Wow, has it ever been a while since a post! Since I'm pretty sure there are only three people who might (or might not) read this blog in the first place, so I doubt I've been missed. But I've been needing a place to expend some energy and thoughts lately, so this is probably a good place for it.
Great news, first of all - ALL BOARDS PASSED! Written and clinical, no retakes, no extra stress of finding more patients or more teeth or anything like that. All done. I can't wait to graduate and get home! 43 more days! And my family arrives in 40 days, woohoo! My brother hasn't visited at all these last four years, so that will be particularly special.
So, in the spirit of being able to see the light at the end of this tunnel, shining quite brightly and getting bigger and brighter each day, I've been reflecting on the last four years a lot lately. Maybe I'm getting a little nostalgic about leaving Arizona (I mean, the weather hasn't quite officially gotten hot, and spring time here is pretty darn comfortable), maybe I'm going to miss my friends (the few I've actually made here), maybe I'm going to miss being in school since I've been in school for almost 25 years...or maybe I'm just reminiscing about all of it and looking forward to what the still-uncertain future will bring! Either way, these are some things I've been thinking about and have learned over the last four years...(and actually, even some reflection back to middle school...)
Thoughts On Gratitude
I have been so, so fortunate to have lived the life I have lived thus far. I freaking got into dental school. I'm about to be a stinking dentist! Sure, I have $400k+ in student loans at an average of about 8% interest, but I GOT IN, and I'm literally going to be a dentist in 43 days. This is what I have wanted to do with my life since I was old enough to know what I wanted to do with my life. I'm not financially successful, I haven't been part of ground-breaking research or developing new methods or new procedures or materials, and I still have A LOT to learn. But I am where I have wanted to be for 14 years, and I'm about to leap off this cliff and trust that the net is there at the bottom - because it is.
One thing I must emphasize, and definitely have recognized over the last 16 years, is that I did not get where I am by doing it alone. I have never been afraid to ask for help along the way, and boy, have I had some AMAZING mentors. Somehow I was able to build a fantastic support network without even realizing it - actually, more than likely it was with the help of my parents, both in the form of their amazing network of friends and coworkers and by way of their encouraging me to keep in contact with great people and stay involved in my community.
Not only did I have fantastic mentors in my teen years, I managed to find great mentors in undergrad and then in dental school as well. AND, what amazing patients I've had in my past two years of clinical experience. Building relationships with my mentors and patients has taught me what dentistry is really all about - helping people improve their quality of life.
I must note here that most people I have encountered in dental school are less than grateful. One of the things I am looking forward to most about going home is returning to my "tribe," members of which are grateful for the experiences they've had (whether hardship or fulfilling), the opportunities they've been given, the support they've received - or the lack of all these things that has made them the strong, resourceful, independent people they are today. Being grateful doesn't mean you have to be privileged or have opportunities handed to you - to the contrary, most of those I've met who have had it all handed to them on a silver platter are truly ungrateful and entitled and not genuine or loyal.
Last thing about gratitude: to me, it's not enough to just feel it. I think we need to SHARE it. Tell the important people in my life that they are important. Thank them for opportunities they've helped me find, or that they have directly presented to me. Show appreciation for the work they do so that it makes my day/work/efforts run that much more smoothly. Make sure their supervisors know of their efforts, where applicable. Thank my patients for the learning experiences they provided for me. Visit past teachers and show them the difference they've made in my life.
Thoughts On Adulthood
So I guess technically I'm not quite to "adulthood" yet since I'm still in school for a few more weeks. But, one of the things I thought would be awesome about professional school is that we're all supposed to be adults...at least in age. Unfortunately, I came to the harsh realization that most people in most stressful situations still act like 13 year old girls. Whether they managed to get into any professional program or whether they're in the working world and are established in their career or job - the drama is still there for some reason, and very few people can be tactful 100% of the time. Some of my mentors from back in high school were literally shunned at their places of work, for being dedicated and devoted to their profession, for going the extra mile and being exceptional at their jobs, or for simply having a different opinion about any given topic no matter how minute.
We have recently read an article in the Scientific American MIND magazine that talks about how we as a society have made adolescence a self-fulfilling prophecy. Basically, because we "accept" that adolescents are irrational, irresponsible, self-absorbed, rebellious, disrespectful, etc...we allow that to perpetuate rather than strive to be better role models for children to become responsible and productive adults. Sure, the adolescent brain is changing just as much as the brain of a rapidly-learning toddler, this has been demonstrated in study after study - but that is no excuse to NOT be a good example of what they should strive to become as adults. The SciAm MIND article compares homeschooled kids to kids at huge schools throughout their educations, and also compares different cultures regarding how children are raised and nurtured and taught. The discussion leads to the fact that we are fostering a society of 20-somethings who return home (or stay at home if they never went to college) and try to "find themselves" rather than grow up. If you want, I think you can access the article by clicking here.
Thoughts On Pleasing People
I'm over it. Actually, I'm not entirely sure I was ever that interested in pleasing people in the first place. For the record, this is completely different than taking care of a patient by providing a service they've asked for, or know they need, in order to improve their quality of life. Pleasing people is bending over backwards, or even being willing to help when asked, when I know there is no possible long-term benefit for myself. That probably sounds selfish, but I'm simply just not here to be taken advantage of.
Sometimes I am pretty naive. (If anyone knows the keyboard shortcut for the two dots above the i, please share...haha). Most of the time, I assume the best of people, and I've been burned by that many times. But I'd rather learn along the way than assume the worst of people and never be happy. I do, however, have quite low expectations and mostly try to have no expectations at all because I'm pretty sure the vast majority of the general population is deeply, deeply stupid. Which is why I'd rather start out assuming the best in people. I enjoy the expression of this idea in Hanlon's Razor: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." Stupidity, as I interpret it from this quote, could either be deliberate ignorance or simply the lack of experience or knowledge. If there is something that someone can learn, and is willing to learn in order to be better, their behavior should not necessarily be attributed to malice. I think most people have a sort of innate understanding of the importance of taking care of each other, in the sense that it's actually a rather selfish idea - if we are loyal to someone, we expect loyalty in return, and we need a tribe we can trust. Now, understanding that idea and practicing it are very separate things entirely.
Wrapping It Up
As I've been working on this post for a few days now, and had to update how many days are left until graduation, I think I'll wrap this up. After all, I don't even know if anyone actually reads this or not. So, until next time friends, thanks for reading (if you did), and hopefully see you soon.