There are so many things about me you can't know. You can't know that my anxiety prevented me from making an appointment there for 2.5 years. You can't know how hard that anxiety makes it for me to make the walk to your office on my own.

You can't know how fraught my orthodontic journey has been. You have no idea about the two orthodontists before this one - the first ones who were totally inflexible and dragged their feet about everything, where the techs jerked my mouth around and injured my jaw because my mouth simply wasn't big enough for them to work. You can't know about the second one, who didn't know how to work with cleft palates but refused to admit it, the one who had a monopoly on our small town and couldn't see me frequently enough, the one who scammed my family out of thousands of dollars. You can't know that his incompetency meant that I can no longer get insurance money for this, because they won't give it for orthodontics for anyone over 19.

You can't know the impact having bad teeth has had on my self-esteem (not to mention the scars from cleft palate surgery and my still slightly-odd nose). You have no idea how hard it is to take this into my own hands, finally being independent from my dysfunctional family - how it is both empowering and terrifying. You can't know any of that.

All you know is that I'm a quiet patient, that I'm doing this at 21 years old, that I don't complain when things hurt and that I walk quite a ways (somehow always in the rain) to get there.

So you could have no idea what it meant to me when you said you were proud of me today. And of course you're not proud of me for all the things it took me overcoming to get there. But you reminded me that I'm proud of me too. Thank you.