It was a Sunday night, almost 6 years ago, that Curt and I were laying on the living room floor and with dread I said, “I wish I didn’t have to go to school (which felt more like work) tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could work together?” Curt agreed and for a few minutes we dreamt of a life in which we didn’t have to say goodbye in the morning, but carpooled to our office and spent the day within a few seconds walk of each other. And although I indulged myself for these few minutes, never did I think it would be possible.
After all, whenever I mentioned dentistry as a profession that Curt should consider he never seemed to give it a thought and was adamant that it wasn’t for him. Many who know Curt, know the many different education and career paths he has taken. When we first met in college, he was determined to be a medical doctor.
However, like many students, including myself, that soon changed to something else. He eventually set out to obtain an environmental science degree with the hopes of saving the earth. But, as we got closer to graduating we both realized we loved animals and both decided to apply to veterinary school. Curt was accepted after his first try (I was on the waiting list), so we moved to Ames, Iowa where he attended Iowa State’s Veterinary School. While preparing my application for vet school a second time, I had second-thoughts and decided that dentistry sounded like a good profession without the extensive training as medical school. So, at the very last minute, I also applied to dental school. The only deadline I was able to make was where I went to undergrad and, thankfully, got in.
Curt’s career path in life became a little less clear when shortly after I moved back to Omaha to start dental school, he decided to withdraw from vet school. I think it was a combination of living apart and not truly loving the profession that caused him to make this decision. It was an uncertain and somewhat rough 4 years for us, as I immersed myself fully into dental school and Curt tried to find something he was passionate about. For these 4 years, he worked at environmental labs doing soil and chemical testing, bartended at a sushi restaurant, started a used car company, began a pHd program for environmental toxicology, withdrew from that program after a year and eventually moved to San Diego to pursue a career in whale research. He even completed an intensive volunteer firefighter training program when we relocated to Portland in the hopes of becoming a firefighter. You can say that Curt had done it all. He pursued each of these dreams with all the energy he had, yet none of them gave him the feeling that he was truly filling a need for people in the way that he had hoped.
When he came to me just a few months after our conversation about working together and told me he was thinking of applying to dental school, I really didn’t know what to think. Would this be just like everything else he had tried? What if he hated it? I essentially told him that I would support him no matter what he chose, but that this was too big a decision to withdraw from. I had two and a half years of schooling left and was already getting into the mindset of us being free of school after that. Enduring the stress and long hours of dental school as a spouse was not appealing to me. But, a year after Curt decided to apply, he started his first year of dental school.
Looking back at the last four years and it all seems a blur, dental school often is. Thankfully, Curt budgeted his time and stayed much more organized than I ever did. Maybe it was because he experienced firsthand what it felt like to be a lonely, forgotten spouse-of-a-dental-student, not understanding any of the dental talk that constantly exited my mouth, often wondering when I would be home from studying and trying to figure out why I was on the phone for a half hour with friends I saw all day at school. Unlike myself, Curt went to school at 7 am, sometimes skipped lunch just trying to get his work done, never stayed too late, cooked dinner on days that I was at work and very rarely went into school on the weekend. Neither did he stay up later than 11 pm studying for tests. He was passionate about his dental work, studies and patients, yet he valued our time together as a family and always made that his highest priority.
I am incredibly proud of my husband, especially because I know the uncertainty and self-doubt he endured these last ten years. Even when each new career path looked grim, he continued to believe in himself and the hope that he would someday find his true calling. Whoever is fortunate to have Curt as a dentist will be in the caring hands of a man who is truly talented, compassionate and loving. And, who knows, someday in the future maybe we will be able to work together. In hindsight, I think that was the dream he always hoped for.