Is Hindsight Really Always 20/20?
It’s easy to look back on the past and see things we didn’t notice at the time. With so much wisdom we feel qualified to judge ourselves and challenge why we made certain choices– as if we should have known better. So I have to ask: is hindsight always 20/20? Are we really seeing more clearly, or is it just a way we skew things to prove to ourselves that we are smarter than we were before; as if that will justify any mistakes we may have made? I don’t know the answer, but I suddenly feel pretty qualified to look back on applying to dental school and recognize the signs that I wasn’t entirely sure about this future I was planning.
Or maybe they weren’t signs? I mean, who is always 100% confident with the huge choices they make in life. Heck, I have trouble deciding what to make for dinner most nights, and I question whether I should have booked that trip to New Orleans or not. So it’s no surprise I’ll probably question my career choice for
the rest of my life the next few weeks.
Was I ignoring the not-so-subtle signs, or was I just being who I am?
When I applied to dental school, I hadn’t ever worked in a dental office, so I didn’t really know what it was like. I had only observed dentists in their practices and interviewed them to learn about what it was like to be a dentist. Of course, they all told me how great it was. Either that, or I selectively listened for what I wanted to hear… and I missed learning about some of the harsh realities. Thanks to my well-honed skills of selective hearing and selective memory, I’ll never really know how it all went down. But in those days, I was much more interested in doing other things with my time. (A sign, maybe?) I figured, why immerse myself in dentistry when I was going to be buried in it my whole life? What’s the rush? Here’s where that hindsight kicks in: it probably would have been good to experience a little more firsthand.
But I won’t look back on that with judgment. It is what it is.
I do think a few of the dental schools were concerned by my lack of exposure. I left those interviews questioning whether I wanted to do this or not. (Another sign, maybe?) Ironically, or not so, I didn’t get accepted to either of those schools. They must have seen something that I didn’t. There was one interview that went well though. I felt as if they were getting to know me, not just the amount of dental experience I was able to show on paper. I left feeling like dentistry was a good choice for me, like I could be a part of a great community. They must have felt the same way because I got in.
I’ll never forget a restlessness that was growing inside of me though. It starting brewing my senior year of college. I had this idea that when I looked at my life and saw myself going to high school, then straight to college, immediately followed by dental school, and then a lifetime of being a dentist, with my 2.4 kids and white picket fence; something felt empty. (Yet another sign?) It seemed that this “me” would be so mundane. I had this idea that I didn’t want my life to be so planned and calculated. I wanted some excitement. I wanted to be interested and interesting.
So instead of going to dental school, I went to Spain.
I made a promise to my mother:
Yes mom, I promise it will be only 1 year, and then I will go to dental school.
She was gracious enough to help me get to Spain. The least I could do was agree to follow through for her, and I’ve always been someone who upholds my commitments. I was lucky that Baylor understood. After I was accepted to dental school I sent them a letter asking this:
I was a Spanish major in college, and I would like to further pursue my studies in Spanish. I am requesting to defer admission for 1 year so I can live abroad in Spain and accomplish that goal.
The plan worked, and they accepted my proposal to defer admission for 1 year. While my explanation was honest, it wasn’t entirely true. I wanted to become fluent in Spanish, but I also wanted an adventure that expanded my world beyond what I already knew. I admired Baylor for their decision because I believe it showed their respect for the value of higher education, diversity, and life experience.
Were those some early signs that I was pushing myself into a life I didn’t really see for myself?
I’m sure the answer is yes, but it doesn’t matter. I could easily re-tell the same story highlighting the signs that pulled me into a career that was my true calling. And I’m not the type to look back and regret the choices I’ve made or wonder “what if.” The way I see it, the process I had to go through brought me to this day. Without that, who knows where I would be.
When I wrote the first draft of this post, I came to this conclusion: Yes, I’m comfortable settling on the belief that hindsight is always 20/20… and so what?
After writing the final draft, I’ve actually convinced myself that 20/20 hindsight is more likely to be a contrived clarity that we create for our own convenience. Because for me, it’s easier to accept that I made the right decision to leave dentistry if I can prove to myself that it is what I wanted all along. As I mentioned before, I could have chosen to focus on different signs, the signs that ultimately led me into the field. And even then I probably would have said that hindsight is always 20/20.
On another note, Lolabees.me now has a Facebook page! Like me, and it’s another great way to stay in touch! Thanks for coming along for the ride. It’s making the process so much more fun and fulfilling for me.