Two days ago I went to the dentist.
This is a big fucking deal because the last time I graced a dentist’s office was in 2012.
A Horror Story
The first clue that there was something off about my dentistry appeared when I was closing in on my 14th month of life with nary a tooth in sight. My parents had just about resigned themselves to being the world’s only parents of a toddler with dentures when my first tooth shyly emerged. It was a molar.
Fast forward a few years and I had a mouth full of pearly whites and that early warning sign was all but forgotten. ‘Twas the season for my baby teeth to gracefully make way for my permanent set. My baby teeth politely, but vehemently, disagreed. They seemed to think that since they showed up late to the party they should get to stay on for a few extra months. Or years. Or forever.
My friends had teeth falling out of their gums, and the Tooth Fairy leaving them small fortunes under the pillows on which they rested their smug little cute gap-toothed smiles. Me? I had a mouth full of house guests that were supposed to stay for a week but now it has been six months and they’ve acquired a cat and have their own profile on my fucking Netflix account.
While my baby teeth squatted illegally in my mouth, my body said Fuck It! and decided that the best thing thing to do in this situation was to grow more teeth.
*Cue the theme song from Jaws*
There were teeth everywhere. Grumpy baby teeth were rudely jostled aside by permanent teeth. There were teeth standing sideways, holding in their breath, trying to fit. Teeth on tip-toes, peeking over the head of other teeth. The real estate of my mouth was limited, so some enterprising teeth decided to go the way of pioneers and strike out for wide, open lands with plenty of space. They grew out of my gums parallel to the ground. If I had smiled at a shark, the shark would have pissed its pants.
What followed was many painful years in the dentist chair. My obdurate baby teeth were extracted. It turns out that their pigheadedness was due to the fact that they had put down roots akin to adult teeth. My baby teeth were featured in a paper that my dentist wrote; those bastards are more famous that I am.
Then the unholy mess in my mouth had to be corrected over many, many long years of orthodontic treatments. I wore braces for eleventy-thousand years. My teeth hurt non-stop. A couple of adult teeth were extracted to make room in my mouth. Ever so slowly my remaining teeth were pushed and pulled and twisted and beaten into submission. My father was in the army and we moved around a lot, so all of this work was done at a variety of dentists over the years, and let us just say that some of these dentists were strong believers in the philosophy that pain is the forge in which the soul must be tempered.
The end result? I fucking hate visiting the dentist. I brush my teeth. I floss (though far less regularly than I should. And no, I will not tell you how often that is). And I almost never go to the dentist. I visited three times in 2012 because a tooth started to hurt. The dentist fixed the problem and then I promptly went back to pretending that my universe was happily dentist-free.
My Mouth On FIRE
So what prompted me to haul ass to the dentist recently?
It was FIRE.
The pursuit of financial independence and early retirement has been good for me and for my family in so many ways. The most obvious one is the fact that it has made us richer. It has given us options. It will, in short order, allow me the freedom to do whatever the fuck I want with my life.
All these outcomes are wonderful, but also extremely predictable.
I would not have predicted that FIRE would be the sword that finally vanquished my dentist phobia.
There are two factors at play.
The first factor is financial. We have a good dental plan right now, subsidized by Mr. BITA’s employer. If I don’t care for my teeth now, chances are that I will have to take care of them later, and on my own dime. For new-FIRE-pursuing me the thought of raiding my precious Stash to drop thousands on dental repair that I could have avoided is anathema.
The second consideration is Future Me.
I care more about FIREd-Future-Me than I ever did about Work-Till-You-Drop-Future-Me.
FIREd future me has the potential to live a very happy life of exploration and creation. You know what FIREd future me doesn’t need? A fucking mouthful of rotting teeth.
It was like someone had lit a FIRE under my arse, and off to the dentist I went.
I even have two follow up appointments scheduled for November. #adultingwithavengeance.
Unexpected Benefits of FIRE
This may be one of the things (apart from that lovely growing Stash) that I enjoy most about the pursuit of financial independence and early retirement:
The unexpected benefits.
I set out to save and invest, and I learned that getting off the hedonic treadmill made me much more appreciative of little things that I had started to take for granted, like eating out.
I set out to save and invest, and I discovered parks with streams to splash around in.
I set out to save and invest, and I discovered fellowship in my local Buy Nothing group.
I set out to save and invest, and this blog was born, I have a new community of awesome friends and readers and even the opportunity to walk down the red carpet as an award nominee.
I set out to save and invest, and the next thing I know I’m sitting in the fucking dentist chair.