I went to the dentist over spring break, because I deserve a treat every once in a while. Also because it hurt to chew on the right side of my mouth. The dentist and I exchanged some brisk banter before he really started hammering home his two main points: (1) Columbia Law School, which my brother attends, is an exemplary institution to which I am unlikely ever to be accepted and (2) my molar is cracked because I am stressed out and I grind it in my sleep. That’s right: subconsciously I am so stressed that I am taking it out on my body, IN MY SLEEP; I won’t admit it to anyone, but deep down, I know that I should be punished.
When someone tells you that you are breaking little pieces of your body in your own mouth because of stress, the first thing you do is stop and think, “Am I that stressed?” And let me tell you, the current answer is “no.” In spring, I would go so far as to say I am the opposite of stressed, maybe even quite pleased with my circumstances. As the weather gets better, I walk with a certain je ne sais quoi in my step that makes passersby think “I bet that girl knows phrases in French” and boys who might have possibly been interested in dating me think “I bet that girl’s a nutjob.”
In “500 Days of Summer,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt is adorable for dancing to oldies while he walks down the street, but when I cue up “Eminence Front” and start half-dance-half-walking, no one starts dancing along with me and sometimes I trip over things. Like so many other activities, it’s much cuter when a lanky hipster boy does it in a movie than when a small girl who walks funny does it in real life. (It is also not particularly charming when I develop split personalities, cruise for underage booze, or make hundreds of mix CDs for crushes who don’t know my name. Goddammit, Michael Cera!)
But I just can’t help it, because ever since my dentist judged my law school chances and my back right molar, I’ve made a pretty important change in my attitude. I got rid of that unnecessary and dentally damaging stress. Let’s be real, you guys: my life is pretty good. I go to Yale, have use of many of my faculties and I was even born without wisdom teeth. I am really highly evolved. Oh, my life isn’t perfect, for the litany of normal reasons: I have to write papers, sometimes it rains, I’m really clumsy, my love life is like something that isn’t very good, and I suck at similes. And so, when one of my best friends, when asked to predict my future occupation, hazarded the guess, “Crying and breaking things?” I decided to shake things up a little.
Instead of crying, screaming or knocking something over when things don’t go my way, I now react with a simple, “Great!” This works to (1) stymie any possible antagonist, who will have no idea how to respond and (2) actually to work a positive change on my attitude, as if I were a wizard and that “Great” was some magic word. (Oh, that’s something else wrong with my life: I am not a wizard.) So that’s my new philosophy: When life throws me something like something unpleasant (there I go again with those killer similes), I just smile and say “Great,” either to my conversation partner or just to myself like a crazy person. So if I could have retroactively applied this to my dentist appointment, here’s how that would have gone down:
My dentist: Not only will you not get into Columbia Law, but there are pretty much no jobs out there for art history majors. Just ask my wife! That’s why she had to marry me!
My improv group’s tour really let me hone this skill, as demonstrated below:
Alex Klein ’12: Even though this mix CD has fully 20 songs on it, we are going to listen to the FIFA theme song, K’naan’s “Waving Flag,” again! It is the THEME SONG TO A SPORTS COMPUTER GAME. You will want to die.
I Still Don’t Know Who, But I Have Suspicions: I took your phone and texted your mom because we are all legal adults, and that is a normal thing that 22 year old men do: text their friends’ moms innocuous pleasantries, for fun.
My mother: Nell, I pay by the text message. What is this? I am worried.
Seattle Airport Worker: Your flight is delayed.
Seattle Airport Worker: Also, your bag is overweight.
Seattle Flight Attendant: I heard about you from the boys on the ground, but I had to see it for myself. Is there anything I can say that will shake your firm resolve? How about if I spill some tomato juice on you?
Me, dripping with tomato juice, my least favorite of juices: Great!
I highly recommend this positive attitude. If you have any questions about it, I’ll be the girl walking from Pierson to Pierson Sage, two of the most geographically distant buildings at Yale that nonetheless have the SAME WORD in their names (the devil’s cartography). And then walking from Pierson to Pierson Sage again, in the rain, when I realize I’ve left my ID in the car. If you need to narrow it down more, I’ll probably be dance-walking with a childish glee, screwing up my eyes, the better to hit a soulful high note, and walking into some feature of the natural landscape.