Is it the Job or the Career?
As dentistry and I started to spend all of our time together, I was forced to face our compatibility issues. As the relationship grew, more red flags appeared. The days of leaving work at work were growing more sparse. The daily stresses were following me home and keeping me up at night. I was suddenly investing as much time in worrying about my work as I invested in studying when I was in school. Payday became the best day of the month, as it was my way of consoling myself over the realization that maybe I wasn’t in love. It became the main reward for dealing with daily pressures and maddening experiences.
After a few years I convinced myself I hated it. But what exactly was it I hated? There were a lot of problems with the job itself. We had a very high employee turnover rate for a few years. Learning the ropes AND having to train new assistants became burdensome. Relying on undependable employees who often called in “sick” was a constant letdown. Having to work with a different temp at least 1 day per week was exhausting. Life didn’t feel smooth, and I didn’t feel set up to give the kind of care I wanted to provide for my patients.
I wasn’t feeling good about what I was doing.
The office was very fast-paced. In any given day, I was seeing an average of 30 patients. If there are 8 hours in a work day… well, you do the math. I did learn some really sharp time-management skills that I was able to use in other areas of my life. For example, every morning (still) as I get ready for work, I brush my teeth with 1 hand while I blow dry my hair with the other. I must save myself a whole 2 minutes every day– it’s incredible! Anyway, the constant rushing prevented me from getting to know patients and building relationships with them. I was missing out on the most fun part of being a dentist.
I still wasn’t feeling good about what I was doing.
Being a young lady who likes to get to know people, I discovered that I had to walk a fine line in my friendships with my assistants. Every female dentist has to learn this one day in her career. I’ll just say it: if you become too close, they don’t respect you as their “boss.” It really makes a difference. Plus, day after day it gets hard to hear about how Abby’s sister hates Abby’s new boyfriend because he got too drunk and got into a fight with Abby’s sister’s boyfriend just before he disappeared for 3 days with Abby’s car. Oh, and that’s why she couldn’t come in to work the last 3 days. Too much drama. It disturbs the calm I try to maintain in my life. And it’s painful to watch people I care about make life decisions that keep them trapped; cycling in that drama, without a possibility of ever finding peace. I learned that if I maintained boundaries and kept a professional yet friendly relationship with my team, there was no drama. Amazing! (Note to dental assistants: I know you all aren’t like this, but you’ve got to admit, there are a lot who are! You know who you are… I think?)
So you’re probably thinking that these things seem like your average workplace annoyances. They are! Right? I bet most people deal with these types of things in any job, regardless of what you do. So the
question really is questions really are:
Is it worth it? Is there enough good to outweigh the bad?
Is it possible to do this career without all of these hassles?
Do I hate my job, or do I hate my career?
I believed I couldn’t know the answer to these questions until I experienced it for myself. I mean, how could I possibly give up on my partner after just 4 years? We made a commitment. Even as the foundation of our relationship was cracking, I couldn’t give up. Besides, I had no earthly idea what I would do next, so the safest choice was to assume it was the job, and start to look for my dental dream job.
So for a little while longer, I tricked myself into thinking it was the job and not the career. I was determined to make this relationship work, unknowingly conceding myself to 6 more years of this incarceration.