In my last post, a Lolabees Friend shared a wonderfully thoughtful comment that got me thinking about a lot of things. One thing in particular stood out. At the close, he said:
All I can say at this moment — 4 weeks after taking a break from dentistry — is that just now I am beginning to feel like I can take a breath and relax. Really live. Pursue some interests I truly have a passion for. And for the first time in a long time, say “I really don’t care.”
His experience is not surprising at all. What strikes me is this idea that now he can finally pursue other interests that he really loves. Why suddenly now? Why not while he was practicing dentistry? It reminds me a lot of my own experience. When I was practicing dentistry, being a dentist was my identity. That was all I had, or so I thought. Of course I loved doing other activities like skiing, hiking, yoga, and having an active social life all the time; but I somehow discounted those things. I was so obsessed with my identity as a dentist, that I overlooked the value and impact these other interests could have on my life. I also believed I had no others talents, skills, and interests. This feeling was very real for me at the time. But when I look back now, I see how untrue that really was. It wasn’t until I was forced to abandon this career that I started to view myself as a whole person who might have other interests and passions.
Why do we feel that we must focus entirely on dentistry when we are in this career? Why can’t we have both? Why did it take both Eric and me getting distance from our own practices to begin to feel like we could breath, and relax, and live, and pursue our interests and passions? It’s as if we had our entire lives compartmentalized, and it left us fragmented instead of whole.
I wonder if this is the key.
If we felt like we could pursue other interests while in dentistry, do you think we could feel more balanced and happy with our lives? It reminds me of the lottery fantasy we all have. Did you ever imagine what you would do if you won the lottery? We come up with a whole different set of rules and plans from how we are currently living. While much of that is dependent on money, we can do a lot of it before we win the lottery. A lot of our imagined rules really connect back to our state of mind. So why can’t we live out some of those dreams before we win the lottery? Or why can’t we live out some of our passions and interests while we practice dentistry?
What are we waiting for?
I know now that my tunnel vision was a reality that my state of mind created. The truth is, if I were happy doing what I was doing, I would have felt more free. That freedom would have allowed and encouraged me to live with more excitement. I would have appreciated my job and would have been more open to appreciating my other passions and interests. Instead, I was so focused on hating dentistry that it overshadowed everything else that was a part of me.
I’m still not sure why we do this. What do you think? Is this true for you too? If so, why is dentistry so all-encompassing for you? Why do we feel we can’t have both at the same time? Where did this belief come from, and why do so many of us fall into this trap? Is this something that was ingrained in school, or did we all learn it after years in the field?
If you are feeling like you can’t pursue other interests right now, what can you try today to get yourself out of that tunnel?
Why wait? You never know what opening your mind up will do for your soul.