Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Defining Decade

It is Wednesday morning, which means…. 7:50AM huddle? Denture day? No, just another miercoles in my world. Every day is a day of leisure in my current life. Graduated, officially licensed to drill, and DEA-certified. Insured and double insured (T Swift’s legs? Jo’s butt? My hands). Finding stray cats, crashing parties, and eating magazine cover pastries.

After first semester of clinic, in front of my bursting locker

My mornings begin with my new favorite contraption, the lemon squeezer. Despite my general mistrust of such specific kitchen appliances, this has changed my life. All my paperwork got processed quickly, so I’m starting work before June ends.

This is my last regular post. Archiving this blog is a practical decision as much as a deliberate one. As I begin seeing patients in a private office, writing about my experience will be tricky. And I keep thinking about this quote: unexamined life may not be one worth living, but an unlived life is not worth examining. The line blurs between good life and good blog-worthy life when I’m counting the days since my last post.



I leave you with some things on my mind:
- Read Meg Jay’s “The Defining Decade” which is a rebuttal to the phrase “thirty is the new twenty”. If we consider our twenties a time to explore and try out different roles, Dr. Jay asks “consider what part you’re rehearsing to play”.
- After graduation has come and gone, what I should have put on my wishlist if anyone had $400 to spare on a toothbrush/camera.
Emily Weiss of Into the Gloss. I admire her eloquence in speaking her company and meaning of beauty. Start here and be like me and spent hours watching her on Youtube and reading all about what she ate that one week.

Find me on twitter, instagram, email, real life…

Sunday, April 24, 2016

satisfied and hungry

I've been away from Penn on my oral surgery externship and learning a lot. None of this hair net life (pout optional) for a week-- just scalpels, I&D's, and many many extractions. I swear this is what my dad thinks I do as a dentist... because every time I talk to him after school he's asking how many teeth I've taken out that day.


This is the countdown:
1 week to end of externship
2 weeks to move-in date
3 weeks to graduation
!!!?!?!
Where did time go??

I cut my finger last weekend and spent an evening Facetiming all the doctors in my phone book. In one week, my little finger’s healed up miraculously fast, but I was convinced I would be capable of extracting class 3 mobility teeth only.  At a lunch meeting, the dentist emphasized taking care of ourselves- watching out for burnout, working out (get BIG), and eating well. And there I was, staring at my bandaged up pinky and greasy plate of pizza oils. It's a hard balance being kind to yourself (gosh I love caramel popcorn) and checking yourself (eating out every single day of the week? come on).

Some days I feel very big, and other days very small. I know so much already and still have so much to learn. Being humble and proud, satisfied and hungry, it's trix-tricky. I'm simultaneously ready to GET OUTTA HERE and stay a little longer.

Here's our group of lions at our senior dinner at the Union League last week...


...where not a single drop of tear left my face. Just sniffles.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

What I talk about when I talk about dentistry

It's beautiful April. The weather's nice enough that L and I are walking everywhere. Flowers are blooming in Rittenhouse Square in the most gorgeous way. We've been biking all over town, hoping our groceries will fit into our bike baskets. 

The big question for me has been: how much of dentistry plays into my identity? I mentioned it briefly in my last post and lately, I've been obsessed with this question. Examining myself during times when I'm not at work, constantly checking in to see if dentistry is on my mind...



I am beyond excited for my job next year (exhibit a: my little gushy post on Instagram)- but as usual, I have a bunch of questions: How much of my job will be my identity? Because we all love to ask that question: what do you do? If someone were to ask me what I'd been up to, I'd reply with all sorts of dental school news. Working on this case, with this interesting occlusion, etc etc...  


In the grocery line yesterday I was staring at a lady's arthritic hands-- very intently-- because it scared me to no end, that to me equals end of my career. To have a career that is very dependent on my body feels fragile, just as I'm sure athletes do as they get older, but I entered this profession thinking my brain was on the line. To know that my body is a very important vehicle for delivering that knowledge makes me nervous.

In other career-related thoughts, I've been thinking about chopping my hair into a bob. This is from college when I had my hair in a mushroom bob (we're in New Orleans for a lacrosse tournament!). To signal to the world and (more) to myself that graduation is a new beginning, entry into the grown-up world. New working dentist life.


I think to myself now, something as personal as a haircut shouldn't care about your career! This signals that I really do see myself as "Yesle the dentist", that this is a Venn diagram with a big overlap. As a perpetual dilettante who does many things (even in college I had lacrosse, swimming, running--  I was never good at any one of them) to have such a big CHUNK of my efforts/time devoted to this thing called dentistry.... it's a new concept and even after almost-four years of dental school, still novel.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

being positive/ dentist as my identity

I passed my boards everyone!!!! My assistant Valerie and I had almost one hundred cats between us: her socks, my shoes, our bags... I knew when I saw those meow-ey faces that it was going to be a good day.

I had a profound experience last week. A patient asked me about his fillings: "Are they gonna be tooth colored? Because I don't want it to be obvious in my mouth." I explained that some would have to be amalgam. He immediately changed gears and said, "In that case, that'll be like bling bling, I'm gonna like that." He completely switched gears to be HAPPY with the situation, radiating positivity.

My small but incredible achievement: I fit my entire down jacket into my Dagne Dover. It snowed one morning and my locker was already full-- I was so excited about this small achievement & showed it off to everyone in my perio rotation.



I have been thinking about my identity as a dentist. Or rather-- how much of being a dentist permeates into my identity. Much of my key characteristics fit into the typical dentist image: being neat, academic, compassionate-- and yet. There's more to me than my job. I want to keep running, do my pottery, see beautiful buildings... I've seen people who work INSANE hours i.e. my brother who was coming back at 2AM and leaving back at 6AM. And I mention my brother because his job is gonna keep him from attending my graduation- the one and only remaining graduation of my life (ahem)- but we get it.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Worst week of my life

January 21 ~ 28, 2016.

That week is going to deserve a special chapter in my biography because my emotions were SO up and down. 

Boards exam being cancelled, not matching into a residency program, some hiccups in my personal life… And on top of it all, I was eating poorly, skipping gym, not sleeping through the night, and drinking too much... coffee. Self-care had been tossed out the window. 


I still took my “celebratory trip”- which I felt extremely undeserving of, but couldn't cancel because of airplane fee's $$$- but I’m glad I did. I put in all the hard work (regardless of outcome) and pulled through with a plan. I spent time with my oldest friends (my longest #LTR #9years) who know me well who both 1) took my mind off things and 2) gave me honest feedback. They also knew me enough to call me out when I'm being too self-pity boo-hoo.

My best friend with our matching necklaces

Since then, there’s been interesting developments I’m not ready to share publicly yet, but let’s say that the universe has a funny way of doing things. 

Snowstorm in Mt. Rainier National Park, where we went on a blind hike: 

What's helped me in terms of dealing with this huge personal disappointment: being vulnerably open with other people, seeing this as an opportunity to gain resilience, seeking others' thoughts/opinions, laughing over good food, and keeping busy. 

I'm identifying some parts of my character I want to develop: become less vain (a big part of my worry was that I'll seem like a failure to others), become more self-reliant (trust in my instinct and follow through w/my decisions), be flexible with changes (because have you seen my Google calendar?)

Not there yet, but getting there... 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

On not matching into a residency

I am writing from a house-converted coffee shop in Dallas! This week's trip was supposed to be for celebration. Celebrating being done with boards and matching into the program of my dreams... Big cosmic joke HA HA. My licensing exam got delayed. I didn't match into a GPR. Odontoblast (our annual dental school formal) got cancelled.

I was a messy bundle of emotions Thursday (when our licensing exam got cancelled) to Monday (received email about not matching) onward. Playing my favorite song on repeat ("Every night you cry yourself to sleep thinking: "Why does this happen to me? Why does every moment have to be so hard?") Oh, dramatic mode was turned WAY up. Then...

How soon is too soon to be vulnerable to someone new? To be completely honest with others about how hurt/sad/upset you are? Do you admit you feel like a failure or deny it or open up to being comforted and reassured? Do I say "I am totally okay." Or "yeah, I do feel awful."

Because the universe knew exactly what I need. Even the licensing exam being cancelled was a blessing in disguise... I didn't open up the "we regret to tell you" email on exam day, two fillings and a quad to go.

Instead, Monday night I went out with good friends, ate good wings, and laughed a whole lot. I haven't finished responding to Facebook messages and emails from friends who showered me in an abundance of love. I thought I had a huge circus net twenty feet below me- turns out I was tethered in a harness right there mid-air. I only had to stumble a little to see that.

So everyone, although my plan isn't one I intended on- or one that I envisioned for myself, here we go. The thing that scares me the most-working and being a real grown up, starting this chapter, I am doing it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

one week to licensure.

I’m monitoring my blood pressure these days leading up to the exam because I’m starting to feel it (126/78 this afternoon). The knots in my stomach, waking up in the middle of the night feeling like I’ve forgotten something, the many dreams I can't remember. If only I can get to exam day and have that patient in the chair, I’ll be okay. It’s all the paper work and unseen variables leading up to the exam, including that huge snowstorm this weekend.


A bunch of to-do things with no sequence nor organization is my worst nightmare. When I finished reading our ADEX manual and made a sticky note of all the things I had to do, I had this monster on my hands😱

Today has truly been a day of massive failures... I don't think the graveness of my situation has hit me yet. With LESS THAN A WEEK to go until boards, things are happening that shouldn't. But maybe I am too much an optimist to worry just yet... I have faith that somehow, someway, everything will turn out okay. And when that happens, I will have wasted my energy by worrying so much.

Namaste, everyone, namaste, and good night.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

so this licensing thing (and how I want to live)

This whole boards & licensure thing is enough to make anyone grind their teeth down to nubs.


In the final year of dental school, we have to perform a live exam completing:
-2 fillings (one anterior and one posterior)
-one quadrant of scaling and root planing
under a total of ten hours (7 for the first, 3 for the second) in one day.

The entire process spans on for weeks preceding. We search radiographs and screen patients for the perfect lesion, one that is big enough to require a filling but not too big. The right patient with a dependable medical history, no uncontrolled hypertension please. Someone who gets numb easily, will put up with the constant walking around to be checked by examiners, someone who can come during the day, be patient, etc etc. Repeat for each of the three parts.

So after spending weeks in this beautiful place- eating amazing seafood and watching the sun rise over the ocean- I came back a bit in panic mode: I have three weeks to find a patient! What if I don't find one? What if I forget some critical thing during the exam? What if my patient gets on the wrong bus? Should I have been recruiting long-distance? (I've heard of people recruiting successfully via dating apps...) What if I break my loupes the day before? (My loupes are going to be on high protection mode until exam day.) Knocking on wood as I type this.



And of course whenever I woke up at night due to my jet lag, I couldn't fall back asleep because of the crazy scenarios playing out in my head.

Here's what my friends and I keep repeating to each other (and this applies to EVERYTHING! which in our case has been: dealing with superiors, dating, roommate issues, gaining weight, family conflicts, bridesmaids problems....) how you do one thing is how you do everything. It's the general pattern that emerges.

Instead of freaking out about my future & how I blurted out that one silly thing, I step back and think: is this how I want to be living my life? Is this the person I want to be? Because years are long, but the days are short and everything's happening right now, nothing is practice.

My exam is on January 25th, which also happens to be my Match Day. I'm wearing this nervous smile 😁 as I write this but I know that when that date passes and everything turns out FINE, I'm going to say: "I wish I didn't worry so much", that serenity prayer.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Developing our secret dentist language

Past few weeks in highlight reel:

December highlights
-denture parade! Dentures involve a lot of lab work and all those hours finally paid off in December. 
-getting pies and cookies from my patients
-visiting Korea and getting LASIK 
-first crossfit competition (as a spectator)


January highlights
-getting a pet fish
-having sleepless nights due to jet lag and boards nerves (I'll write more about this soon!)
-finally buying that Dagne Dover I had my eyes on

It's 2016 which is a very special year for me, as you all know. Yesle Kim, D'16! Did I ever think I was going to make it this far? That this year (which has February 29th, BTW) was every going to come? And yet. 

Last week, while having a conversation with my faculty, I smiled realizing how incredibly dental-specific our chat was. We were using a bunch of dental terminology and jargon. Here are some pictures to accompany our conversation:


And if you're a dental student or a dentist, you'll recognize what we're doing here. We're talking crown preparations and post/cores. It was such a moment of aha! about a concept that should have been obvious to me: when cutting a tooth, think about how much tooth structure remains. This is especially true for teeth that have been RCT'd, where access for endodontic therapy has compromised the remaining tooth structure. 

There’s two parts we learn in dentistry: deciding how to choose a treatment (brain) and delivering that treatment (hands). Sometimes I get so zoomed in on the latter that I forget to think critically about what I’m doing...

.... and all else fades away

And as incredible as speaking in our secret code is, I also think about how important explaining concepts to patients is. I examined my parents while home and they both have toothbrush abrasion lesions. It's a deadly combination of too-enthusiastic brushing and generalized recession.