Before I underwent oral surgery to get all four of my wisdom teeth removed earlier this month, I was a nervous wreck. I was chronically anxious for days leading up to the procedure. I kept envisioning something going horribly and irreversibly wrong – like losing jaw motion permanently or, worse, my body negatively responding to the intravenous anesthesia resulting in my death à la Michael Jackson: premature and Propofol-filled.
The last thing I remember before going under is my surgeon saying, “Alright, let’s begin.” And then, as if on cue, I drifted off into a peaceful purgatory – a place between the physical world and whatever its opposite is. Just like that, my consciousness had been turned off as if it were a standard light switch.
When I awoke, my surgeon asked, “Mekita, do you know where you are?” I nodded my head up and down to signal that yes, I did. I was in a fluorescent-lit room with gray walls and Maroon 5 playing on the in-house stereo system. I knew all of that because when I opened my eyes, that’s what I saw. But his question felt more loaded than that. It was as if he were also asking, “Do you know what’s just transpired?” “Do you know what happened to you?”
And even though I knew the answers to those questions – that I fell asleep and seemingly didn’t care about the fact that four of my teeth had been drilled and sawed out of my mouth – I only knew them because I’d been told them. Thanks to the anesthetic, I hadn’t experienced what everyone else in the room had experienced me experiencing.
When I think about my life as a book and divide it into chapters (“Chubby Mixed Baby,” “Middle School Math Geek,” “Collegiate Fashion Columnist,” and the current “Some Semblance of An Adult” are the standouts), I wonder how much of what I’m recalling is informed by what I actually experienced and how much is the result of what others said I experienced. I suppose a majority of one’s childhood is shaped in this way; I don’t specifically remember standing in front of the TV singing the Power Rangers theme song when the show came on, but my older brother does (and he likes to remind of this every chance he gets). I know that when I was five, I was the Pink Ranger for Halloween (there’s photographic evidence). So, therefore, one can deduce that I was obsessed with all things Power Rangers – even if I don’t recall ever being that way.
Now clearly, as a fully functional adult, memory is no longer the obstacle (unless one too many martinis are involved – in which case, good luck remembering how you ended up on that basement couch wearing one shoe and a towel around your head). Instead, when it comes to truly understanding and appreciating all the crazy shit life puts you through (i.e. “experiences”), the biggest roadblocks are bad people. You know what – or who – I’m talking about. There’s always that one person (or several persons, if your luck is that awful) who seems to be more well-informed about the inner workings of your mind and soul than you are. They try to finish your sentences and assume the worst is happening in your life.
Me, while skimming through a restaurant menu: “Lately I’ve been…”
Pessimistic sentence-finisher: “…feeling like your job is a complete dead end?”
Me, with confused face and furrowed eyebrow: “No…I’ve been…craving enchiladas.”
What is WITH these people? Well for one, I figure that around 80 percent of them probably have good intentions. They’re naturally curious and don’t know how to control it, which renders them completely useless at giving life advice because they’re too busy asking questions and assuming everything is a catastrophe in the making. Moreover, they’re likely bored, insecure, lost, socially inept, or some combination of all of the above.
So that being said, I’ve learned that these individual(s) are pretty much harmless until you let their totally ill-informed perspectives actually influence your life and the way you lead it. Do you have to be present or, hell, even awake to experience something? Anyone who’s ever undergone surgery can certify that no, consciousness does not equate to one’s ability to experience something. However, consciousness is what enables us to create and shape our experiences as they best suit our lives. You have the power to lead a life as pleasant and as rewarding as you please. That isn’t delusional; it’s possible. Don’t allow someone else’s account of what you experienced affect your own perception and, ultimately, your own memory of what occurred. Know when something is advice and when something is judgment. More often than not, you’ll have to look at the person whose mouth is saying the words in order to know the difference.