It was just another day in dental school. Another test in the big lecture hall where we had most of our classes. Total silence. Then, like a balloon popping, it burst out of nowhere.
A very loud fart.
Then total silence again. I flinched in my seat and stiffened up, visibly uncomfortable. “Don’t look around,” I thought to myself. “This is way too humiliating.” Luckily, it wasn’t me that had to worry. Nope, it was my neighbor. I swear. It happened during the first semester, and shortly after, she left dental school for good. We always joked that she left out of embarrassment. But we all knew it wasn’t the case.
A part of me admired her courage and honesty with herself. The other part watched her go with disbelief. How did she even know if she liked this or not when we’d barely discovered what it was all about? But I guess it’s like finding the love of your life… when you know, you just know.
She obviously saw something that I didn’t see. Sometimes it takes me longer to catch on and acknowledge my true feelings. It stems from either loyalty, or a desire to give things a chance and see them through, or curiosity, or maybe even fear.
I’ve often times always stayed in situations for far too long when it has concerned my career. It’s like being stuck in a bad relationship.
If you’ve managed to catch the 10 reasons I loved dental school and the 10 reasons I thought dental school sucked, you may have noticed that much of what I loved really had nothing to do with dentistry. I loved the experiences with people and the excitement of doing something new. And I realize now that I loved (and still love) being a student. I love learning about new things, and I enjoy the setting that allows us to take the time to explore those things.
Most of what I hated in school was simply school-related and not necessarily about dentistry– or so I thought. For a long time I was so busy living in the future, imagining how much better it was going to be, that I couldn’t notice the present. As students, we always dreamed of how great it would be to get out– to work on our own and not have to get an instructor to check off every step of our work to give us a grade. When I say everything, I mean everything; even down to making sure we had our chairs set up properly. I understand some of those silly requirements now. It was about discipline and routine and organization. But it was a big hassle when 10 other people were trying to get the attention of the same teacher. Waiting for the teacher for 15 minutes before you could even start the procedure just so he/she could make sure you plugged in your hand-piece correctly was a time suck and really slowed us down.
The upside of being sheltered from the imminent challenges of practicing in the real world went unnoticed. While we couldn’t wait for the freedom and independence (and no more studying,) I think we took for granted the fact that we were under a sort of umbrella in dental school. It was safe. If we didn’t know how to answer something or respond to a situation, we had someone to give us the answers. They all told us it would only get harder after graduation, but I’m not sure any of us believed it. The things we didn’t like at the time, were many of the hassles we wouldn’t have to deal with in the “real world.” It was a pretty short-sighted, but understandable viewpoint.
Maybe if I were the girl who farted that day, I’d be somewhere else, and she would still be a dentist. Regardless of the path we chose, we both ended up out of dentistry. It seems right for me that I stuck it out for so long.
I’d rather know than forever wonder if I chose the wrong path.