Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New Beginnings

Real talk. This blog has taken me almost a month to write due to my schedule. So, those following me along on this journey, my wish to blog frequently, will be no small job. However, I will always do my best to keep you up to date on our happenings.

First, Hi! How are you? I feel like I've fallen off the wagon on keeping up with everyone, and for that I apologize. I'm hoping normalcy will slowly find it's way back to me as I settle in. I just completed (and passed... hallelujah) my first course in dental school: basic science or what we refer to as "BASI." We have a full year of these courses... so, 1/25 of the way done with my D1 year. Small. Victories.

Now, to write about what's been going on and what has been on my heart. Since moving to Arizona a month ago, the constant theme of purpose has flooded my life from every angle. We often make plans for ourselves but God usually laughs at them and my story is no different. But every turn that went differently than what I had planned, has yielded great purpose, even early on in my journey. Whether it be my living situation, my school, my friends... I see the why in my circumstance of being here. It's an important grounding factor when times have been tough and it is a great reminder of His grace in every facet of my life.

When people ask how dental school is going, I laugh. Again... real talk... it is one of the most challenging things I have done (and I'm only almost a month in). It's not that the material itself is challenging... its the sheer volume of everything thrown at you. It stretches you in ways that you couldn't imagine and it's crazy to think that at the end of these four long years, you'll be a dentist and they (Midwestern) are shaping you with purpose every step of the way. I have to remind myself of that. Instead of boring you with describing dental school, I have decided to create a top 10 of things I have learned almost a month into my D1 (1st) year. Will this list change and grown? Absolutely. So will I (and I hope I do). Do I have it figured out? Nope. These are just some personal observations of dental school from my perspective... enjoy.

1. Difficulty is fluid. What is hard for one person may be the easiest piece of the puzzle for somebody else... and that is ok! Like I said, dental school is hard, y'all. But as with anything in life, it is a pendulum... so I am learning. With that being said, your strength will be in a place where you weren't expecting it, so share it. My class should get an award for how amazing and helpful they are to one another. I'm super thankful for them because when things get tough, everyone jumps in to help.

2. True balance is a fabled unicorn. You'll hear about "finding balance" a lot during your orientation. Granted, I am only a few weeks in but my balance has already looked different from day to day and week to week. It depends on the day, my mood, what I have due or what I need to study. No, i'm not saying don't find balance. When you think to yourself: Yes! This is how my week will go because I wrote down my schedule in my super expensive beautiful planner in twenty five different colors... the master schedule changes or your time simply gets consumed with something you didn't write in periwinkle purple. The take away: instead of chasing balance for a quarter... chase balance that is attainable for the day that will make you the most successful (and happy).

3. Take it as it comes. I feel like this goes hand in hand with finding your daily balance. The pile of stuff waiting on you doesn't change... ever. It's still there and the fire hose of information keeps spraying on (at full blast). Side note: my other favorite analogy is everything on fire and your tool to put it out: a water gun. Not a super soaker... but you know the "pew pew" lever action water gun the size of my hand. Any who, the concept of how you eat an elephant applies here... one bite at a time. Prioritizing is key for survival and while some may take it a day at a time, I find that taking in an hour at a time (literally) is how I keep a smile on my face and avoid feeling overwhelmed every moment of the day.

4. Receive it all will a smile. Trust me, I know no one is truly smiling when a semester of intense biochemistry material has been shoved in your face in the span of a week to make for the hardest exam of the quarter (can you say 20 point curve). But when that's over, smile... you made it, you did it, go have a coffee... or maybe something stronger (ha).  Positivity goes a long way not only in school but in life and any victory, no matter how small, is a victory. Be proud and smile.

5. Be open. Dental school is a different type of animal. You've been dreaming of getting started and feel like you know what you are getting yourself into. To a point, you do. But when you finally get there, you're thrown "in the wild" with 140 of your survival mates and newest best friends to endure everything together. You're learning about your classmates, how to study huge volumes of material (reference point number 4), and how to find the time to have somewhat of a social life. It'll stretch you, tire you, and push your abilities beyond what you thought they could go. Be open to change and to adapting, I feel like it will be key for growing in the chaos and not letting it grow on you.

6. Self comparison is destructive. People will be better at things than you... I feel like that applies to life in general. You will be better at things that others may struggle with. Comparing yourself to your classmates will do nothing more than waste your time (it is pretty precious) and drag your confidence down. My class is full of pretty incredible people with a lot of different talents. Rather than self comparison to their great talents, I hope that they can help teach and sharpen me in areas that I may lack and vice versa. That is more time efficient that exploring everything you did worst than everyone else... as Sweet Brown says "Ain't nobody got time for that."

7. Get involved. I was apprehensive about this one but getting involved to your comfort level, is a good thing! When you are in a lecture or lab roughly 32 hours a week and hope to study for at least 20 to prepare for the next week's exams, your free time seems best used trying to... you know... live. Yes, sleep is important. Yes, going to work out is important. However, putting yourself out there and getting involved in clubs, class council, and volunteer opportunities, forces you to step away from the grind and do something different. As I have already learned by getting involved, you meet some pretty wonderful people.

8. Remember what you are working towards. This is probably one of the biggest points that has stuck out to me. This has been a hard one for me because I'm firmly ensconced in the average category when it comes to basic sciences. While I've had difficulty in the simulation lab (cue waxed teeth flying through the air and breaking right before grading... yup), its where I'd rather be and that reflects in my work. It's easy to get tunnel vision and think if I don't make this A in BASI, I'll never be a good dentist. I'm still working on this one because it's hard to give 110% and only receive back 50%. However, making an A in BASI may help me pass my boards and get me to a residency but it will not make me a great dentist. One of my bench instructors who graduated from MWU two years ago discussed this with me. He asked me how I felt about my first ever composite I just created (also drilled for the first time yesterday... super exciting) as he sat down to grade me. I said I felt great about it and I wished dental school was just this because BASI was killing me. He agreed with me that I did a good job and said that moments like this will make me a great dentist... not BASI. I needed that. While BASI is apart of this journey, there's something greater that is waiting to serve as a reminder of why I am doing what I am doing.

9. Don't forget about your most valuable asset: You. When you are incredibly busy but you want to get involved (see 7) and do everything else under the sun, sometimes you can fall by the wayside. There's something to be said for a full night sleep, a fed body, and a peaceful mind. I should probably eat my words here too because I find that this is a struggle. One of my good friends recently posted the quote "You can't pour from an empty cup," and that is so true, especially in dental school. Sure, can we survive on 8 hours of sleep in 2 days, eating quick meals to constitute eating, and go for the pool for an hour to clear our minds? Sure (guilty, again, I'll eat my words). The real question is what your doing fulfilling you in a way that you can give your best into what your doing. If the answer is no, find a way to focus on you and make that a yes. Your sanity and success depends on it.

10. Enjoy (and be grateful) for the ride, no matter how bumpy it may be. On the last day of our orientation, our dean talked about what it meant to be sitting in the seats we were in. He talked about giving all to this process and learning to enjoy every moment. He also said that for all 141 of us sitting in that room, there were 25 people who wanted my seat. Think about that...25 people wanted my seat... times 141 seats. Thats 3,525 people who weren't sitting in those seats living their dream at such an incredible school. Talk about humbling and a reminder of being grateful for your circumstance and new beginnings. Although it's already been hard and I would be lying if I said I didn't question if I was good enough to be sitting in my seat from time to time, I am so grateful for the struggle, the highs, and my surroundings.

That same day, all 141 of us stood up one by one and told our story to introduce ourselves to the people we would be spending the next four years with. I was so awestruck and humbled to be standing among such amazing individuals, that I didn't realize this took hours. Everyone has a unique walk in life and brings something different to the table... and I have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy this ride called dental school with them.

Update: I have attached some photos of my past few weeks as a fun little addition to the blog!

Live. Laugh. New Beginnings.

Melissa

















Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Answering the Call.

As usual, I have let my blog sit vacant for months and months. I often think of things that strike me to write about but time (as with many of you, I'm sure) is an issue. Beyond time, I always hope to write something meaningful, honest, and an accurate depiction of how God is working in my life. Therefore, in these months, God left me silent as he spoke to me, blessed me, broke me, and sharpened me. As I sit here wrapping up my birthday, I think about what "year 28" held for me and how much I have changed as a person in all facets of my life. Not many people look forward to reaching their thirties but I am so incredibly ready to experience God's blessings for answering His call. Will it be hard? Sure. It keeps me up at night when I think about it. However, God always sends reminders that He will be there through it all and He has given me such a beautiful support team. So, with that I felt it on my heart to write about my year and answering God's call.

Applying to dental school is like running the longest race but you are not sure of the race course and the terrain changes with every mile. You know the race is coming, you prepare for it, you train for it but once it starts you often wonder "How did I get here?" or "How will I ever finish?". You feel like the cycle will never end as you hope and pray for interviews, you get them, and interview, and go back to waiting. It's exhausting. But then you blink... and it's over. The past two months I have taken a break from life to recover from the last year. I've needed it to rest and to reflect before I embark on my dental school journey... which I'm sure will mimic on a larger scale what I described above.

On my birthday last year, I said to Jon, "This could be the biggest year of my life." It was but ten-fold. If me today would tell me last year, that this past year (man that's a mouth full) would pan out the way it did... I wouldn't believe myself. When I felt this call on my heart to leave the realm of dental hygiene, go back to school, and apply to dental school, I was terrified. A lot of people asked why I did it and all I could simply say was I feel called to do it and it has been a dream of mine. This road has been a lot of praying and crying out to God to reaffirm His call on my life and each time he answers me... clearly. I worried about the cost of school... I received the Air Force HPSP. I prayed for at least two interviews... I received two interviews. I prayed that God would lead me to the right dental school for me and for Jon (because he is making an incredible sacrifice too)... He led me to Midwestern where we I have my in-laws nearby. I worried about where I would live... he provided a home.

But what if you don't feel God calling you to something? What if you don't feel Him answering? What if you answered His call but you feel as though nothing is happening? These are very real and tangible questions. It can feel like a very lonely and desolate place when the desires of our heart or what we feel is God's calling is not coming to fruition. I stood in that place three years ago where I thought God wanted me to pursue dental school but nothing seemed to be working. One day in a Denver coffee shop, I read my devotional and He answered me in His time. The devotional talked about that sometimes when God seems like He is telling us "no," and things are not happening like we thought they should, he may be simply telling us "not yet." That day changed my life and I realized in the months of my frustrations, He was preparing my heart to surrender fully without hesitation to His call. The "not yet" in our lives are God's masterpieces in the making and that is such a beautiful truth.

His call isn't always clear. It isn't always well-received by people. It can take time. Sometimes what you think He is calling you to, is something much more different and larger but a spiritual lesson in the making. I'd be lying if some of these very things didn't make my heart drop. The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming for Jon and I as we embark on learning to be married but be a commuter couple during this time in our lives as we both are living and working for our dreams. Some people have met us with concern, questions, opinions (I like to think they are all well-intentioned). We do appreciate being asked out of love but the answer is simple, God's call is much greater than our comfort and much bigger than stress or worry. This aspect was one of my biggest worries and battles in this whole process, but God met me in that worry and put strong spiritual couples in our path who have walked a very similar journey to ours. He knew we needed the affirmation from couples who answered the calls in their lives... even when it was hard and not popular. God is incredibly faithful. 

As I look towards my thirties, I couldn't be more excited to see what God has in store for our family. It will be a difficult year on the way there but the joy that comes in knowing I have a husband, family, and friends, who answered this call with me... is indescribable.

Live. Love. Answer His Call.

Melissa