The enterprising and thoughtful Life Begins at 30ty came up with the inspired idea of a Secret Santa of Blogging - putting names in a hat and suggesting blog topics for our assignee. One of the suggested assignments which I received was "Write about an experience that made you wiser" and the following memory quickly sprang to mind.
*Warning: this story may cause wincing or cringing!*
I've always liked to think of myself as an agile, athletic person. As a kid I enjoyed climbing trees - even falling out of one once didn't put me off for long. As a young man I no longer climbed so many trees but tried to make up for it in other ways. One of my favourite feats involved any kind of wall or railing up to around three feet high - I could run at it and jump and balance on the top before jumping off the other side, all without using my hands.
One day I was walking towards a road with three-feet-high railings along the side to dissuade people from crossing too close to the traffic signals. The light was soon to change but I knew I could make it across the road if I jumped the railings. My over-confidence had reached the point where I didn't even bother taking my hands out of my pockets as I ran up and jumped.
Somehow on this occasion I misjudged. Instead of landing cleanly on top of the railing, my foot hit the top edge. My momentum swung me over and down. With gravity contributing too, the ground reached me incredibly quickly. The first part of me to make contact with the road was my mouth.
I'd always dreaded the idea of breaking a tooth - I even used to have dreams about my teeth falling out in clumps of two or three. Never mind the blood pouring from my face or the fact that I was in the middle of a road - my first thought was to feel my teeth. Confirmed: front left tooth broken clean in half. I had just managed to make one of my nightmares come true. At that moment it felt like nothing would ever be the same again.
As the lights changed I climbed back over the railings (using my hands this time) and then just stood on the pavement watching the blood drip into my hands. I really didn't know what to do. Some kind people came over to me and sat me down and insisted on calling an ambulance, even though I kept saying there was no need - most of me was fine, and they wouldn't be able to fix my teeth! But the ambulance came anyway. The medic agreed with my self-diagnosis that only a dentist could save me now (he might not have used those same words) and dropped me off near my house. I went in and looked in a mirror. Wow, what a mess. My other front tooth had been smashed further back into my mouth, and my nose and lips were a dark red mess.
It took six or seven dental appointments to reconstruct something roughly resembling what I'd had before. Each time I had to have temporary caps fitted. After one visit something went wrong with the caps and they kept slipping half-off. I actually went to a job interview during this time and probably kept feeling my teeth with my tongue to see if they were still there. Somehow despite this I still got the job!
It took time and patience, but gradually normality returned. My nose and lips healed and my final replacement teeth have been going for nearly eight years now (although I still won't bite some foods just in case.) I look back on this experience as having made me wiser in two ways. First the obvious: be a bit more careful when leaping around! But second: some nightmares can be survived through. Some damage can be healed.