Sunday, March 29, 2015

speaking of happiness

It's official! I'm dedicated to all things happy & joyful. As soon as Gretchen Rubin's new book arrived in the mail and I read the back cover: "she lives with her husband and two kids" I yelled "Eliza and Eleanor!!!" I wish she were my happiness bully. Here's my happiness gold stars.

1. Pottery continues to make me happy- although I've got a long way to go.  Today I made a pot for my succulents and pressed fun patterns into it! So fun. It's the mix of working with my hands (back to kindergarden!) and creating something practical. I spend a lot of time brainstorming what I could make next.

I could spend my Sundays in lab, doing patient work but... nah. This makes me happier. Happy people make better dentists.

open studio hours after work = blue scrubs

2. Pediatric dentistry. I had my peds block last week (one full week of just seeing pediatric patients aka baby teeth party). A classmate casually remarked "I haven't seen you this happy in a while!" I did notice that I felt happier lifted during the day. After all, we get to be silly at work saying funny things ("tooth shampoo", "tooth vitamins", "get your tooth to sleep!"- tell me you didn't smile reading those things.) I have never considered specializing in peds but the work environment seems too fun! Specializing is coming back on the table.

My heart melted when I saw this towel holder low on the ground...
 because little teeth, little hands, short people.

3. How far I've come. In a few months, we're back to the summer schedule where clinic begins at 8AM. For a second I was all, "8 hours of patient work? Yikes." Then I remembered last summer when we first started seeing patients. We did exactly that. I was so lost then! My first filling? My loupes kept fogging up from a bundle of nerves/excitement/fear. I'll probably do that for my first root canal but... every day I'm getting better at dentistry. I'm gaining that quiet self confidence.

I used to believe it was somewhat self-indulgent to make HAPPINESS a focus of my life. But when I'm happier, I am better to others. I'm more patient, empathetic, and understanding. It's that conscious decision to BE happy and deliberately seek out things that bring joy. And this week, a big thing making me smile: these flowers from my boyfriend all over my apartment. He'll read this and think I'm exaggerating but it really is everything. And I stop here to save you guys from all the mushy stuff I could write.

Go read Dave's post! Because if dating/relationship matter to you, being in dental school shouldn't stop that. Even if you decide now isn't the time, Dave mentions great points you can ponder on, such as your ideal career/others balance ratio.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dating In Dental School part 2. The action plan.

Yesle: I believe in living deliberately- and that applies to dating. You guys are swamped with the application part of dental schools, but take a fun break to think about other aspects of your new transition, including dating. From your emails I know you're curious about dating in dental school!

Some things you’ll only figure out with practice and time. Here’s more of Dave's advice to keep in mind on how you’ll date and how you’ll learn to love- others and yourself. If you missed Part 1 from Dave, go read it here- including his mission statement on dating (!!!). My comment on this whole love thing? Dave and I are both figuring it out... but it's a fun journey. Here's Dave (@camevad).

A)   Work them in: Dental student schedules are demanding. Don’t waste your time on boring dates or drunken hookups with your potential partner, unless that’s really all you want. Instead, try new coffeeshop and dinner adventures. Attempt a new hike. Take up a new hobby. I’m a huge fan of adventure dating. I’ve literally explored 75% of Philadelphia on dates alone – and if you’re lucky, they’ll pay ;) . And I’ve picked up a few new hobbies too. Make your time away from school valuable. If it has to involve school, have your partner start to meet your colleagues, volunteer with you, or attend a program or two held by your school. Work them into your dental school life.

B)  School + life: 70/30? 60/40? Make sure you keep some time for academia, volunteerism, and the other duties dental school entails. 60%? 70%? Only you can decide. I would say my life is 60/40 – 60% of my week is set aside to the gym in the morning, lectures, clinic, and labwork/extra courses. But I know when it’s time to leave school and hang out with friends or go on a date. That being said, don’t be that burnout who devotes 90% of your time to school and only 10% of your time to someone else – it just isn’t fair. Explain how busy dental school is to your partner beforehand, and hopefully they will be willing to tag along for some coffee shop or library study dates. Mix it up but set a fair expectation.

C)   Love yourself. This is important: self-care. Before anyone else can love you, you must love yourself- and act it out to make yourself feel loved. I know it’s hard in dental school, but try. Learn to cook, practice your hobbies, find a fitness routine, and treat yourself to some nice clothes and haircuts/spa days. You deserve it as a dental student and great human being, not just a potential date. Self-care took me great places: I found the right living situation, kept the right friends, and worked to upkeep the best physical appearance I can. From there I can only hope someone will love me the way I am.

I hope this helps. This is just one set of advice, and remember that there is more than one way to skin a cat. I know many dental school “class couples”, dental students making it work with other grad students, dental students dating undergrads, married dental students, et cetera. Anything is possible if you set a vision and try. Good luck out there. Cupid out.

Yesle: what do you think? If you're starting dental school with a partner, how have you made it work?
Also a disclaimer: the Gossip Girl obsession is solely mine, not Dave's...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Dating In Dental School part 1. The groundwork.

Yesle: I can't tell you how many people asked about the dating part of my life. Do you have time to date? Do you consciously not date anyone in your program? I got Dave to write this comprehensive (systemic and practical) guide to love (or dating?) in dental school. Writing a mission statement for your romantic life? Owning up to your value? Genius. I’ve included a checklist at the end of each post for what you can do right now. 

It’s funny that Yesle asked me to write about this topic because it is something we discuss a lot when we hang out. I remember one time after volunteering, Yesle looked at me point blank and asked, “How do you do it?!” And by it she means date a lot. I’ve had many successes and failures, but at least I’ve tried. I’ve really put myself out there during dental school and now is my shot to impart some wisdom learned from these past three years. Here are some tips: 

A)    Know quickly what you do and don’t want: You’re a busy dental student, so it’s okay to be picky. Does your potential partner understand your busy schedule? Make sure they have similar volunteer, fitness, and career ambitions as you. Glean this early. If they aren’t going to fit into your busy grad school life, it’s okay to give them the boot. Personally, if anyone wants me to lower my academic standards or skip the gym, I’ll skip on them instead. 

B)   Set a vision: Be honest with yourself and what you want. Do you want someone who will move to residency with you? Vacation with you during breaks? Help take care of you while you’re busy? Completely back off during the week when you’re busy? A gym partner? Great sex? No sex at all? The checklist can go on and on. You are a busy dental student and it is okay to have a bigger list of dealbreakers. You have no time for someone lying, cheating, or misunderstanding your needs as a burnt out student. Your partner should energize you!

C)  Confidence/Personal Mission Statement: This suggestion is huge. And also cocky. But important! You need to love yourself before you can love someone else. Evaluate yourself and set your own mission statement for romance. Mine is as follows:
You are going to be an Ivy League doctor when you are done with your program. You are a military scholar with no debt. You are reasonably attractive, independently wealthy, and have a lot to offer to someone. You dedicate your time to the gym, your classmates, to volunteering in the community, and most importantly to the highest level of care for your patients. Love yourself and the right person will find you in life and appreciate all you do.
When you put it so boldly, you won’t want to take crap from anyone anymore. Value yourself fairly. If you’re a broken mess, say so. If you’re confident and ready to rock a new relationship, say that. Once you know who you are, you will be ready to know who you’re looking for. 

D)   Decide on a course of action: Are you going to hit the clubs, download dating apps, or have your friends set you up on blind dates? Simply put, you need see what could potentially work depending on your style. Another huge decision is deciding on whether to make a move on someone in your program or not. Remember, you must see them frequently in a professional setting. That being said, if there is mutual attraction, don’t write them off if you think it can work. The choice is yours alone. If you have a distance component, be clear with who visits who and when!

Yesle: So here's your homework. 

- Brainstorm what your ideal relationship looks like. Give me a list of 3-5.

- Write up a one-paragraph of your mission statement for your romantic life.

- Decide how you’ll look for dates. Make one specific plan for a specific night. Add it into your google calendar.

Finished your homework? You can read Part 2 here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Applying to the medically compromised clinic

Dr. Yesle Kim- Not quite yet. 

I feel inspired. I want to stay up all night to search the internet about a certain future glitter.

It’s been a while since I felt that. But I caught it last week. After checking out Einstein’s residency program, I began thinking about applying to Penn’s Medically Complex Clinic. Patients in this clinic require special attention such as needing lab updates every 3 months. Fourth years at Penn can apply to see patients one day a week in this MCC.

I want to do my general dentistry residency in a hospital. If anything, I want to confidently treat patients with complex medical histories. When I heard about this, I felt this was what I’d been looking for. When Dr. Newell tells us to have that “swagger”, I think this is what he means. Feeling unstoppable, like I can make things happen for me in my life. That faith.

I wrote my personal statement (part of the application) in a cozy coffee shop one afternoon. I was typing away all my emotions, hoping my pages would catch this excitement I was pouring out. The application process wraps up in a few weeks & I’ll find out by end of this month. So this is something I’m admitting on this blog before I know the outcome. A small fear is that I won’t get it, and now you guys will know about my failure. But maybe that could be a story in itself, an honest account of my dental school life. Story is to be continued. So keep me in your thoughts and wish me luck please!

When’s the last time you felt inspired and unstoppable? When work didn’t feel like work?

Monday, March 16, 2015

I suck at pottery

I feel bad for my family and friends because I’ve been a heap of whines and rants. My ROI on patient recruiting has been dismal. But last week, talking to M encouraged me to see it as a fun challenge. We brainstormed all the silly ways I could recruit patients in Philly and I felt much better after laughing so much.

At pottery class this weekend, I trimmed the bottom too close and my cup was turning into a cylinder. Seeing my mild panic my friend suggested I turn it into a plant pot- perfect! At the wheel, we are both humbled. We're both: “I don’t know what I’m making!” then out emerges a pot, or a bowl, or a mystery lump going back to clay mode.

My instructor uses a lot of dental instruments to carve pottery! Dental hygienist or ceramicist?

But I don’t feel so bad when I suck at pottery. So what if my instructor throws a beautiful convex bowl in two minutes? (I'm developing an eye for beautiful convex lines. That's what my friend and I coo all the time: "it's so beautifully convex!!!") My instructor's been at it since before 1989. I'm humbled and motivated when I see his gorgeous bowls.

I've come to ask myself this: how this is different from prepping a tooth for amalgam the first time? Or taking impressions on your first real person (with a gag reflex) ? Beginning is the hardest and if you can get over the embarrassment/frustration of repeated failures, you’ll only get better. That’s a big realization I had as the wheels were turning (ahem).

Sometimes I mix up pottery and dental school. 

Knowing what my weaknesses are also inspires me to own up to my strengths. I'm a good writer. Yes, I am a good painter. I have an eye for esthetics & am good with small animals. If I’m bad at some things, I get to be great at other things. And I’m not being modest about pottery- because have you seen my twitter?

Things I find difficult: talking to patients about no-show’s, asking friends and family to pass on my business cards, telling patients to pay for expensive treatments, and calling patients about insurance disputes. Things I am good at: encouraging patients to pick up flossing, explaining dental procedures in easy terms, integrating classroom knowledge into what I see in clinic. Another thing I suck at: making snowmen, walking on ice.