The Ultimate Test


I could see the light at the end of my career tunnel!  The depressed feelings dissolved, and a fresh hope blanketed over me.  I was very lucky to rely on the stability of the dental practice while I started building the new weight loss practice.  Keeping my old job while starting a new one was the combination that worked for me.  I never would have felt comfortable quitting my job without having something else lined up.  I’m not that adventurous.

Luckily, I didn’t have to jump off the cliff into an unknown abyss.

Cliff jumping
(Photo credit: ccheviron)

It’s hard to believe that only 3 months later I gave my notice at work.  I was ready to leave, but refused to quit until I knew my financial responsibilities were taken care of.  I wish I could say that my new business had taken off in 3 short months and I had to dedicate myself full-time to it, thus requiring me to make the big announcement.  No… you see, there’s another side to the story that I haven’t shared yet.  There was 1 good boss in my career.  That’s exactly what I call him: the good boss.  (Aren’t I creative?)  Anyway, our pairing was a match made in heaven.  He was and is an excellent dentist, someone I could look up to.  He is a kind and caring person.  He is a good communicator.  He is real.  He is honest.  Should I go on?

I actually had 2 bosses during this final phase.  I was working in a group practice with an “old guy who didn’t want to retire.”  My practice within his was not growing for many reasons, but mainly because he didn’t want to retire and pass it on to me (contrary to initial intentions.)  Meanwhile, the good boss asked me to work in his practice part-time.  This was partially an attempt to bail me out of a very bad situation with that other boss.   But he was also smart: I was already trained; I already knew the way things worked in the practice; he didn’t view me as competition; and he knew passing his practice to me would have been a slam dunk.  Our relationship wasn’t parasitic, it was symbiotic.  If I was busy and doing well, then so was he.  And together we thrived.

In May he started dropping hints:

“We need to discuss a long-term plan for how a buy-out of my practice would look.  That is, if you want it.”  I was “the one,” and he was ready to start making a long-term plan.  I, however, kept stalling.

Even as I had my new future within my grasp, fear still kept me from leaving. 

I knew I wasn’t ready to quit, but I also knew I didn’t want to string him along.  He had plans, and I didn’t want to stand in his way.  Ultimately, four hours of great work per week with him couldn’t undo years of trauma.  (I know, I know, forgive my drama here!)

This is where my story is unexpected.  As dentists people, sometimes I think we can be a little arrogant and judgmental about our colleagues.  Why is that?  Is it insecurity, or is it just healthy competition?  In dental school as students, we learned to believe that a dentist taught at school instead of practicing dentistry because they weren’t good enough to handle private practice.  We’d snicker at the thought that they just couldn’t cut it in practice, so they had to teach us.  Now, I realize how ignorant that thinking is, even if it was a defense mechanism.  That attitude is total BS and is downright rude.  I’m sure every dentist out there remembers this happening.  Sadly, this attitude doesn’t end with graduation, and I know that some expect that the reason I wanted out of dentistry was because I couldn’t hack it.

Oh well… who cares?  But things aren’t always what they seem.

I had to make the choice to walk away from an amazing opportunity.  I was 10 years into my career, working in a top-notch dental practice, providing the kind of dental care I wanted to give, and here was my chance.  The ideal practice was ready to become mine.

I was facing the ultimate test.

But it was too little, too late.

At that point how could I ignore everything I had worked so hard to figure out?  How could I ignore the years of suffering because this golden opportunity was being handed to me?  I couldn’t put it off any longer.

I finally had to confront the beast once and for all.



19 thoughts on “The Ultimate Test

  1. Such a tough decision but I think you made the one that kept you true to yourself and that would make you happy in the long run. Once you take on ownership it’s not quite as easy to change your life path! I’m currently working part-time in two practices and one of them I would characterize as the “good boss”, although he has two locations and we are never at the same one at the same time. The other job is to pay the bills. I have never had any desire to own my own practice and I know my good boss would like me to buy in at some far-off future date. Funny thing is, my dream job would be to join the dental school faculty! I actually interviewed there last year and wasn’t selected because of my lack of recent clinical practice (my 10-year maternity leave, LOL). And I remember thinking the same things about faculty when I was a student and resident. Obviously, I see it much differently now! At least I have my foot (or maybe just a toe) in the door now.
    I love reading your blog because it gives me insight into making a huge career change without me having to do any of the work! LOL You’ve obviously entered into this new career with much thought and careful planning. I think you’re going to be just fine!

    1. It was really hard at that point because that last little piece of me was still trying to hang on. So tempting, but I knew what I had to do. And you’re right– I did not want to become even more trapped in the field than I already was. Isn’t it funny that we were so ignorant about the dental school teachers? As if no one would want to do it because they actually enjoyed it. I do think it was a defense mechanism toward the “jerky” teachers because we never said those things about the ones we liked! I am thinking I’d like to volunteer at the school. While I don’t want to practice anymore, I still like dentistry and the community.

      So glad you can live vicariously through me. I don’t necessarily recommend doing it yourself 😉 I love hearing about your process along the way, so thanks! Let me know if the school thing works out!

  2. I’m waiting to see the light at the end of my tunnel! The most difficult part is finding that something else, which you’ve managed to do. Good luck to you and your new venture!

    1. Thanks a bunch! I hope you get to see the light! My tunnel was really, really looong. Sounds like yours might be too. But I made it there, so there’s hope you will too. 😀

  3. I agree with Rebecca, that finding something else that is satisfactory is really tough. It’s just not easy to train your mind to leave a behavioral or occupational rut that has either always been there, or at least has been there for many years.
    I could expound, but god knows I can get out of hand when I do that. Not to mention, you’ve covered that subject really well in some previous posts. 🙂

  4. LLB, You say dentists tend to be a ‘LITTLE bit ARROGANT & JUDGEMENTAL about our colleagues’? …… pass over some of that ‘mile high’ your smokn’ 🙂
    Dentists ( I am a dentist, my wife is a dentist, most of my ‘friends’ are dentists) HAVE to be THE most petty, insecure group of professionals there is. i always wondered what the etiology of that was. I think for the old timers.. it was the insecurity of ‘not being a real doctor, i.e. MD;
    But ober the last 25 years I have seen the income, lifestyle acess, and FREE TIME of dentists usurping ‘real doctors’ exponentially ( this is just an observation and generalization.. not insulting an M.D.’s ( yeah, you Chris… who I know reads this blog)……. So for the most part, i dont think anyone under 55 ish?? has the MD wannabe complex. but yet the backstabbing, and pettiness is rampant. Where I live the economy is good, plenty of buisness for everyone… but God, I can’t stand it. as a periodontist.. and having to work with a multitude of dentists, I imagine it must be ‘akin to that freak from ‘Sister-wives”.. You have to stroke each one.. tell he/she that their work is ‘so much better’ than every on elese’s (they all ask).
    I go to a meeting , someone drives up in a new 5 series BMW… you better believe the nest meeting, there will be 6 ‘colleagues’driving in their new 7 series. It’s pathetic. and they all throw each other under the bus… and i wonder.. is it to just get the $$ for the new crown on a perfectly good older amalgam…. or is it to impress the patient on how ‘progressive’ they are?
    who knows/ who cares? I will say, that at the midpoint in my career… those oldtimers did not see dentistry as a ‘job’.. they lived it 24/7.. i think they defined themselves as dentists almost like a religous, or cultural thing.. thats who they were. thats why it seems they never retired, always stayed too long, and would never let anything go. To me.. (and the generation of dentists younger than me), my first thought is ..”what do i have to do to get to the end of the day?.. then, thru the week. And how soon can i retire and start to enjoy life ? Meanwhile, my life is flying by, and time waits for no person. The only light at the end of my tunnel are those of car full of dentists in their new 7 series BMW running me over! 🙂
    Also..Dentists wear cheap shoes. its pathos incarnate!

    1. Bahaha! Rick, your comments kill me. Don’t stop. I might need you to write a guest post 😉 I had no idea that the GPs actually are lame enough to ask how their work is! It never crossed my mind to do that– maybe deep down I was always too scared to face the truth . :O Even if it did cross my mind, I would be way too embarrassed to ask that. Now, I might ask if the periodontist can tell how shitty someone else’s work is… *snicker*

      One of my old bosses used to always say that if I talked to my dental school friends about work and they brag about how great they are doing, they’re always lying. I found out he was right. Must be that “fake doctor” complex. What is with the need to show off and prove. I had another boss who is ancient, and he’s the old guy you describe. Has no life. Used to go into the office on weekends and work late at night– we’re talking ’til 3 am. Some of these guys don’t even know how to have a conversation about anything other than dentistry. I agree– the mentality has changed. I like to say that the younger generations are looking for more balance in their lives.

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