Thursday, October 8, 2015

And this is how life works

D3 is the year that you start your block schedule. What this means is that you have rotations through different specialties and areas of training so that you can kinda get your hands wet in the different fields of dentistry. Rotations include pediatrics, radiology, oral diagnosis, oral surgery, periodontics, general dentistry at the VA, and a couple others I'm sure I just forgot to mention.

One of those blocks is called the Systems Based Healthcare/Interprofessional Education, where we basically team up third year dental, medical, and nursing students, and all talk about some common themes to our professions.

This past week was our first session, and it was all centered on team building. To be honest, upperclassmen have told me that it just ends up being a therapy/complaining session, and I'd say for the most part it lived up to my expectation. However, one exercise that we did actually had some pretty interesting life applications.

The idea was that we had this box of tinker toys (they're like legos, or K'nex<--I LOVED THAT STUFF) but anyway, we had a bunch of pieces which we were only able to look at (we weren't allowed to try to fit them together) and our team of 9 students had to figure out a plan to build the tallest free-standing structure possible over a 10 minute planning period. Then we had ~5 min to execute.

So we did what students usually do - we came up with a pretty elaborate plan, strategizing ways to scaffold the structure and best utilize the pieces as we saw fit. At the end of the ten minutes, we felt pretty ready to complete the task. I mean, it couldn't be that hard right?

The funny thing was, the moment we could touch the pieces and start fitting them together, we all realized that our plan had some major flaws - pieces didn't fit; some didn't have the correct angulation. Within the first minute, we completely scrapped our plan. Though we thought we knew the pieces well enough to devise a thorough plan - it really didn't work out remotely close to what we thought it would.

Still, at the end of our building time, we created something that was pretty darn tall. One of my classmates kept reminding us, "all that matters is how tall the building is!!!" And we all had to shut down our micromanagement/OCD instincts and keep building it up and up, no matter how funny it looked.

As I sat there, I immediately thought that this exercise really accurately describes how life works. You see all the pieces - you see your role models and you think that is the life you want. You shadow, and volunteer, and ask questions, and investigate and just keep researching. You see how much respect they have. You see what awesome things they are capable of. And then you think to yourself, this must be exactly what I want. I am certain, this is the correct plan to build the tallest building, and I've got to follow it to the end.

What many dental students will probably tell you, however, is that dental school is not at all what they expected it to be. What that means, is that there is so much about dentistry, so much that goes on behind the scenes, that it's really impossible to know what you are truly getting yourself into. If you are a dental student reading this, you might be able to relate - who would have thought that dentures take so damn long? Who would have known that endodontists are the unicorn magicians of dentistry? Who would have known that S-curves and exit angles and convergence and divergence would mean so much? Who would have known how crappy it is to have your amalgam marginal ridge fracture when you're pulling off the matrix band for a class II restoration??

However, if we're going to continue with my cheesy life analogy, here's the cool part.

Even if your perfect plan for a tall building fails, your building can still be tall. 

No matter what you are doing, there is a way to find meaning, purpose, and honor in what you are doing right now. Life has this really funny way of just plopping things in front of you. What I've found, is you just do what you can, and you run with it. And as you look back, there is this magical thread connecting everything together, which you could have never seen without every piece you've got so far.

Anyway, this is just another one of those times where I sit and ponder universe things, so there you go.