Real talk: I’m getting really bad at titling my posts. It’s entirely cliche, and you’re just waiting for that metaphor to come around at the end when it is in fact a random title with maybe only a subconscious undertone of the whole springtime/rain into flowers/sorrow into joy theme…
In the past month or so, the snow and dark, gloomy days were traded in for sunny evenings and cherry blossoms. I looked up, and hello APRIL. Time in grad school seems to have exponentially sped up without my permission, and in less than two months I will have one year of this whole crazy thing I decided to do called dental school under my belt. Shout out to God, Chemex coffee, and daily mini power naps.
While I never want to view my blog as on obligation – after all, not to sound selfish but I do it mostly for my own words-lover processing/to look back on, and anyone that gets any nuggets of encouragement through my rambly brain is just the cherry on top that makes me feel like I have something to say that people might need hearing – I have experienced some very REAL writing withdrawals and hate that it has almost been a whopping two months since my last post.
I am not about to sugar coat anything, friends. These weeks and months have taken a toll on my weary little soul. There’s a reason posts have been nonexistent – any spare minute has been devoted to sleeeeeep and the occasional therapeutic bike ride or run now that I’m out of hibernation mode. *Side note: since blogging is becoming harder and harder to fit in, my Instagram has served as my more consistent virtual log for people to keep up with my shenanigans so family, friends, or pre-dentals interested in the daily grind – feel free to follow me there! (see lower right sidebar)* Aside from simply a ROUGH patch of exams that have sent my academic confidence from last semester (and um, I guess my whole life) on the decline, there’s just been a lot going on in my BIG-feeling heart and roller coaster brain regarding things completely out of my control (aka life). The end of this month also marks one year since Dad’s been gone, so obviously that time stamp makes things that much more real and brings all of that back to the front of my mind (not that it really ever leaves that spot).
Some little and big joy-nuggets have no doubt been interspersed between the self doubt or difficult days, and I STILL can say that dental school and living in Philadelphia is somehow crazy fun despite the sometimes literal hell we all go through together as a class (like fifty people failing our neuro-anatomy exam this week, I DO NOT JOKE). I’m so thankful for my friends here that pull me along day by day even when I might not be my usual chipper self and that I get to push forward as well.
Spring break was straight up lovely and needed. There was so much quality time to make up for the first year after college not living in the same city as my best guy friend Ross: time spent Crossfitting, eating way too good, drinking strange whiskey cocktails, laughing at our weirdness, talking hard and long (good) life talks, singing in the car, and seeing the D.C. sights for the first time. He temporarily lives there for an interim job as music minister before starting seminary back at Baylor, and it was a true treat to get to see him as a real post-grad adult leading his church in worship through two Sunday services. So so proud and thankful for him every day.
I also got to go home to the promised land for most of week and catch up on nephew cuddles, live in my pjs, sleep lots, eat some Mexican, and – oh yeah – find time to study for our neuro exam that was so nicely the Tuesday we got back from break. It was very appreciated to have that time at my country home with my Mom, sister, and brother-in-law, though, since I’m still unsure when the next time I’ll have the chance to make a trip to Texas.
While the didactic portion of our curriculum has been worlds harder this semester, I’ve actually enjoyed the preclinical part of first year. We had our very first practical a few weeks ago that consisted of one difficult amalgam preparation (class II ML #30 for any dental folk) on a lower molar, one occlusal amalgam restoration on another molar, and an extra credit restoration on a premolar. This was the first time we had to complete three different projects in only four hours, and with no reassurance that we had a few extra practice teeth if we didn’t do the first one well (like with our weekly assignments we turn in). In a practical setting, the first tooth IS the only tooth. Your bur makes one turn for the worse in your nervous and shaky hand? Fail. Dentistry comes down to millimeters in everything we do – 1.5 mm depth, convergent walls, smooth isthmus, broken contact…So needless to say it’s a much different atmosphere than the usual day in lab with us talking around the world, making fun of each other, and joining in random sing-alongs when we’re going delirious. There was an obvious tension in the air and silence except for the hum of drills and scraping of hatchets (and maybe a dropped hand piece here or there – mine definitely being one of those). I handed in my work at the end feeling pretty confident but still unsure of how picky they would actually go about the extensive grading criteria.
When we got our results back, it was definitely a day maker after the day breaker of getting our pathology grades that same morning. I came to the realization that depending on the week, the particular subject, or specific lab assignment, we each will always have our different strong suits. I might be an average (or sub average) pathologist apparently, but based on my lab practical results I just might have superior hand skills (on THAT day…) that will help make me a great clinician one day. On another day I might ace my angiology exam and be a boss dissector in anatomy lab (more on THAT adventure later) while struggling on a composite restoration. Others might consistently score high As on exams and struggle to even pass the practical or simply have to take more time on their own in lab to practice. There’s always going to be “hand gods” that turn in model work each week but might care squat about their grade in biochemistry. All that to say, again, it is SO important to not get caught up in comparing yourself to your classmates based on ONE exam or ONE practical. We will all be competent doctors in just three years, we just might take different paths to get there.
I feel like I could keep writing for pages and pages about the ups and downs of the past two months. I really am not trying to come off as complaining in this post – only HONEST. But no matter how hard the little daily details of grad school life across the country from my family and friends can get, I’m still convinced more and more every day that following Jesus is the greatest adventure there is and without Him, my joy would be lost and my own strength far from sufficient. I’m overwhelmed at His goodness and grace for carrying me this far. He’s never gonna let me down.