wellness and reduce the comorbidities tied to obesity, with or without weight loss (Dallow). This outlook on exercise may be a better approach towards positive behavior change, than one that is based on appearance. Furthermore, it would be of a greater benefit to implement behavior change that caters to both fitness, confidence, community, and other aspects of wellness. With Dr. Lerner’s medical knowledge and morale amongst Rick’s new connections, the support group could potentially be the perfect medium for a wellness program. With less emphasis on weight loss, they could tackle multiple obstacles at once and find a more permanent solution. In contrast of what they have been told by others –they can have their cake and eat it too.

To ensure safety, longevity, and efficacy of such program, professional advisement to promote adherence is crucial. Though the responsibility of wellness falls on the shoulders of each individual, it is equally important to have health care providers take the lead on public education. Patients are more likely to adhere to behavior change if they understand risk and the gravity of their conditions, so medical professionals can play a key role here (Stonerock). Proper motivational interviewing along with professional, objective, and evidence-based opinions is essential to assist others, particularly in the transition from earlier to later stages of the Transtheoretical Model. In “Fat Chance,” Dr. Moe Lerner highlights that obesity is caused by metabolism and dieting. Not once does he mention the importance of physical health. Despite his sensible attitude, his perspective holds a very narrow, almost defensive, focus to justify obesity. By relying on rationalizations and believing his physical state is not a problem, he, along with Rick and the others in the support group, regress and sink deeper into the precontemplative stage (Dallow).

In a society that strongly antagonizes fat and with a disproportionately increasing prevalence of obesity, there is a strong need for leadership towards fitness in all populations, especially obese individuals. The fact that Dr. Lerner’s personal stake in the issue does not take a backseat to his obligation to the public, and that another medical provider advises Rick “just do it” as a plan for losing weight reveal how the medical care system has ample room for improvement. Physical therapists, and all medical providers, can and should “provide key elements of effective behavioral change interventions” so that the general public can adhere to wholesome decisions about wellness (Rhodes). Even the most effective interventions whittle down to scraps, in the absence of patient adherence.

It is easy to believe a person is well when one aspect of wellness has been satisfied. One might say being fat and happy is better than being skinny and unhappy; one might argue the opposite. During an interview, supermodel Kate Moss was quoted saying, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” When we fall victim to such paradigms that cater to one aspect of wellness, such as emotional health, we neglect all else. The temporary contentment that follows blinds us from seeing the short-lived nature of it, and the resulting imbalance may put an us in a worse position than we started from. Fooling ourselves about our well-being is like sipping on a pina colada, floating comfortably above a circle of sharks. In shallow waters, it becomes more clear that a fool’s paradise –though paradise– thrives only in the minds of fools.

 

References

Bezner JR. Promoting health and wellness: implications for physical therapist practice. Phys Ther. 2015;95:1433-1444.

Dallow CB, Anderson J. Using self-efficacy and a transtheoretical model to develop a physical activity intervention for obese women. American Journal of Health Promotion, 2003;17(6):373-381.

Fat Chance. Dir. Jeff McKay. Perf. Rick Zakowich. YouTube. NFB, 17 May 2015. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

Rhodes RE, Fiala B. Building motivation and sustainability into the prescription and recommendations for physical activity and exercise therapy: the evidence. Physiother Theory Pract. 2009;25:424- 441.

Stonerock GL., Blumenthal JA. Role of Counseling to Promote Adherence in Healthy Lifestyle Medicine: Strategies to Improve Exercise Adherence and Enhance Physical Activity. Prog Cardiovasc Dis (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pcad.2016.09.003

Dear Johnny (Part 2)

Maybe you could call it apathy. Comfort?

I don’t think that’s what it is.

Johnny, I’m knee deep in responsibility these days, and I feel like I’m wading. It’s not that I don’t want to be here. I really do. I have so much going for me that I can’t seem to put it in words.

But when you’re constantly surrounded by intense, driven academics who thrive off approval and grading and measurement of successful outcomes (after all, that is the quintessence of physical therapy), there’s this incredible pressure to prioritize every test, every little detail. And that’s what I’m lacking. Yeah it’s perfect timing, just in time for finals and the busiest time at work. I’m dragging.

It’s almost been a year since you’ve been gone, and I still talk to you in my head… when I think of how transient and unpredictable our lives are, it’s hard to believe that a GPA, or praise, matters as much as we’re led to believe. How inconsequential it is whether I get a 100 or an 80 — because I talked to Anna and Jason and Jay the other day, and it scared me shitless that people like them could be gone in a second. People like you.

But maybe it matters. What do you think? Maybe it should matter.

It’s conflicting, because a part of me is feels like I’m at the tail end of a dream; it’s like I’m playing tag with my dreams and it’s so close I can almost feel it. But at the same time, I’m wondering why I’m not –um, I don’t know– on a boat buck naked with a pina colada this second. I think, if you were alive, you’d see how much I’ve changed. You’d say I don’t need a distinguished career to help others –and you’d be right, I know.

It’s weird talking about you in past tense, like you only used to exist.

 

Like I said, I still talk to you a lot. But you know better than anyone else, there’s a difference between being listened to, and being heard. Sometimes, I get frustrated talking to you. It’s like being surrounded by others but feeling completely alone.

I talk to you the way I used to talk to God, back when I had one, at least. I question, I provoke, but I never get a reply. I have to use my imagination, but what’s the fun in that.

I’m really happy these days, though.

I don’t like that there’s some sort of trade-off between being truly happy and keeping perfect grades in perspective, but it is what it is. I’m pretty sure no patient has ever said, “My physical therapist changed my life; did you know she got a 4.0 in college?” and I’m banking on that.

Otherwise, I might be screwed.

 

Oh, by the way, Trump is president.

know.

 

Miss you bud.

Jane

Don’t Need A Wish Today 

It’s been many, many years since I decided to include in my daily ritual: a question of reflection. A means of checks and balances that is commonly absent, without the extra effort. With so much going on around us, it can be difficult to… pause… and think about WHY it is you do the things you do.

My question for the day has always been: “What are you grateful for today?”

Some days, it’s easy to come up with an answer. Some days, it’s not. And often times, I have to inquire if, by repeating the same answers, I am dulling the top coat from its shine. Like the twenty thousandth time you’ve told your significant other “I love you” you realize the words, though true, have lost true sentiment behind it — how impressively quickly novel turns to casual.

Upon waking this morning, I stared at the post-it stuck on my bathroom wall and came to the same conclusion that I am frequently led to. But no matter how many times I respond with this same answer, it still find it –to put it eloquently– really freaking shiny.

Today, I am grateful that all things I want, I already have. It is unmistakably empowering to feel satisfied. I am so lucky for this unpredictable life and the ability to comprehend how and why I’m here.

I Can’t Feel My Nose

Ok, let me begin by saying I had a dentist appointment for 2pm.

I waited 2 months for my insurance company to get their act together, and today was finally the day I had approval. When they called to let me know, it was like I was Charlie and the woman on the phone was handing me the golden ticket in a Wonka Bar. Giddy up baby.

Given I was in the Bronx for an event, I had to speed bike through the rain to make it to my appointment. The winds were aggressively tugging against me, pulling me back two inches each time I gained one. It was a clever optical illusion — in the spirit of the ongoing presidential campaign — where my legs appeared to be pedaling forward, but my wheels were turning in the opposite direction. A delusional progression, you could say.

The appointment got changed to 3pm, so I grabbed some food and brushed my teeth (as if brushing my teeth right before I go in will make it seem like I have the best dental hygiene. Admittedly so, first impressions are everything).

I filled out the paperwork, and sat there organizing in my head the incredible amount of schoolwork and work-related work I had to complete by the end of the day. Needless to say, the task in itself kept me occupied for 20 minutes. At one point, the reception left the front desk unattended to speak with the dentist, so when a woman showed up for her appointment, she couldn’t get in. The door furiously rattled for a good… 6, 7 seconds before I stood up to unlock it for her. She then looked me up and down, glaring at me with a disgusted pout, muttering, “Fucking couldn’t even open the door, taking your fucking time, do I look like a fucking criminal to you? Who do you think you are?”

When the receptionist returned to the front desk, the woman’s eyes brightened as if nothing had happened. Night to day. Sometimes, I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND PEOPLE.

She then starts trashing my attire to the front desk. Alright, lady, I’m a sleep deprived grad student and I just got back from painting an elementary school; you don’t have to knock me for my sweatpants swag. Immediately, I decide it’s not worth the time effort, so I sit down silently and take a nap. An hour and a half later, I am woken up by the dental assistant. “It’s your turn to come in,” she says.

The dentist introduced himself, with a huge grin on his face. I stood in the hallway as he talked about how 93% of women with breast cancer have deformities on the same 4 teeth because they are on the same meridian lines (oh wouldn’t you love to know how this argument went), about how a man with a 1st grade education can cure cancer by the mere act of slicing skin without anesthesia, and about how Alzheimer’s is supposedly curable in Switzerland. He then asked me about my undergraduate education and seemed to inquire about my dating history (yeah right, like I’m going to stand here in the waiting room and tell you about my Tinder life with HotHead breathing down my neck).

Okay, yes, he was really nice. But he didn’t even talk about anything medically relevant for 40 whole minutes.

When the assistant finally brought me into the room, he was still talking. It was as if his brain would not allow for multitasking, because every time he reached for a tool, his eyes would light up with another thought, and he had to stop what he was planning to do, entirely. He put on gloves, which he coughed into, and then put on a facemask, which he wore under his chin like a fashion accessory (what is the POINT, my man).

We didn’t get started until THREE AND A HALF HOURS after the appointment time, because the guy would not stop talking. When he realized I was using insurance, and not paying out of pocket, he put me into a different room and had me sign off on CPT codes (billing codes, for insurance) that stated I had 16 cavities. 16 cavities? Oh, are these the same cavities that didn’t exist 2 minutes ago, when you were under the impression that I was paying out of pocket?

I get that insurance reimbursements are shitty, but damn. Talk about milking the cow for what it’s worth.

And you wonder why the reimbursement rates are so low. If I worked for Aetna, I wouldn’t trust providers, either.

Anyway, he then asked (again) about the times I had broken my nose over the years. We talked about that for another 5 minutes, before I interjected, reminding him that I was way behind schedule and needed to get going soon. He, without ANY warning, injected me with FIVE local anesthetic needles, which not only numbed my teeth, but my nose as well. I’ve had this procedure done before, but never that high and that much. I just bit down and took it in stride.

And by stride, I mean whimpering for mercy, as quietly as possible.

For the duration, I had to wonder if he was doing work he didn’t need to do — I had seen 3-4 dentists/orthodontists very recently, and they all seemed to think otherwise. I got out of that chair after a grand total of 4.5 HOURS. Treatment time? 20 minutes.

On my way out, he points at his meridian chart and tells me what other health issues I can anticipate (“if X tooth is damaged, then X body part will be affected” wonky logic). I politely nod, but all I’m thinking at this point is CAN I LEAVE NOW.

He then goes, Oh by way. Your nose is fine. I checked that out for you.

He had numbed my nose on purpose. MY DENTIST. numbed my NOSE. To test how strong it is.

This man has forgotten what kind of doctor he is. Next time, if there is a next time, mind your own meridian and I’ll mind my own.

The Three Most Important Things


Somewhere out there, there is an inked chest that regretfully reads “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” 

What the proverb doesn’t mention is that if you teach a man to fish in our modern day society, he’s going to fish religiously for a couple of months until he discovers Seamless. Our culture continues in a pursuit for convenience, and ultimately, through this progression, we lose our vision for sustainability. 

It is not enough to achieve; we must maintain what we’ve earned. 

I realize that I am going places, I am going to be somebody, and one day, I am going to keep someone very happy, because of three fundamental beliefs that bring out the best in me. In fact, I have never been a better version of me than the person I am today. What I’m doing now is a bit of maintenance, wiping the trail of footprints behind me.


1. Attitude:

As much as I wish good things would always happen to good people, it isn’t always the case. Life is riddled with sadness and injustice. And in the rock bottom moments where it hurts to even breathe, as if you swallowed your heart whole and it’s stuck halfway down your chest, when you can’t understand why and how, or why now, and nothing feels real but the unrelenting pain — what makes the biggest difference is the attitude we choose to wear as our coat.

“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character” has always been my favorite quote, because how we choose to react to the things around us are a direct reflection of who are, as people. A positive attitude not only adds a shine to good events, it dulls the blade of bad events. We can’t avoid getting hurt. So, the next best thing is to accept that though the wound will take time to heal, it will heal. Sulking alone doesn’t change what’s happened already; it only keeps you from patching yourself up sooner, rather than later. 

If life gives you lemons, you don’t make lemonade. You man up and shove that bad baby in your mouth–the first shock of the sour taste will fade with time–and just remember that life will eventually give you ice cream. The practice of optimism directly manipulates our very being; how we perceive the world changes, how we digest bad news changes, how we behave changes, and in turn, how the world perceives us changes, as well. 


2. Gratitude:

I’m starting a new job, with a new boss (that I absolutely adore); I have a beautiful new home ten blocks from Columbia, my new school (which has secretly been my dream school all these years); I’m starting a new DPT program, which has solely become possible through the newly solidified relationships in my immediate family; the new class is full of amazing intellectuals (who actually know how to socialize), and I have new clusters of friends in cities across the country that make me feel at home, wherever I go.  

I’m blessed with more than I am entitled to. What appreciation does for me, as it might for you, is it gives more worth to the ordinary and the routine. Everything tastes better. It even feels better. Gratitude establishes the foundation for humility; to truly sustain what we have already accomplished, we must appreciate what it’s worth and what it took to get there. 


3. Fear of failure:

Fear has a functional use. It motivates our bodies to react when stressed. Why I value the fear of failure is because it suggests that no job is ever complete. An achieved goal is merely a stepping stone towards something even greater, and when we have a moderate, controlled fear to disappoint, it ignites a kind of desperation that can benefit us. 

Despite the significance of attitude and gratitude, if we get complacent with what we have, we risk becoming apathetic, and rather, too comfortable with mediocrity. There is no greater waste than potential wasted. Just as you need fear to motivate you when a bear is chasing you down, you need that kind of inspiring fear to be great. Excellence doesn’t present itself to you; it is chased, through desperation. 
Ultimately, these thoughts have been relishing my mind for a reason: in order to sustain our progression, we ought to keep in mind the very principles that brought us there. Attitude, gratitude, and fear of failure keeps me focused. What about you?