weekend whimsy

In grad school, and especially given our specific exam schedule of one exam per week (and typically early in the week), weekends pretty much don’t exist. At least the normal people kind of weekends. My “weekends” have classically been a random night in the middle of the week of either pure grandma-dom relaxing at home or our entire class taking over some bar because no one else is typically “turning up” on a Tuesday at 11 pm. This weekend, though, I actually was able to feel like a little bit of my old self and spent so much time outdoors, cooking, eating, and exploring my sometimes still new to me city – almost like I wasn’t a full time dental student. We do still in fact have an exam this week, but it’s not until Wednesday and it’s over a light six lectures of Dental Materials (yaaaawn). A lot of my classmates went home or traveled to see friends because it’s been a long season of back to back exams that have demanded our full weekend attention. That being said, several of my close friends weren’t here, so I decided to have a couple of days of full-on introvert adventuring, soaking up the newfound deliciousness of spring at every turn. THIS is what I imagined it would be like to be a grad student in one of the most underrated cities in the country. It was rare, refreshing, and oh so needed.green line

<real food+reading+sunshine+spotify playlists+abundant atisanal coffee+ample worship time = happy Jessie heart>

I discovered or RE-discovered a couple of things over the past two days about myself and my new home.

I am more thankful than ever for my perfect bike (Roxie’s her name) now that the weather makes it conducive for consistent riding again. No need to shell out random amounts of cash for SEPTA tokens when I can get to my favorite coffee shop on 3rd street in about the same time. She took me all over and back again through University, Center, and Old Cities two days in a row. I feel like I actually see more of the city and its people on bike as opposed to when I’m walking, probably with my headphones in or scrolling Insta at the same time. I want to truly see and know the corners of this place that I’ll call home for the next three-ish years. I don’t want to miss any hole in the wall restaurant or not make eye contact with the hotel doormen. I find myself looking up and noticing architecture more or remembering names of places I’ve seen on Yelp but have yet to try. While I at no point officially “went to workout” this weekend, I definitely got my miles in and especially while toting an all too heavy backpack, my body was pooped both days I got home. I also realized again just how small geographically Philly is compared to other major cities, and even going “all the way across town” is only about three or four miles. IMG_4996Am I an urban chic city cyclist yet? Denim jacket, Birkenstocks, fuchsia lipstick and I’d say so. I’m really not trying to pull off some new style, but I’ve found that since living here, it’s definitely changed. My wardrobe is a seemingly majority of greys/blacks/denim, and I’ve become more of a minimalist (and I’m not just talking about the daily scrubs). Gone are the days of college T shirts and Chacos every day (but summer’s coming…).

While running out to grab some dinner to go is too convenient (and all too common for me lately) it will never, ever beat the luxury of preparing and enjoying a balanced and colorful meal made mostly from that morning’s farmer’s market finds (organic arugula, Yukon golds, and a new rosemary plant for the window to name a few). dinnerMy instagram caption mentioned something about getting good at dating myself as a joke, but seriously speaking, I think it’s so valuable to know how to take care of yourself and treat yourself to a nice meal at home alone (maybe or maybe not accompanied by the glorious new Lumineers album playing in the background). I’m not at all asking for sympathy for my singleness, I’m simply saying I think I do a pretty good job of not letting the fact that I’m single be an excuse to not take the time to cook a nice meal, light a candle, and enjoy a glass of wine (or two or three) even if I’m not sharing that with someone else at the table. I know the things that help relax and recharge me, and that kind of beautiful meal with time and space to think to myself is certainly up there on the list.

As much as I convinced myself before moving here that I enjoyed cold weather (I still do I promise!), I never realized how much I equally love SUN and VITAMIN D. The thought of being inside my bedroom at my desk studying dental materials of all things while it was 50s-70s all weekend was horrendous. There’s a reason I grabbed Roxie and just GOT OUT – not caring how far any destination was because the further away, the more time to simply be outside after a winter of cooped up anatomy and pathology studying. IMG_5073I also made a pit stop on my way home today to sit out on a patch of green by the river near Boathouse Row that was highly populated with equally sun-deprived Philadelphians. It almost reminded me in the tiniest way of a stretch of Zilker park in Austin (miss that city) with blankets laid out, ample readers, and several soccer balls being kicked about by kids.

While Monday clinic and lab are coming soon at 8 am, I am entering this week re-centered and rested. I still managed to squeeze in some studying, but taking the time to get outside of school and my apartment and spend lots of time just being observant of the bustling little corner of the world I’m in now did me good. I love where I live, what I get to do, and I’m joyfully thankful for this season – in all its crazy hard and beautiful glory.guns out

Until next time, I’m counting down to SUMMER (update on that coming soon!), battling one. more. exam at a time, remembering to strength train and run more, becoming a sort of dentist by mastering composite restorations, and frequenting Philly beer gardens in all that spare time…

May we never lose our wonder, y’all.

[brought to you by post-exam jello brain]

We are definitely reaching the thick of the semester, and time for blogging sadly got put on the back burner this past week. Today we had a monstrous Foundational Sciences exam. I won’t dare tell you how many pages my typed study guide ended up being or how many Spotify playlists I burned through in the past 5 days. Oh joy, we’ve got another one coming right back at us for Biological Systems on Monday. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of just seeing the mundane of studying and going to lecture and lab day in and day out, and I’m still really trying to maintain healthy balance and perspective constantly.

scrubs

We finally got our classy navy scrubs in (am I a chief surgical resident on Grey’s yet??), so that’s at least one step closer in the “Dr. Price” direction. Let’s be real, I’m so glad I chose a career where professional pjs are the norm everyday. GRD lab is also off and running at a quick pace and we’ve already finished our central incisor and canine wax-ups, and now we’re working on the premolar. For those of you that don’t know what that means, it’s basically where we build an entire tooth out of nothing but wax and have to create all the details of the anatomy of that specific tooth. It’s feels very archaic with our Bunsen burners flaming as we heat our waxing instruments, melt and pick up a drop of wax, and try oh try to place and “flow” it where we want to build that marginal ridge or distal contact point before it solidifies. Fun? Surprisingly, sort of. Frustrating at times? Definitely. Hilarious b/c of the people I sit around and what we talk about for four hours? You know it, Novin, Ash, and Marisa 🙂 The faculty are pretty helpful with constructive criticism along the way, but when it comes time for grading our finished product, a non-dental person wouldn’t believe how many details go into what makes a #12 a #12 aesthetically, how it articulates in occlusion, where the height of contour is placed, how it’s aligned in the arch, and every other thing they can take off points for. wax

The morning temps are dropping (glory glory #fallelujah), the Bean boots have made their debut, and I’m getting more and more excited to experience my first real fall living on the East Coast. Jenna, one of my BEST friends from Baylor got to come visit last Thursday through Sunday and we had an absolute blast together. Even though it was dreary, windy, and rainy all weekend due to the hurricane, we loved it and enjoyed adventuring around Philly with plenty of studying and coffee shops thrown in, just like old times together. She’s at Boston U for a Master’s in Public Health, so she definitely understands the grad school grind and how weekends unfortunately can’t always be all play and no work. The main reason she came was to go see our boy Ben Rector in concert with me, and we later realized when we saw him in Waco last was an exact year ago so of course we had to take another pic with yet another Ben T shirt together. It was such a refreshing time getting to catch up on East Coast life that we’re both new to, church, school, family, and relationships with Jenna. jennaben

I definitely wish sometimes that I had more time in the day for things like my latest Don Miller read, Scary Close, experimenting with seasonal dishes in the kitchen, lifting more weights, writing more letters (the stack for correspondence in my metal envelope hung on the wall is growing quickly…), but at the same time I’m learning to cherish the small moments here and there, even if it’s in the midst of the business. Things like lunchtime Bible study with classmates, walks through the gorgeous Penn campus, solid heart to heart text novels/convos (during collagen synthesis lecture oops) with friends back home, a conversation with the barista, attending a local “black church” last Sunday with my church-hopping buds and having a sweet time of worship, and the never-ending Spotify music sharing and discovery with friends here and home. philly

Sometimes I walk down the street or through campus, and I think to myself, “Do I really live here? Am I actually in grad/dental school?” Oftentimes we get so caught up in the negative – i.e. “all of the above except” exam questions, if we got an 8 or a 9 on our tooth waxing, how many hours of sleep we’ll get tonight – when there is so so much around us to be grateful for. I pray that I never take for granted the opportunity I’ve been given to be here and to be learning so much every day to one day be able to use these gifts and this knowledge to really make a difference in peoples’ lives.

A verse that I’ve always hung onto for a long time and especially in times of transition is Habakkuk 1:5 – “…be utterly amazed. For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” God always has some crazy exciting things up his sleeve, and I am constantly asking for an increase in patience and trust that His ways are higher than mine. Let us be filled with expectancy and hope, always. Those things you’re believing for? Keep believing.

Until next time, I’m studying epithelium and the thrills of saliva, adding pumpkin pie spice to my coffee grounds, biking and running more in the cool of the day, and falling more in love with my favorite season.

On seeking balance and fleeing comparison

These days I’m learning more and more about myself as I aim to master balancing schoolwork with everything else, and I’m also in the process of figuring what all exactly I want to be involved with at Penn Dental when it comes to organizations, leadership roles, frats (yes, frats), clubs, etc. I know I can’t say yes to everything, but I also don’t want to just sit on the sidelines and float through these four years simply to leave with a degree. I want to leave with experiences and memories of things other than studying for hours on end like today (and all week) for our Biological Systems exam Monday. I want to be a voice for my class, get my hands into projects that I can take on, and utilize my unique passions.

We have different interest meetings literally every day for another group (usually with free food so duh we’re going), and lately we’ve had a few events for the dental fraternities (that’s another story – I’m sure all my undergrad friends are cracking up that I’m even thinking of joining one). I applied for our ASDA board as either a D1 Rep or Contributing Editor (aka writing blogs/articles for newsletter, website), and would really love to have a chance to play a bigger role in ASDA already in my first year. I’m also on the class council ballot for both Curriculum/Academic Chair and Ethics Chair. I think either one of those would be a really cool way to serve the ridiculously cool Class of 2019 Penntists (and the classes to come as far as making our curriculum as effective as it can be), strive to maintain our awesome class dynamic and get through any specific struggles, and get to know faculty throughout the school. This is my campaign plug, classmates – you know you want to vote for me 🙂 There’s also talk about having just for fun secondary elections for things like Class Chef, Class Baby, or PR/Social Media Chair aka me. One of our professors in lecture the other day, (sort of weirdly) anonymously called me out basically about my blog, and everyone automatically knew it was me. Long story short, somehow some faculty know about me and that I blog about dental school and just wanted to check it out or wondered what I was saying I guess. So yeah, I’m pretty much here to be a billboard for how awesome Penn Dental is now and can’t talk bad about my profs (even though Dr. M assured me I was free to rant about how awful her tests are b/c it was my perogitave to write about whatever I want). But seriously, though. Apply here. I’ll come say hi on your interview day like I’ve already done for the first 2 rounds of new interviewees! And maybe get some free coffee while I’m there…

it's always sunny in Philadelphia - Rittenhouse Square

it’s always sunny in Philadelphia – Rittenhouse Square

A lot of people probably think professional school (med, dental, law, etc) is a boring and dull grind of absolutely nothing but studying your brains out 24/7. Well, news flash, that’s actually not accurate. Maybe more like 10/6 but whatever. I often tell my friends and family back home that to me, dental school is certainly one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done while also being hands down one of the funnest times in my life so far. Sure, you can lock yourself away in a library cubby and never see the sun for days on end, and I’m sure you’ll get that 98 on the exam and keep your dreams of specializing at your top choice program one day (side note – yes I’m still interested in specializing at the moment, but I also refuse to be miserable). However, I am such a HUGE advocate of taking time for mental, spiritual, physical, emotional, and social health and remembering that while we are a student, we are still a person. A person that needs to do things like go get popsicles just because, take a long break for a sunset run, bike to Rittenhouse for La Colombe coffee simply because we finished class at 1, sleep that extra hour or two, make a beautiful meal, skip a lecture this coming Thursday b/c TEXAS, or take the entire Sunday off from studying last week because your border collie back home you’ve had for 17 years passed away. There are times when school will simply come second to things like that. When mom told me that Jody died, I immediately couldn’t even think about studying anything. I went home to pretty much cry in bed the rest of the day, watched Eat Pray Love (one of my faves), and had therapeutic pizza (what else?) with some friends to get my mind off of it.

my boy

my boy

Another thing I’ve already realized is how easily my classmates and I get trapped into comparison even though I wouldn’t say Penn is “competitive” like it’s reputation sometimes. While I took the day off Sunday b/c I honestly could not focus on school for one second, I couldn’t help but think about how “behind” I would get on studying for our next exam. People are constantly talking and asking each other about how much they are (or aren’t) studying, and as much as I seriously love the collaboration of our Facebook group page when it comes to study materials, I think sometimes it contributes to this unspoken comparison of who’s doing what and how early. When professors announce the average or grade distributions of how many As, Bs, etc, you can’t help but think about where you fall in that spectrum, and we forget that we are 120 people that are used to being the best. That’s how we got here. I remember at my interview someone saying that coming to dental school (and maybe more so at a place like Penn that is just more competitive for acceptance), you have to prepare yourself to be average. We have all been above average academically our entire lives, and now there has to be 50% of the class that is “below average.” It’s truly a crazy concept for us type-A overachievers. They also said, though, that it doesn’t even matter at all, because when we graduate and are then in the real world as practicing dentists, we would be above average again (there’s more of that Penn pride…). A friend from Baylor who’s a first year med student actually just started a blog and wrote tonight on this very thing. Check it out to read basically what I’m trying to say here. We often forget that everyone comes from different educational/personal backgrounds and that what works for me may be completely different from what works for someone who’s been out of school for five years or who is married and has kids. While I always will strive for excellence in everything, I am not striving for perfection. I have to remind myself DAILY of a truth I learned throughout college and in my personal journey. That is that my grades or anything I DO will never be my identity. I am a unique and loved child of God, and THAT is my identity.

Speaking of that balance, after studying for way too many hours today, I’m now going to grab a Blue Moon harvest pumpkin ale and watch an episode of Grey’s before calling it a night. Happy weekend, friends.

P.S. 5 DAYS TIL TEXAS

We won’t be distracted by comparison if we’re captivated with purpose. – Bob Goff

And then it was here

Since I’ve last posted, so much has happened. Okay, understatement of the year. The majority of my summer was entirely low-key and uneventful while I longed for that moving day that seemed impossibly far away.  August hit fast, and life is flashing by like it does all too well.

On July 30th, I became an aunt again to the newest, most perfect, chunk of a ginger nephew, Grayson Lee, and then quickly had to say a tearful “See you later” to him and his older brother. My sis let me be in the room this time for the birth, and I will never forget that incredible moment our family shared. This summer has been the epitome of bittersweet and overwhelming change with Dad being gone, and that day was no exception. IMG_8108

IMG_8160

I packed up my entire life in TX and drove (I really should say rode) across the country with my mom, who I’m convinced is the best road trip partner on the planet – not to mention a beast at driving that massive truck that I hated driving after a good five miles. I was much better qualified for playlist DJ-ing, local restaurant Yelp-ing, map navigating, and updating our progress via social media and ample photo uploads.IMG_8893

We enjoyed our day pit stop in Nashville seeing some great music sites including the historic Ryman Auditorium and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The best part for sure, though, was meeting up with my old roomie Chels for local drinks and eats and one last hug goodbye. After 4 days total and 3 days on the road, we finally parked and unloaded our U-Haul with the help of old family friends (who are local!), Ian and Susan, in front of my new home (which I LOVE and pics will come soon) for at least the next year and hopefully longer.

apartment on the right, dental school in the back!

apartment on the right, dental school in the back!

All last weekend, Mom and I set up my place and had ample time for all the touristy must-do’s in Philly. Falling in love with this place is so easy. The incredibly rich history combined with the modern and diverse vibe makes for such a cool melting pot of people and cultures, not to mention food and art. I’ll have plenty of time to write about all that over the next four years, though – like mastering Septa so much that my classmates think I’m from the area or successfully grocery shopping without a car. I still can’t believe I’m actually here. Now when I think about that entire decision process I wrestled with for weeks, I cannot imagine being anywhere else. I already have such a peace and confidence that I am exactly where I need to be, and have hope that that will only continue to be stronger as the weeks and months go by.

#tourist

#tourist

At Penn Dental, our orientation lasts an entire week and is full of riveting informational lectures, presentations (read: librarians putting us to sleep and Penn Police scaring the you know what out of us about the realities of West Philly), and of course abundant opportunities for “social activities” (pretty much all night happy hours) getting to know the people that we’ll live life with for the next challenging four years. Every night we’ve gone out as a class to fun local bars/restaurants with our orientation leaders and some of the D2s and had a few scavenger hunts along the way to get to know our new city and ultimately each other. Basically that means living it up before reality hits and our lives are consumed with things like microbiology, embryology, and dental morphology all too soon.
IMG_9533        IMG_9637                                                                 Monday we had our white coat ceremony, which is a really cool milestone in any future doc’s life that marks the induction into the profession. Penn Dental faculty has definitely made it clear that we are no longer students, but we are professionals, student dentists, and ultimately their colleagues. I already feel such a tremendous pride and honor from being at such world-class institution surrounded by so many driven and diverse people that all share the passion for dentistry. Each day I’ve gotten to know my classmates better, and I just can’t believe how well the admissions committee does at just picking 120 straight up COOL people from thousands of applicants. We’ve made it past the first couple of awkward small talks, and I’m slowly starting to know most faces and names and have definitely started to have realer and deeper conversations with some. This morning I even church-hopped with a few friends, and I can’t thank God enough for already showing me that he’s providing me with a new spiritual community even if it might take awhile to find a new church home.

IMG_9644There’s just such a camaraderie between us that can’t be compared to high school or college classmates. Then it was always about being friends with people who you grew up with for 18 years, look or act just like you, or happen to be involved in the same extracurriculars as you. Here I feel like everyone genuinely wants to get to know and be friends with everyone, and nobody cares if we maybe never would’ve been friends in undergrad. Nobody wants to be competitive or cutthroat (which Penn sometimes gets that reputation – very hard to believe now that I’m here), and at the end of the day we all just want to be kick-a** dentists and we’re going to support each other in getting there.

IMG_9502Tomorrow’s my first day of 17th grade (WHATTT?), and I couldn’t be more pumped to start this journey with my 119 new friends and future fellow docs. Penntists 2019, LET’S DO THIS.

“You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending, and beyond that, the God of the universe dwells within you, the true culmination of super and natural. You are more than dust and bones. You are spirit and power and image of God. And you have been given Today.” – SN

Bittersweet: pros and cons of moving across the country

With a little over four weeks left of summer before I make the big move, I thought I’d write a little bit about the things I’m most looking forward to and the things I’ll miss more than I’d like to admit. Having lived in the greatest state (some die-hards would say country) of Texas for all 22 of my years, it is finally starting to hit home that I will be a resident of the different, far off state of Pennsylvania in about a month. More people than I can count give me the “Are you crazy? How could you leave Texas? Ever?” response while some friends are super stoked for me to adventure out of the comfort zone of home. Oh, and Penn Dental is one of the top schools in the country and UPenn’s entire academic system is a world leading institution. That’s sort of why I chose to attend there. Living in a cool new city is just the cherry on top. And it’s not Penn State 😉

Here are just a few of my thoughts about it all.

Philadelphia Skyline

PROS

  • All things new. I dig change.
  • Seasons. 4 SEASONS. In one year and not one day. Yes, I know one of them is uber cold. Still, seasons other than constant sweating for at least half the time and looking out for the random ice storm or great flood the other half.
  • Urban living in a city full of young professionals. Even though Waco is much bigger than my hometown, it’s a little far from actual city life.
  • Open minded people. I know it will be a huge change from the Bible belt and far right wing conservatism of East Texas, but I welcome other ideas and opinions and having intelligent conversations about big issues without anyone blowing up. I’m not saying college turned me into an all-out liberal by any means, but I can still value people with different backgrounds and views. I will still holdfast to Truth no matter where I live. The God of Atlanta, TX and Waco, TX is the same God of Philadelphia, and I’m excited about learning to trust in Him more than ever, especially when it’s not the cultural norm like I’ve always known.
  • Foodie heaven – Philly is definitely on the culinary rise and it’s way more than just cheesesteaks.
  • Car-free and bike-loving life. Goodbye to buying gas and hello to everyday cardio.
  • Proximity to NYC, DC, Boston and other cool places along the East Coast. Instead of driving for 12 hours and still not being out of TX in some places, I can hop on a bus and be in NYC in about an hour and a half. DC about the same. I can also meet up with my fellow East Coast pals like Jenna or Danny in Boston, Dusty in NYC, and anyone else who I convince to move this way in the future. I’m looking at possibly making it to a day of the Food Network Wine and Food Festival in NYC this fall or catching tix to see my man Jimmy Fallon or finally a Broadway. You know, in all my spare time outside of studying my brains out…

CONS

  • Y’all already know I’m sad about it. Tex Mex. Read: jitas and ritas as I know it.
  • Other people not saying “Y’all.” (see above for indication of frequency of use) And everyone knowing me as the one from Texas and commenting on my sweet, Southern accent that I don’t even think is that bad. It can be a pro, too I guess…Everyone loves a Southern belle, right?
  • Being so far from most of my family and friends. I’ve got a new nephew coming in T minus one month, and I know I’ll miss my mama from day one after being home with her all summer. Waco won’t be a quick road trip away and all my friends in Dallas, Houston, or Austin will only feel close if I read their letters.
  • Having to find a new church home and spiritual community after my incredible four years at my church in Waco with some of the best people I know. I know this one will be tough and may very well take longer than I’d like.
  • Shiner Bock, Texas BBQ, and Blue Bell. I know Blue Bell is questionable for everyone right now, but what about real BBQ and small town Texas-made Shiner? Someone please tell me it can be found in the Northeast.
  • Football. I really want to go to something like a Penn vs Harvard football game and laugh and tell all my Texas people about what a joke it was. Ivy League vs Big 12? Please. Football games, and especially college football Saturdays, in the South are like nothing else. Sic ‘Em Bears. #OneTrueChampion (Oh how I wish I could come to Ft Worth this fall)
  • Everything else I’ll only realize I miss once I’m gone and a plane flight away. Also, I am so going to be one of those people in the airports on Christmas Eve because we have class/clinic until the 23rd. What is that even?

Nevertheless, I’m beyond pumped for my new adventure! I’m just trying to not think about the actual “school” part at the moment…

“Life is like that, of course, twisty and surprising.”

I’m returning to the blogging world after a month of a holiday hiatus. Isn’t it funny how when I actually had more time to write over Christmas break, I don’t even write one post? Well, this is my insanely brief overview:

Naps on naps. Pinterest. Baking. Shopping. Family time in the country. Guitar. Resting in The Word. Ringing in 2015 with a night out in uptown Dallas. Crying in AT&T stadium at the final score of the Cotton Bowl (my last game as a Baylor student). Feeling 22. Deciding on dental school. Declining other schools. Committing to another school. Receiving the scholarship I’d been praying for for months. Withdrawing previous acceptance and officially committing to being a class of 2019 “Penntist.”

Let’s just say maybe why I didn’t have time to blog was because my mind was highly preoccupied with this obvious roller coaster. I quite possibly have never felt more all over the place in my life than I have in the past 45 days (it was way harder than my up until the last minute college decision). I’ve tried to update on my blog with my specific thoughts occasionally throughout this long, stressful, but exciting process simply because I want to be able to look back and see how God was leading me along the way and to have that same feeling that I have now about going to Baylor for undergrad – that the fact that I ever was torn between schools is actually funny now. So this is mainly for me to read a few years from now maybe as I’m finishing up D4 and being so incredibly grateful for God’s provision and that I made the decision that I did. If you’ve been reading my recent posts, you know Penn was my dream school where I really saw myself thriving and the stepping stone to reaching my personal and career goals in the future. It is also one of THE most expensive schools in the country. Well, crap. My mom always said I had champagne taste…

After finals were over and I had a chance to hash everything out with my mentor and then my parents when I came home, I had finally come to terms with the financial implications of going to where I had really felt led to go for so long. I was going to Penn, I was going to be in a heck of a lot of debt, but I wasn’t going to regret it.

That night I “decided” I felt so sure that it was the right decision. The following days, though, ALL I could think about was what THAT kind of debt would look like for a chunk of my life, and that I would in fact regret being an Ivy League trained doctor struggling to make everything work financially. It’s really twisted if you think about it. I set Penn to the side for awhile and really tried to imagine myself at Baylor and Houston. Before, I was so torn between the two and just never really had any peace about choosing either. I talked to several friends at both and reached a new decision that UTSD-Houston would be the best fit and so much more realistic than going to Penn without a scholarship. That week was mostly spent trying to convince myself of all the great reasons to go to Houston. It was OK to turn down Penn simply because of the price, a friend reassured me. Of course initially I was disappointed. Everything before just felt like a tease. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat angry at God. Why would I have gone to interviews and been accepted at Columbia and Penn – and felt so strongly drawn to Penn specifically – and then it all just be taken away. I was at the point where I just wished I would’ve never even applied to those schools, and it would’ve been a LOT easier decision if I didn’t get in to either. I tried to “get over” the idea of going to Penn, and every day I honestly was getting more OK with the idea of being in Houston next year. This was, after all, an incredible blessing to even be in this position of getting to choose where to go. I even took a trip down there to visit my friend and planned on looking at Houston housing options. I had lost that hope and expectancy that I felt all throughout December of the chance of still getting a scholarship to Penn.

Then things got thrown upside down that same day I was driving back to Waco from my side road trip to H-town. Earlier when I had told my family about my decision to go to Houston, I explained it as an “unless…” situation. Penn’s deadline wasn’t until the 15th of January, so obviously I was still going to just see if anything happened in that next week or so before the door was officially closed. Like I said though, I was pretty much over it and finding peace in my Houston decision. I had realized maybe a lot of me wanting to go to Penn was my pride and feeling that I “deserved” to go to my top choice after working so hard in college. I had to put away my selfishness and turn all of this back over to God and his plan for me. I was going out to dinner with my friend that night to my favorite pizza joint, and she asked me how I was feeling with the recently changed decision. I explained how I was still a little disappointed that it all came down to financial reasons. It wasn’t my plan A, but plan B is sometimes the best thing that can happen. As I’m saying this, I look at my phone, and I see that it’s the Philadelphia area code that I had been sure to memorize. Oh hi there, plan A. My first thought was they were calling to ask about my decision since I hadn’t sent in my deposit or really updated them on my situation. My other thought was that they were calling and going to offer me the lowest scholarship, still not helping enough for me to be able to change my mind. I knew that if they would’ve ever called and given me the max scholarship that I’d go in a heartbeat. If it ended up being the middle level amount, it would be the most complicated. I would have to seriously think about it and be SURE I would be making the right decision, whatever that was. So of course, guess what happened? Yep, the complicated route. All I could do that night was say WOW WOW WOW it actually happened? And laugh. Lots of laughing at God’s sense of humor and my crazy life as well as thinking how worn out everyone in my life was getting with me talking about all this back and forth nonsense.

At first I was so confused because of the timing and everything from the past couple weeks of me talking myself into Houston and JUST now beginning to get really excited about it. I read back through my prayer journal that night, though, and it was unreal how many times I specifically was yearning for financial provision if Penn was where He was leading me. Several times I also wrote things along the lines of “I know you LOVE to surprise me, so I am trusting it will all be in your perfect timing”,  and “I know you make the impossible possible.” There was also the powerful Sunday at church on trusting God with finances when I went to the front to be prayed for the week before I heard anything about acceptances. After taking the weekend to really keep praying about it and talking to my family and close friends about it who had been with me through the entire dramatic saga, I realized that there was no way that all this happened for me to turn it down and still go to Houston. This Dean’s scholarship was exactly what I had been believing for from the beginning. My creator knows the desires of my heart inside and out before I even ask. I have been so constantly reminded in all this that his dreams for me are far greater than my own. This is only the beginning of a crazy adventure of the next season: my life as a twenty-something Dr-to-be in a major Northeast city where I will be stretched academically, mentally, and spiritually. I am leaving my unbelievable community of friends here (who have been some of my biggest cheerleaders in all this), my family who has never stopped supporting me and my crazy big dreams since day one, “y’all,” Tex-Mex, and a lot more. As scary as all that is, I am beyond pumped for what’s ahead: receiving a dental/medical education like no other, an entirely new city full of ALL kinds of people that I would never have met if I stayed in Texas, learning exactly what I will be doing in my career impacting people’s lives everyday, 119 of the most interesting/fun/smartest people that I will ever know and get to call classmates, actual SEASONS praise the Lord, and meeting my new best friends (or…WHO knows, something more??) for life. University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and all that 2015 has in store, I’m coming for ya.

All I wanted for Christmas

All I wanted for Christmas

The title quote is one from Shauna Niequist that I even posted on Facebook on New Year’s Eve as an encouragement and hope for all my friends – especially those of us in the middle of major life changes – in 2015 (before all of the crazy twists actually happened).

“Everything is interim. Everything is a path or a preparation for the next thing, and we never know what the next thing is. Life is like that, of course, twisty and surprising. But life with God is like that exponentially. We can dig in, make plans, write in stone, pretend we’re not listening, but the voice of God has a way of being heard. It seeps in like smoke or vapor even when we’ve barred the door against any last-minute changes, and it moves us to different countries and different emotional territories and different ways of living. It keeps us moving and dancing and watching, and never lets us drop down into a life set on cruise control or a life ruled by remote control. Life with God is a dancing dream, full of flashes and last-minute exits and generally all the things we’ve said we’ll never do. And with the surprises comes great hope.”

“So what’s your #1?” and why it’s OK I don’t have an answer

People are still so shocked when they hear me simply say, “I don’t have one” after they ask me that question about my fast -approaching decision of where I really want to go for school next fall. I understand they are doing the polite thing by being interested in my future and what I’ve been working towards all of my college career. I’m still tired of having to explain how I don’t have a first preference or that I really do not know where I want to go RIGHT NOW. If you asked me where I want to live in ten years or who I want to marry, would you also expect a well articulated detailed answer with confidence? It’s impossible. I only know who holds the future, and that is enough.

I realize this is an incredibly good “problem” to have, and I am not at all trying to sound like I’m stressed out about it. At the same time, having so many options is not always the best for someone as indecisive (when it comes to major life decisions aka college, major, etc) as me. I’ve always been one to heavily weigh each pro and con of pretty much everything. I didn’t commit to a university until May of my senior year of high school when I ultimately chose to go where everyone in my life knew I probably would. I guess I relish the drama and like to keep people guessing.

Since I wrote about my first UTHSC – San Antonio interview on here, I’ve traveled close to home (Dallas and Houston) and to an all together new world of the Northeast (Philly and NYC) to a total of four other schools: Texas A&M/Baylor College of Dentistry, UT School of Dentistry – Houston, University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, and Columbia University School of Dental Medicine. Wow.

“Take a step of faith when God gives you a vision because you trust that the One who gave you the vision is going to make provision. And for the record, if the vision is from God, it will most definitely be beyond your means.”

It was such a season of waiting and anticipation those few months of constantly checking my inbox or SDN notifications (yep I’m one of those nerds), and I couldn’t help but jump up and down or do my happy dance with each new invitation. I am so grateful that God opened all these doors for me, and I can’t help but praise and give him the glory throughout all of this. Just to be offered interviews at those schools was a huge dose of affirmation that all of my years of hard work and passionate commitment to my future vocation were worth it and that I truly am walking in God’s calling on my life. If you would have asked me in my little small town Atlanta, TX high school (when I did start considering a medical career – first medical school, later dental) if I saw myself even going to interview at an Ivy League grad school, I probably wouldn’t have even known which schools you were talking about. Now all of these big scary decisions are in front of me that lead to four (I can pretty much rule out San Antonio at this point personally for various reasons even though it is an excellent school!) very tangible and realistic lives I could have for the next four years or even more depending on residency possibilities.

“Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God.”

Everyone that I’ve talked to that’s already in school somewhere seems to have the same kind of answer when I ask how they ended up choosing that school (if they had that wonderful problem that I’m hoping to have which is multiple acceptances). They all say something along the lines of just having a certain feeling at the end of their interview day that it was somewhere they could thrive, be surrounded by supportive classmates and faculty, find their specific niche through opportunities that the school offers, and ultimately a place to call home for the next season of life (we’re talking most of the 20s.) Well, I felt that at every school. Seriously.

My roommates, friends, and family like to guess which school I really will probably end up at, but I promise them I don’t know any more than they do. Most people don’t understand how complicated this decision is and that it’s based on so much more than just, “Where do you want to go?” How about we talk location, COST, student body, research, specialty exposure, honors programs, grading/testing style, ranked vs not ranked…the comparisons could go on forever.

“Finally, I learned that we shouldn’t seek answers as much as we should seek God. We get overanxious. We try to microwave our own answers instead of trusting God’s timing. But here’s an important reminder: If you seek answers you won’t find them, but if you seek God, the answers will find you. There comes a point after you have prayed through that you need to let go and let God. How? By resisting the temptation to manufacture your own answer to your own prayer.”

First of all, the general consensus of these interview days are that they are…fun! I don’t know why I was so nervous about this part of the application process. I have genuinely loved each conversation I’ve had with current students, my faculty interviewers -and not to sound too confident – but I honestly think all of them liked me too (we’ll see just how much come December 1st, right?). Another cool part of these visits is meeting the other students there interviewing with me that day. We all instantly click and have great conversations throughout the day about our colleges, other interviews, our diverse backgrounds, etc. These same folks that all laugh when I say “Y’all” (or actually know where Baylor is and that our football team is pretty cool as of late) could in fact end up being my classmates and life-long friends or colleagues. Weird. Also extremely cool to think about. 

If we were to play a game where I just say the first words that come to my mind when I think of that school/city (or if you had a peek of my extensive pro/con comparison chart of each school), it’d look a little something like this:

baylor picTAMU/BCD: Family, happy, reputation, lab work, downtown Dallas, Texans, friends, familiar, busy (lotttttts of tests/quizzes every week), proximity to Waco/Austin/home, churches, supportive, clinical competency, cheapest, numerical grading, awesome faculty, people like me (but more diverse than Houston), tons of Baylor alumni

houston picUTSD: brand new, fun, laid-back, cool new city, hot and humid, best facilities, super friendly faculty, TX Medical Center (best/biggest in the world), great food/bars, art/culture, cousins live there, churches, integrated curriculum, numerical grading, research collaboration, Texans, former frat/srat vibe (I really don’t mean that in a bad way – just that they are all very social/outgoing, have fun)

penn picpenn pic other 1penn pic otherPENN: historic, super cool city vibe, diverse/global vision, ambitious, individualized, extensive honors programs, in clinic from day 1 (as assistants), well-rounded curriculum (general/clinical v specialties), rigorous, reputation, externships, collaborative/ALL schools on one campus, insane specialty rate (like 13 got into OS of 14 that applied, same for all specialties), lots of research, graded/rank top 10, Yesle (D3 blogger friend), supportive, tight-knit, cutting edge, beautiful weather and actual seasons, far from home, scary amount of dollar signs, Dean’s scholarship

columbia picnyc picnyc other picCOLUMBIA: NYC duh, medical education (with med students/med classes first 1.5 years), pioneering research, pass/fail/honors (WOW tempting), most diverse, incredibly driven, mentorship, family, networking, reputation, they breed specialists, strong OS prep (insane high scores on Step 1), work hard/play hard, more scary dollar signs, zero competitiveness, less preclinic/clinic, externships, highest cost of living, John (D2 Baylor alum), foodie central

All that to say…that’s my [lack of an] answer. I may or may not have other thoughts deep down and visions of my future that point in one direction or another, but for now I’m staying open-minded to anything that could happen. I’m tuning in to God’s voice and praying circles around this. Several people have told me at this point there is no such thing as a wrong decision. I fully believe that, and I remind myself daily that I will get clarity in God’s timing. More than anything, on my heart is the weight of the financial stress that this decision entails. Recently I’ve shifted towards asking for bigger than ever faith and trust that God is the ULTIMATE provider. Eventually we have to realize that we can plan like it depends on us, but we’ve got to pray like it depends on God. 

The future is exciting, my friends.

“While we’re busy planning, sometimes God is chuckling. And if our plans are way off, that contagious chuckle probably makes its way through angelic ranks like a laugh track. It’s not a vindictive chuckle, as if God relishes our failure. I just think God is sometimes amazed at how small our plans are. He allows our small plans to fail so that His big dream for us can prevail. So keep planning like it depends on you, but make sure you pray like it depends on God. Prayer is the alpha and omega of planning. Don’t just brainstorm, praystorm.”

– All quotes from The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson –