In July 2007, my wife, 11-month-old daughter and I packed our Honda CR-V and headed east to begin dental school. I was a man on a mission! I had recently taken an oath of office with the Army for a Health Professions Scholarship. My plan after dental school was to do a two-year AEGD, pay back my obligation and then either stay in the Army as an educator or get out and work in private practice. Ten years have flown by, and I will be leaving the military and working in a private practice in Washington this summer. I have reached the goals I set for myself, but I also learned an important lesson: Take time to be present and find joy in the journey!
Dentists are driven individuals. Just getting into dental school is an impressive accomplishment. Once there, it takes time, effort and diligence to get that desired degree and dental license. By nature, we are goal-setters and goal-achievers. There is nothing wrong with this, but there is something to be said about living in the present and finding joy in the journey.
That beautiful 11-month-old girl who drove cross-country with us is now 10 years old and has four younger siblings. Recently, I looked at pictures of them and realized that I did not truly appreciate some of the experiences we had together during dental school and residency. I was so focused on the next big test, project or goal that I didn’t take time to truly appreciate the time spent together outside the classroom or clinic. That time can never be given back to us! Whether you have a family or not, remember to cherish moments with friends and loved ones. Don’t just be present, be actively engaged. Appreciate the fact that these moments may never happen again.
A while ago, my wife and I talked about the subject of finding joy in the journey. During the conversation, we talked about how our fondest memories were during those difficult years of dental school and residency. We talked about our trip to New York City and how everyone stared at us as we hauled three kids under the age of 4 across Manhattan. We talked about how I contracted hand, foot and mouth disease from my kids during residency, as well as our trips down to Brevard, North Carolina, for our older three children to visit their great-grandparents, who have since passed away. Even during those incredibly hard years, there were amazing memories made.
Whether you are ready to graduate or just starting dental school, I plead with you to take time to be present and enjoy moments with friends and family. Enjoy friendships you are making in dental school. Take time to do things outside of the classroom, create memories and most importantly, find joy in your journey!
~Richard Carlile, Virginia Commonwealth University ‘11, ASDA District 4 Trustee 2009-2010
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