Well, my much anticipated last-day-of-work came and went and now I sit here, excited, emotional (pregnancy-induced) and a little terrified. All my life I have been career and goal-driven; in sports, college, dental school and ortho. Up until now.
Four years ago, I was lucky enough to find a well-paying job straight out of my ortho residency. The 45-mile commute each way, as well as long, 10-hour days didn’t make the job ideal. But there were no shortage of patients, I didn’t have to sell treatment plans and I was able to gain considerable experience in a short amount of time. Not to mention I had hard-working assistants and flexibility in my schedule. It was a great job and I absolutely *loved* it.
I’m not sure how I happened on a career that I love so much. Graduating from college I was positive I wanted to be a veterinarian. I have no idea why. After all, I worked at a vet clinic walking dogs and picking up their poop, had gotten bitten by a cat and was even allergic to cats. I guess it was fate that I didn’t get into vet school the first time I applied, and on a whim, the following year when I reapplied, I also applied to one dental school (the only dental school whose application deadline I could still make). I amazingly got into both and had to make the decision to choose one or the other. “Oh what the heck, I’ll go to dental school,” was essentially how I came to my decision. Having never worked or observed a dentist in an office, my only reasons for choosing dentistry was because I liked using my hands, I always enjoyed going to the dentist and there was no way I was going to med school. And so I moved back to Omaha, Nebraska and embarked on a demanding four years focused solely on teeth.
I studied a lot in dental school and as I progressed through the semesters found that my grades were in the upper part of the class. My classmates often remarked, “You should think about specializing. Especially ortho.” Friends painted the picture of happy offices, cheerful assistants, better hours, no real dental emergencies, and most importantly, who didn’t want to have a beautiful smile? Ortho, huh? Again, not ever having had braces nor knowing a thing about them, I, for some reason, set my sights on wanting to be an orthodontist. I definitely had my doubts about making such a bold commitment to a career I had no experience with, but the profession seemed nice and I hoped that I would like it. How difficult could straightening teeth really be?
Apparently very difficult. Actually, when I started my ortho residency I was shocked at how not-straightforward orthodontics really is. Unlike other aspects of dentistry, there is no cookbook, no one-size-fits-all when it comes to ortho. Each case and each person is different, presenting its own challenges. Every time I sit down and look at a patient’s teeth, I have to problem solve. I guess you could equate it with sudoku or some sort of puzzle. It’s challenging and definitely keeps me on my toes. I love it. And, as a bonus, I am witness to the dramatic changes in my patient’s smile and subsequently their personality. I haven’t even mentioned the relationships I’ve developed with my patients and their parents over the course of the two years of braces. That, in itself, has been incredibly gratifying and which makes it all the harder to say goodbye to.
I know, I’m weird, who wouldn’t want to be a stay at home mommy? Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to spend time loving on our new little baby and Lairdy. Yet it saddens me not knowing when I will again practice a career that I have come to love and have gotten so much satisfaction from. But I guess this is part of God’s plan for me and I’ll just have to see where this fork in the road leads me….