Possibility without commitment, it’s my preferred state most the time. This applies to dating, school, and to making plans in general. I like having my options open not because I’m afraid of commitment (Okay, maybe because I’m a little afraid of commitment. Since when was caution a bad thing?) but because unadulterated possibility is so much better, so much more exciting and hopeful, so awe inspiring and amazing. Once you commit you throw away all that open ended potential to do or be anything. When you finally narrow it down and choose what you are actually going to do you give up the possibility of doing ALL the things. For me that’s hard. And that’s where I am right now. On the brink of commitment.
Realistically I haven’t actually made a commitment yet but as soon as I started telling people it felt like commitment. I mean, I had decided so why not? Except the What Ifs, you know the ones: “What if I fail?” “What if I can’t?” “What if I’m not smart enough?” “What if I’m not strong enough?”
Yeah, those what ifs. When you start telling people you create an expectation, they ask you about it later, want to know how it’s going and if you’re there yet (like kids on a road trip). Even if they don’t ask, you know they know and are probably thinking about it. “Didn’t she say she was going to be a dentist?” “Is she still in school?” Stuff like that. Sometimes they say it, sometimes they don’t but even when they don’t I can feel those thoughts. Or at least I think I can; it’s entirely possible that that’s just in my head. Probably no one notices or cares. Except me. I care. Pressure’s on even if it’s just from your own self.
Now, though, I’ve gone just a little bit further and put my money where my mouth is. I paid for the DAT (Dental Admissions Test)…almost five hundred dollars. For a (technically) poor girl like me that’s a lot. It’s an investment and also a little bit of a commitment.
Shit’s about to get real! Super real.
Over the course of the next
six weeks four weeks (I started this post two weeks ago) I plan need to be getting my dental school application ready. Sounds simple right? Yeah. it’s not. On top of the aforementioned test there are a hundred volunteer or job shadowing hours to complete, transcripts and letters of recommendation to procure, a “personal statement” to compose, and a few other bits and pieces to get together and compacted into the correct format. Roughly 2,000 people apply to the dental school I hope to get into. They interview 300 of those candidates and maybe 200 are actually admitted to this top tier school.
I’m feeling the pressure but here’s the thing…I’m truly enjoying this moment in my life. Well, mostly. I’m a little scared, a little intimidated right about now and so I should be. This is a big deal. But I’m excited too, more excited than scared, at least that’s what I keep telling myself. Besides, if it’s not a little scary you’re probably not doing it right…whatever it is. That’s been my experience.
Ten years ago I decided I wanted to be a dentist. Ten years! That’s a third of my life. So why the fuck haven’t I done it yet? Good question. The short answer is life happens. That and self doubt is a great preventative. I’ve mastered the art of using self doubt to fuel procrastination.
When I first started down this path at the ripe old age of twenty-five I felt the pressure of my age weighing heavily on me. I estimated that if I hurried it up I could get into dental school by the time I was twenty-nine and graduate at thirty-three. Old but still worthwhile. My oldest would be fourteen at that point and my (then) youngest nine. I could do that. I just needed to push myself and get through it as fast as possible. My biggest fear was the four or five chemistry classes. High school chemistry had not gone well for me. Little did I know that chemistry would be the easy part, the stuff I actually enjoy. The rest of it, the real stuff: family, kids, relationships, that stuff, that would be the hard part and the part I had to get sorted out. Ten years later I get that, at least I think I do.
At twenty-five I equated a doctorate level degree with success. I had four young kids, a shaky marriage, a part time job in my dad’s dental practice and a handful of random college credits. Most my friends were at least a couple years into their careers, many were having big fancy weddings and starting their perfect adult lives. The discrepancy played on my insecurities and fed into my deep seated inferiority complex. Going back to school with such a lofty goal felt like it closed the gap a little. The need to prove that I was as smart as all my friends and educated siblings brought out my inner over achiever. I got 4.0’s in every class I took. Literally every class. Turns out I actually am as smart as anyone else. Who knew?
And then I unexpectedly got pregnant…again. Seriously, I’m not even sure how it happened that time. I mean, I’ve taken multiple anatomy & physiology classes and an NFP course (I got married in the Catholic church so it was required) I know how it happens. But this one, I have no idea how it happened. At the time I was pretty upset that this monkey wrench was being thrown in my plans. I was supposed to be applying to dental school that year, not having a baby. What the fuck? It was 2009 when my youngest son was born, pretty close to ten years after my oldest. I was twenty-nine, unhappy in my marriage and life in general, and more than a little overwhelmed. I tried to continue with school the semester after my little guy was born. I got my first pair of -A’s. After that I realized I was in over my head, way over. I’ve never been a very good swimmer, I was flailing and about to drown. It wasn’t the A minuses or the baby that did it. It was everything. I had a Come to Jesus moment. I knew I could handle the academics of dental school but I also knew I couldn’t do that, be the parent my kids needed me to be, and keep my family together. So I stopped. I abandoned the dental school idea and changed paths. It wasn’t even an “I’ll come back to this later” kind of thing, it was “Welp, at least I tried…sort of…almost.” And I waved the white flag. I mean, I was 29. What’s the point of spending the time and money on dental school when you’re already in your thirties?
Obviously I had a lot to learn. I knew what I wanted but I didn’t know what I needed to know to get it. Right place, wrong time.
Now, at the ripe even older age of almost thirty-six, I’m ninety percent sure this is the right time and I’m in the right place. I definitely don’t have it all together. I still have five kids but now I’m divorced and in an ongoing custody conflict. My gpa is not perfect anymore, there are B’s and even a C on my transcripts. My finances are tenuous at best and my house is falling apart slowly and steadily. But even without a doctorate degree, or even a bachelor’s just yet, I know that I am successful. I know that whatever I attempt I will do and do well. I probably won’t be the best at anything. Ever. But that’s okay. I don’t have to be. I just have to do the important things to the best of my abilities and the other things can be good enough. So while the commitment still scares me and sometimes makes me want to run away, the possibility that comes with this one entices me. Commitment and possibility.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go run twelve miles and study for the DAT. I’ve only got four weeks now…