Have you ever experienced a lightbulb moment? An instant in which time seems to stop and you feel as if you've never thought more clearly in your entire life with the answer to your problem or question staring you in the face like it's been there all along? The summer before my sophomore year of college I experienced my first, and it couldn't have come at a better time in my life.
I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field, but as to what exactly that career would be, I was completely unsure. I went into my first year of college a biology major on the pre-physician assistant track. I thought I had my whole life mapped out ahead of me. Four years of undergraduate school and two years of PA school, and I would be set to start my life. Then my mom started getting on my case. My first summer back home she began asking me if I planned on shadowing, and I just kept avoiding the question. I could tell my heart was not in it, but I couldn't bring myself to admit it. It's terrifying having the first year of college under your belt and suddenly doubting what you want to do. I felt lost and helpless because admitting I didn't want to be a PA sent me right back to square one with one less year to figure everything out.
Then one day in early June I was sitting in the reclined chair of my dentist's office and I experienced it. The lightbulb moment. I practically screamed out the question in excitement, shocking my dentist quite a bit, "Can I shadow you?" He smiled and said, "Of course you can." I shadowed and absolutely loved it. I felt comfortable but intrigued, and time flew by in an instant. That was the beginning of my dental journey.
Looking back now, I don't know how I didn't realize dentistry was for me sooner. I've not only had only wonderful experiences with my dentist, but I realize now that it is the perfect combination of science and creativity that I have been searching for. I love to work with my hands and I love interacting with people, I love solving puzzles and being challenged while also being able to help others. Dentistry is all of that combined for me.
A hygienist once told me "smiling is the universal language" and from that day on I realize how true that statement actually is. It is how we communicate with one another without words being spoken, or brightening someone's day from the car over. Smiling is how we express joy, happiness and laughter, and at least for me, it's the first thing I notice about someone. Dental hygiene and care is so important to our overall health but is often overlooked or disregarded. So that's what I hope to do as a dentist, spread awareness of the importance of dental care, while also helping all of my patients to flash their smiles with the utmost confidence.
So no, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was five years old, I discovered my career passion at 19. Just because you may declare one thing, doesn't mean you're glued to it. Although I didn't have to change my major, never think it is too late to change, because it's better to do an extra year of school now than be stuck doing a job you don't love for the rest of your life.