For the past three years or so on the corner of this blog I had posted that I was applying to Dental School. Today I got to change it-I found out yesterday that I got accepted to Roseman University to start Dental School in August. Needless to say, I am incredibly excited to have gotten in somewhere. It feels like a major load of my consciousness. Now that I am in, I don't feel any regret about it taking so long, I got to do a lot of great things over the past 2 years that would not have happened otherwise. But somewhere in the back of my mind, this thing has always been eating at me. Here are are a few things I have been thinking about.
I don't think I've ever written about this here before, but this was my third attempt at applying. During my pre-dent class in college, the professor told the students "you'll eventually find that you are going to get what you want in life." I think that was really great advice, although I don't know if I believed it for a while. Timing sometimes makes things look like they are not going to happen, but persistence really does pay off.
If your not sure what you really want, try doing something that you really don't want for a while and you'll figure it out. For the past year and a half I have been working as an eligibility specialist for the Utah State Government giving out Food Stamps, Medicaid, and Financial Assistance. There is no shame in taking a job to pay the bills...and really I think that doing something like that for a year is really going to benefit me during the rougher years at dental school. However, the prospect of doing something like that for the rest of my life was a very grim one. I thought the job was interesting, I would say especially because of it's eye-opening nature. Work a week there and, conservative or liberal, your opinion will really change about our welfare system...it's an incredibly needed and simultaneously flawed system. Working at a place like that really complicates your beliefs about government assistance.
Seeing people grasping for anything to make a difference in their economic situation is humbling and maddening. Depending on who you are speaking to, you wish we could either do more to help them, or wish that we weren't helping them at all. Lots of conflicting emotions. One thing was very clear to me though, I am damn lucky to have been raised in a good, fiscally responsible, and yes, privileged family. It's almost an ungrateful act to not take advantage of the opportunities that I have been given. I'm not referring to money here at all. It would be wasteful to not find a way to be happy with all that has been given to me.
A lot of people in hard times would be thrilled to be doing what I have for the past year, you can live a semi-comfortable life, but I think it would be a waste of my potential. The job is so repetitive and mind-numbing. Most of my job probably should be automated, but the interest of the department is of course tied more to keeping jobs than efficiency.
Over time I have realized that I need a job that will be continually challenging. Challenging is different than frustrating...my job now is frustrating, there is no getting better at it. Many outside factors influence your ability to succeed. Dentistry will fulfill this I think. From what I understand, there is always more to learn, areas of the practice that you can develop and improve. It's what excites me the very most about going into the field. I don't want to waste my potential sitting in front of a computer screen clicking boxes any longer.
Part of the dental application process is taking the DAT. I'm not too embarrassed to say that I took it 3 times. The first 2 times I got the same score, which wasn't horrible, but obviously not good enough to get into a school. The third time my wife Natalie urged me to take a Kaplan course to prepare for it. I did not want to do this at all. First off, it was expensive, and secondly, does not offer anything really that you couldn't do on your own if your very disciplined. After a bit of discussion I agreed to take the course. I did very well in the structured environment and studied the materials while working full time. Without a doubt, the course allowed me to greatly improve my score and is probably the reason I was able to get in this year.
This brings me to my next point: You have to allow yourself to do what you need to in order to succeed. It's weird that I made excuses not to do something that could have only been good for me. Sometimes I guess we all are impossiblists, but I am trying hard these days to accept answers that people give me to my problems. Suggestions from someone who is a little removed from your situation are usually solutions waiting to be implemented. There are times I chat with friends who have some sort of burning problem and they are asking for advice. To me, the answer seems fairly straight forward, and the course that they should take seems clear. More often than not, when I give advice, people will shoot it down immediately and explain all the many reasons that what I have said can't possibly work for them in their situation. At work, I often spend time trying to help the clients do what's necessary to get out of their current situation, but to them what I am suggesting seems impractical and sometimes outright insane. I am fully aware there are times when I reverse roles with these people. I'm working to be better at accepting solutions offered from clear headed third parties.
The third thing: You can't beat yourself up too much. I think depression can be a vicious cycle whether your dealing with unemployment, rejection, or any other situation where your hopes get constantly dashed. When someone says effectively tells you that you are fantastic but not what they are looking for, it is hard not to take it personally being devalued. The more applications you put in, the more rejections you get, and the more you feel crushed. Any encouragement from others makes you feel like they are being unrealistic. I mean, you've put it 30 applications and not heard back at all, what makes them think the next one is going to be any different? Haven't they taken statistics?
I felt this way as the third application cycle was coming and slowly going without any interviews. Friends and family would tell me, "You just need an interview and you'll get it!" I doubted this because even though my DAT score had increased, it seemed like the results had not changed. When I did finally get a call for an interview, I still had low expectations for it. Luckily, the day of, the fire awakened inside of me. I realized how badly I wanted to go to this school and confidence came rushing back. I was able to rely upon my years of preparation for the moment. I was lucky to be able to get an interview, and in hindsight I realize that my friend's and family's encouragement was well....just encouragement. They actually had more faith in me than I had myself. Sometimes you need that. Maybe allow the people around you to tell you what they think about you...it's often more accurate than what you think about yourself.
Enough rambling. If you can't tell, I'm just excited to start this next phase of life and wanted to think about some things I'll do differently from now on.