I apologize that Happy Spaces has been on hiatus due to my entrance into dental school. While I have not been able to indulge myself in organizing and maximizing my tiny, city apartment to its full functionality as much as I would like, I have gained a new appreciation for what it means to create a happy space.
Before deciding on dentistry as a career path, I struggled with who I was and who I wanted to be.
Growing up, I had always been a little obsessive-compulsive. Everything had to be in its place. Every line had to be straight, every “I” dotted and every “T” crossed. I would get upset over a scuff mark on my shoe, and there would be an internal volcanic explosion every time I noticed something that was not right or not in its proper place. (Think Anger from Pixar’s Inside Out.) While my martial arts training helped ameliorate my temper, my tick remained.
In fact, some people very close to my heart often discouraged my detail-oriented tendencies. “Paying too much attention to little things,” they would say. Although there was some merit and loving intent in their chiding, it only resulted in self-doubt of my idiosyncrasies, my quirks, and ultimately my identity. Little did I know that there was career and a community out there that would not only embrace my oddity, but also cultivate it into a skill that could help others.
I stumbled onto dentistry as a career option by chance. I had initially planned to be a family physician, but that decision did not feel quite right. After an evening of Google searches for “health-related occupations”, I made a list of options and cross referenced them with career resources that I had available at UCLA, my undergraduate institution. My plan was to narrow the list down to careers with viable and accessible resources, and from there explore each option individually until I found one I liked enough to pursue. At this point, I was hoping to make a decision quickly: I was graduating in one year. As fate would have it, I got accepted into dental school soon after and decided to attend the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry at the University of the Pacific located in San Francisco.
Fast forward a couple years and I’ve just finished my first year of dental school. Looking back, the transition was initially difficult. I had taken a gap year to work at a dental insurance start-up, and so not only did I need to re-acquaint myself with the rigors of an academic schedule, but I had also grown to love so many people and places during my time in Los Angeles and Santa Monica that it was almost unbearable to have to leave and start over in San Francisco.
In spite of all that, I still managed to have the time of my life during my first year. I was fortunate to meet many like-minded individuals at UOP who not only kept me sane, but also challenged me to expand my horizons and venture out of my comfort zone. My aunt calls me crazy for saying this, but never before have I had this much fun at school. Yes, dental school is tough; yes, I spend an average of 14 hours a day on campus; yes, I was at school on weekends, but every single moment I am there, my heart is filled with a sated joy. Whether I am learning about dentistry, doing dentistry, or sharing dentistry as a career path with others, being surrounded by so many others with the same goals makes me utterly happy. Your career should allow you to fully explore your passions. It should facilitate a celebration of you and your talents–not stifle them.
As I begin my second year of dental school, I’m pleased to say that I’ve found my calling as a dentist and that my family has only gotten bigger.
So here’s to change, to loving yourself for who you are, and to new friendships–because if I’ve learned anything, it’s that any place has the potential to be your happy space.