Life · Work life balance

Annual birthday post!

It’s my birthday today! Although every year is special, it feels even more so this year! When I was younger, my birthday consisted of having a grand time with friends. Over the last few years though, I have started craving something else on my birthdays. Slow mornings, free time to putter and create something. Yesterday I was thinking to myself, that since I have a full day blocked out to ‘not work’, I could maybe work! Have you had this thought too? It’s a sign of being an adult with too many things to do. Even though you get through a lot of it during the week, there’s always something more and next week it will start all over again. How fun (sarcasm)! 

In any case, today that is exactly what I did. I did have one meeting in the morning that was pre scheduled and after that I got the slow morning I craved. B and I had a leisurely brunch and later, a walk in the gardens. I can still taste the soy milk latte. I savored every sip and smiled all morning. 

I then returned home and went for an hour long session of yoga, which was so relaxing it nearly put me to sleep. The rest of the evening remains free for me to create. For me, that means writing and/or painting. 

This birthday IS special though. A huge change is taking place in my life and things will never be the same again. My next birthday is going to be different. For starters, the birthday won’t be about me anymore. But, more on that later. 

What is a birthday or a year gone by without any reflection? I came across a really nice quote on a podcast last week about reflection. I tried searching for it so as to properly credit its author but could not find it again. 

It was about a life without reflection, being a life without any learning. We need to reflect on everything. What we read, what we did yesterday, how we spoke to others, how we felt. There are so many pearls to be found in these reflections. And it’s so easy to reflect. Many of us reflect while lying down in bed for the night. Or we reflect on our drive home from work. Some of us, like myself, need to put it on paper. Others do it while exercising. 

So, today I decided to reflect on life, thus far. What has transpired this past year? And what, in the future, changes because of it? 

  1. My professional life has become more intentional

I have been practicing clinical dentistry in the States for nearly 6 years. During this time, I have practiced in a variety of models and treated thousands of patients. Worked in different demographics and served different neighborhoods. I like to think that all of those experiences culminated and led me to the work I do today. Serving patients with SHCN’s and those with medical complexities such as our seniors. It’s a privilege and yet a huge responsibility. I feel like there’s much to do in this field and I am only just getting started. Is this my ikigai? I was wondering about it this morning. I think I am still yet to find my ikigai or to be living it. But, I can sense how close I am to finding it. If you’d asked me the same 2 years ago, my answer would have been very different. I may have sheepishly avoided the topic entirely.

Intentionality has come with a lot of aspects related to my profession. One is the number of days I work. I work fewer clinical days than I used to in the past. This has helped me become more productive in those few days! I hope more dentists and professionals have the ability to do this with their work lives. It helps create a sense of balance and harmony. 

I’ve also become very intentional about the continuing education courses I take, meetings I attend, professionals I network with and associations I dedicate time to. A few years ago, while I was still growing my network, I’d also become something of a yes-woman. Saying yes to everything that came my way. While in some ways that was necessary in the beginning of my career, I am happy to have reached a point where I have the ability to say no, while still maintaining others’ respect. There are many strategies for staying focused about this. One of my colleagues had suggested asking ourselves ‘is this opportunity a hell-yes?’ I prefer another method though. I instead ask myself if this activity is going to help promote my professional cause further and if I am the only one who is best suited to do the work. In many cases I’ve found that there are many people who are much better suited and have more time than I do. And that they simply need the opportunity to say yes. 

  1. Internal work is more important than external validation

This is a hard one for me to admit. I’ve always been a fan of social media and in the past have shared so many stories and posts about seemingly random things that gave me lots of joy. Being a part of the generation that also saw the rise of Facebook and a hundred other platforms, watching somebody else’s life became normal, and so commonplace. Maybe some of you have noticed but I don’t post or share as much on social media anymore. Just my website blogs or important professional news. I recently had a friend reach out and ask if everything is okay because she stopped seeing my posts and stories on her social media. I was taken aback and just responded that I’d lost interest in trying to maintain it.

While I will continue blogging, because it is a source of reflection and could help others, and share as needed on social media, I don’t know if I will ever go back to what I used to be. Let me tell you what changed. 

I’ve realized that perception is a powerful tool. Many people see your posts and stories and assume you are living a great life, have gotten lucky and require little to no support. I had a friend who posted so many wonderful videos and stories about her time in India that I assumed she was having the best time vacationing there for a few months. When she moved back to the States, she told me it was a completely stressful time because she was stuck in limbo waiting for her US visa to arrive so she could get back to work. Most of her days were spent calling the USCIS office! Had I known the reality of her situation, I would have reached out and asked her if she needed any support. I had fallen victim to the illusion created by social media.

I also used to think that frequent stories and posting helps you stay top of mind for other people. While that is true, I have also come to find that real connections go a much longer way. For example, I was approached by two of my colleagues to speak at conferences they were hosting about geriatric dentistry and caring for patients with SHCN’s due to a professional relationship we built over many years! No amount of posting on social media would have gotten me those opportunities. Investing time in building meaningful connections brings more opportunity than endless (and tiresome) social media posting and advertising. It’s also more fun!

Lastly, and I hate to say this but I need to because it is the elephant in the room. Not everyone who has access to your social media is in your corner, or thinks the best of you. They may be completely passive about your success, or worse, think bitterly about it. Does that mean you stop sharing your success? No, it means you let your success do the talking. You don’t need to do the talking yourself. Let others push you up, or guide the discussion about you. Let your work speak for itself. Again, this is hard. And this goes against the fundamentals of any kind of marketing. However, there are ways to do this, without compromising your goals.

I’ve found a new found meaning to the value of keeping to yourself. It doesn’t mean you go into a shell and never share. I still do. I just share what is truly important. Nothing more, or less!

  1. Becoming a family of 3

Lastly, yet most importantly, we are expecting a little baby! I figured since I’m 33 weeks along, I can finally mention it, because if you see me you will know right away! The bump does most of the talking.

Having a family is probably the most scary, and most fun thing to look forward to. It’s bigger than starting your own business or buying your first home. It’s as important or more important than who you choose as your partner. Life is never ever going to be the same again. In just a few weeks, life will be totally different. Sure some things would remain the same but a lot of it will get modified around a little one’s wants and needs. I’ve never felt so grateful, happy and excited at the same time towards any other aspect of life. I remember being very excited and grateful about getting accepted into dental school. But, nothing compares to the joy of having a baby! For those of you who are parents, you know what I am talking about. 

Will our professional aspirations change after this? This was a conversation B and I had this morning. There’s no doubt about the changes brought into our life with a little one. If anything at all, or based on what I see around me, having a baby gives you perspective about what is truly important, lets you focus on what is needed, and makes you more productive in a shorter span of time. I’ve also seen it go the other way. Especially for women. If you don’t love your job before your baby, you’re going to resent every minute of the day when you return to it after the baby. You will constantly ask yourself, is this job worth leaving my baby at home alone with a stranger or at a daycare? Is this worth me spending thousands of dollars on a babysitter each month? So it’s very important to be doing the right kind of work and find meaning and fulfillment in it if you want to get back to it with energy and determination after maternity leave. 

This has become more and more apparent to me over the last several months. Do I wish that I had a practice of my own by now? Not anymore. I definitely felt that way for a long time before becoming pregnant. My worst fear was to be stuck in a bad associateship, go on mat leave and not want to come back to the associateship. Or to clinical dentistry! Luckily, that situation no longer holds. I love doing portable dentistry and can’t wait to go back after my maternity leave. In fact, we will be adding more clinical days because of how busy we’ve gotten and the growth of the market. 

I feel like whatever happens, happens for the best. And the way destiny plays out is a wonderful and interesting phenomenon. There’s a time and place for everything. We get everything we want in this one life, we just get it at different times. You’re meant to enjoy and savor each little gift you get. Getting everything at once won’t let you enjoy it as much. The little one coming along is perhaps going to guide me further towards my ikigai. This is my belief. 

I know its a lot of philosophy for one day. Maybe it’s the anticipation of motherhood, or just the years catching up. If you like blogs like these, keep coming back for more. I’ll try to write as much as possible before the little one comes along!

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