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?

The Text Message Break Up

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“I’m never going to talk to you again. See you never,” the message read.

Following a delay just long enough to process what he had sent her, in attempts to subdue the passive aggressive anger railroading through the text –because God forbid he actually let her have the satisfaction in knowing she got under his skin– he quickly typed and sent another: “Lol.”

Because Lol says Hey, I don’t care.

Lol means You don’t phase me, though she really really does. Without even trying. Damn it.

Upon receipt of the message (she had briefly glanced at the text from the sudden glow of her screen), her long, slender, unmanicured fingers clicked the power button on top of her iPhone to hide the message from view.

Seriously? she thought, eyes rolling north to a blanket of lids. Must you be so dramatic. 

The coarse brush of annoyance was enough for her to immediately decide: this kind of demeanor is not worth a response. She thought, can’t we resolve our issues like grown fucking adults… In person? Using words? 

How many times —she reflected on previous encounters that all too similarly left the same sour taste in her mouth– am I going to get dumped by a friend through a text message. 

She could not determine whether it was her that had become too insensitive, or if the modern digital culture forced others to grow soft, to wrongfully take 100-something character texts, in the absence of context and any sense of real human connection, to heart.

When you live in a world where lives, though consciously filtered, are put on display, it is incredibly easy to jump to conclusions that reside far from the truth. So, could she blame him? No. But the disappointment came from the fact that there exist people who breed a hatred from a subjective assumption and go the extent of cutting ties, void a conversation. Just a bitter, premature See-You-Never.

Never? Good grief. Never is hasty, you silly child — an impulse quite often regretted. 

To leave the opportunity of a text reply as the ONLY venue of communication… How does one reason with an irrational mind, in words that must again suffer the path of interpretation?

You don’t. 

You can’t, she just knew. This is why an argument on the internet has no end. This is why you cannot put sense into the head of religion. THIS IS WHY YOU DON’T ARGUE OVER TEXTS.

Was she lacking empathy or were they lacking maturity? She could not say it was either, because the former wasn’t true (or so she truly believed) and because there wasn’t enough juice in her superiority complex to sway her to the latter.

Good luck with your life, he added soon after. A miserable touch. It was surely meant to provoke, or to prod a response. But such petty behavior warrants dismissal.

I know you want me to, but I will not plead, she mentally noted. Why in the world would I chase after something that allows no explanation. Effort, in all scenarios, deserves reciprocation. Don’t you think? Of course you don’t. Your head is steaming, and elsewhere.

Over the years, she had learned about the brevity of relationships with the emotionally rash, but more importantly, the undeniable insignificance of such. They come, they go, like uprooted flowers in the wind –mere visitors caught in a passing storm, leaving the slightest trace of their beauty and a lasting impression of their hideous rage.

We Need To Talk

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Nothing creates a state of anticipation like the words: “We need to talk.” These four words trigger something in the adult human body that drag to surface all associated memories of dread, rejection, and shock. It forces the mind to gear itself in orientation with constructed possibilities, preparing for an impact that may be even greater than the one about to be presented. The reason why we prepare is because the novelty of bad news –like plunging unexpectedly into a pool of ice water– can be as difficult to endure than the news itself.

We commonly mistake the sensation of alarm for anger (i.e. almost swerving into a car accident followed by road rage). Shock, in combination of a negative emotion, creates an additive effect of unpleasant physiological and mental effects.

Thus, we protect our own. When we witness an arm cock back, we tense for the sharp sting of a slap, because the impact of swinging flesh wouldn’t subjectively hurt as much than if we were to experience it out of the blue. In a parallel analogy, when we hear the words “we need to talk,” the brain conjures the possibility of the most serious news, because most often, we use and hear those words in the most serious of settings. We subconsciously brace ourselves because the actual news of “your cat died” in comparison to the anticipated news of “your mom died” may, ironically, provide a bit of ease and relief.

Imagination alone is an instinctive phenomena, but with memory recollection and sensual reconstruction, it becomes a tool of self defense. Nevertheless, tools –though useful and effective– can be just as harmful when not in our direct control. When we over-anticipate, we may construct more anxiety and worry than the situation requires. So, for his or her sake, don’t tell someone you guys “need to talk” because the milk needs to be replaced in the fridge. Now, that’s just wrong — where is your heart, you empty, soulless drone?

In summary, we can take away the concept that the mind is as powerful as the user who controls it. It’s mind boggling. We can actually manipulate unreal scenarios to ward off the mere potential of vicious blows. Simply put, we are the heroes, and our psyches are the damsels we keep from distress. You hunk. Give yourself a pat on the back.

How fascinating is it that four simple words can be this far from simple, like all things in life. Días y ollas, what will be will be.

Lesson #9: Give ‘Em a Taste And See If They Bite

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March 26, 2016 @ Caramel’s Apartment (Condado, PR)

THE SUNBURN IS FINALLY GONE. I’m more of a toasted cookie now.

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In the morning, I tip-toed around the house, munching on a couple protein bars. I had packed loads of Clif Bars and Quest Bars back when I thought I was going to be camping in El Yunque. I figured that if I get lost and die eating dry rations, I might as well die happy. Come on, surrounded by chocolate chip Clif bars? I couldn’t think of a better way to die.

I walked around the front patio, juggling emotions that had been stirring all week. In just 10 days, I met a lot of amazing people and experienced things I’ll never forget (the greatest part about keeping a written record online). Considering I have a life that hasn’t paused for me back in NY, I was prepared to go back, but I couldn’t help but feel like I had unfinished business here. Mentally, I was plotting my next return trip, and I hadn’t even left yet.

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I wasn’t supposed to meet up with Caramel until late afternoon, so Doel and I started binge watching the Walking Dead. It was simultaneously the greatest and worst idea, because it triggered the start of a show addiction. And now I hear there’s Fear the Walking Dead, too. What the hell did I get myself into?

In the middle of an episode, I randomly blurted out that I wanted a fruit smoothie, so Doel suddenly grabbed his car keys and headed out the door. An episode later, he came back with fruits! Bags filled with papayas, kiwis, strawberries, bananas, blueberries, raspberries — you name it, he got it. Doel came in clutch with the last minute smoothies. I felt like doing a dance. Wait, in fact, if I’m remembering correctly, I did. While he chopped, I danced. It was a damn good time.

He made me a list of my best traits and gave me a wonderful set of photographs to bring home with me.

PS- The onion is a Shrek reference.

PPS – Es necesario tener el corazon del hombre para vivir en este mundo. *flex*

Later, I returned to Condado, where it all began. Caramel and I took a quick dip in his condo community pool, then spent some quality time together while our suits dried. It’s hard to put into words, but I get a good feeling when I’m around him. It’s comfortable, but exciting at the same time. We have this tastefully witty, playful dynamic that keeps me interested in the banter. And I guess it doesn’t hurt that the man is, well, real fun to look at, too.

When the sky began to dim, we walked over to one of his favorite local joints. It was there I finally got to try a mofongo. Plantains are a big deal around here, and for good reason. Cut, fried, smashed — they are pretty delicious. The crab meat was a good addition, too.

After a lengthy conversation, we jumped in a cab and headed to La Placita de Santurce, a neighborhood social spot lined with music, food, and bars. The energy was fantastic and packed with life, but given the relatively early hour, it wasn’t overly crowded (which I most definitely prefer). We passed men and women of all ages who were out, having a good time on the open streets. I saw a couple people with canes, even. It was almost like people watching at Union Square but 1000 times better.

Caramel had called out his friends, so I ended up meeting someone I will refer to as Cranberry. He had a well-groomed beard, appealing features, and an athletic build, along with a spotlight personality that drew attention the same way a storyteller would. He, Caramel, and I shared a drink or two, chatted up a bartender, and briefly danced a little salsa until Cranberry left to go meet up with his lady.

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So, the two of us headed back to Condado, where we laid side by side, staring at the ceiling (or maybe our eyes were closed, I’m not too sure at this point) until the hours passed through to single digits. I mentioned to him, at one point, that people tend to feel an obligation to fill gaps of silence, but it’s nice to be able to enjoy the presence of company without having to try. And I can honestly say, in that moment at least, there was no need to.

Even if 2 days isn’t long enough to get to “know” somebody.

At one point, he mentioned that when his friends back in NY come to visit, they bring their best selves. Cranberry had also brought up the concept of censorship — how he and Caramel are screening what they say because I am there to listen. On the airplane ride, the two comments sporadically clicked in my head, and I realized this: that’s what happens when you meet someone while traveling. His image will refresh every so often we meet, and it will always be the frame with the best lighting that gets taped inside my head. It’s fun and harmless to crush, but the question is: does the actual cake taste as good as it looks? I think it’d be interesting to find out, but whether the opportunity will arise is up in the air.

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Doel picked me up at 2am and drove me to Ponce for my 5am flight. We made cat noises and talked of our experience together as if this were goodbye, but we both knew that I’ll be back.

If Katie, Caramel, Doel, Lilly, Ela, Martii, Lentävä, M, Jesse, Daniel, Demi, John, Max, Emily, Leo, Kevin, Joe, Frenchy, Erin, Nikki, Mario, Linda, Tommy, and Cranberry make up a fair reflection of the kind of people Puerto Rico invites and breeds, then I wouldn’t mind doing it all over again. A few treasures hang on my wall to remind me so.

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Lesson #1: SPF100 < Puerto Rican Sun

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March 18, 2016 @ San Juan International Hostel living room (Santurce, PR)

It’s only 9:41pm, and as I type this, my Fitbit (thanks to Jason) tells me that I tracked 32,949 steps so far. I know Katie and I walked an incredible amount today, but a part of me is skeptical about the count. Until the Fitbit company figures out how to distinguish the difference between a marathon runner and a chronic masturbator, I refuse to acknowledge 100% accuracy. I don’t want a sense of achievement constructed off of false pretenses. Don’t give me an award because I was feeling lonely, Fitbit. That’s not an arm swing and you know it.

Kidding.

I am staying in a no-frills, yet homey and accommodating hostel located about 15 minutes away (by foot) in Santurce, PR. Katie, a fellow NY resident and well-traveled student, ended up here due to an overnight layover. Her golden locks compliment her bright smile the way the sunflower petals give highlight to the seeds. Though 6 years my junior, I bonded with her easily. When happy people unite in a happy place, it’s bound to be a good time.

On our walk, our eyes widened tenfold at the sight of Condado Beach. I hadn’t been to a beach in 7 years, so the spread of crisp turquoise stunned me into a brief state of paralysis. Instinctively, we quickly stripped down to our bathing suits and ran to the water, flooding our neurocenters with endorphins and adrenaline. The healthy waves knocked us on our asses like we were losing in a UFC match (but baby, trust me when I say: it felt like winning).

We trekked across a beautiful bridge and preserved architecture on our way to Old San Juan, which is over an hour away by foot. The first thing we noticed was driver courtesy for pedestrians. They stop driving in the middle of the road –no stop sign or red light in the vicinity of the area— just to let you walk. Sure beats playing Frogger across 6th avenue.

Old SJ was a delightful surprise: rows on rows of light pastel balconied houses, narrow cobblestone roads, and side-by-side shops. It led us to Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a magnificent fortress at the top of a grassy hill. We gulped down bites of fresh sea-procured air, watching groups of color-coordinated children chase after their kites. I’m not for tourist attractions, but this was well worth it.

Katie and I walked back to the bridge running across El Boqueron, a calmer portion of the sea catching reflections of painted light like crystalline chips of glass. We socialized with a man who moved here from NY and a woman who couldn’t possibly be anything other than a piña colada sorceress. Blame it on the rum, but I had half a plan to pack her in my bag. However, it would be a huge disservice to steal her from those in need of a boozy punch, so we resorted to picking up an extra cup to go and merrily hiccuping pineapple juice and whatever goes into these magical slushy concoctions (ps – it seems open container laws are merely a suggestion here).

Upon returning, I parted with Katie, who continued on her journey to Guadalupe. In the evening, I grabbed another pina colada (subpar, compared to my other lady) and some overpriced, cooked sushi (PR’s take on sushi: fry everything and shove it in a roll. Steak options available. Cream cheese almost always mandatory. Servers wear hawaiian shirts).

Then, I tried to hunt down some local music venues in La Placita, but got lost on the way. Cat calling, I learned, is quite common in this area, but when one of the men started following me home, I got a bit nervous. He followed me for about 15 minutes, chasing heel across streets and around corners, until I stopped outside a popular bar where many were gathered. I headed home in defeat soon thereafter.

I thought the night was over, but I had a hard time falling asleep. So, I jumped back out of bed and returned to Condado Beach, where I was able to get acquainted with a man who I shall refer to as Caramel (requested anonymity).

This tall, sandy-haired stranger certainly caught me by surprise; he had a dangerously attractive smile, but an even more appealing personality. Sitting on cooled sand and sipping on what we gathered to be cheap red wine, we watched the monstrous waves dance triumphantly, with full white bodies that dare to challenge the pull of gravity. Caramel and I joked around until past the darkest hour, touching upon everything from life choices to 3 million soulmates to squatting form variations to my apparent poor taste in wallets.

Almost as if to entertain us, the tide brought us its A game, colliding in synchronized currents like a parade of explosions in the final minute of a fireworks show. In the midst of the thrill, the brightest shooting star either of us has ever witnessed capped off the sky, leaving our jaws dropped in astonishment.

When we were distracted by the ocean, it sneakily reached out for skin contact: laughing and clamoring in shock, Caramel and I jumped to our feet as a wave aggressively swept our feet. I stopped laughing when I saw the blink of my phone fade out. I could sense it was dead before I even dared to check for a pulse. Book drafts, to-do lists, priceless ideas and thoughts, trip photos, important contacts — gone in an instant. My plans to backpack PR and end up in Ponce were trampled on as well. How could I navigate without a map or GPS?

To my surprise, Caramel generously gave me a practically new iPhone, which ended up saving my bright red ass from being phoneless and homeless for the rest of the week (and even my life — you will find out in the upcoming entries how this is so). The night concluded on a high note, with the ocean breeze tucking me to sleep, so it was hard to imagine my nearly perfect experience in SJ could be beat. Little did I know Puerto Rico had a lot more in store for me than crisp waves and New Yorkers who know how to make me smile.

 

Next Up: El Yunque, Luquillo, Fajardo

Genuine confession

I’m really fucking happy.

My life isn’t close to perfect, but mindfulness makes the distance seem shorter. Highlight the positive; use the negative. Exercise your body and your mind — the more fine tuned your instrument, the clearer your sound. And most importantly PAY ATTENTION to the life you’re living. Awareness of detail will help you become the person you wish to attract. We’re naturally drawn to good energy.

I wanted to put it in writing in case I hit a rough spot and think otherwise later.

I’m feeling so affectionate these days I feel like picking up babies and twirling them around in joy. But I think a felony charge would dampen the mood, so I’m going to put a hold on that. For now.

Peace babes. Besos 😘