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A Friday in the Life… of a Frazzled D1

February 17, 2015

It’s 7:15 AM and I’ve already hit my snooze button twice. I hear my two roommates giggling in the kitchen, also D1s, and I wish for the 1000th time I could be a morning person, or at least be better at pretending. I take a moment to envision all of the potential greatness of this day. I take deep breath in through the nose and exhale through the mouth, with each breath I chant my morning mantra: inhale ‘I’; exhale ‘can’. My inspiration is immediately squashed by the blast of cold air that hits me as I roll out of bed. And with that, my morning is a rushed blur of just trying to get to class before 7:59am.

I love walking into school—a building that I have known for a mere 7 months, yet feels so much like home. Every face is familiar, even our movements are synced. I try to squeeze my lunch into the fridge and the same person is there to hold the door open, every morning like clockwork. Between walking through the front doors and sitting down for our first lecture hall, I’ve usually engaged in at least five conversations filled with laughter and hugs. There is never a lonely moment at this school. Some days, it would be nice to go unknown, but on most days this feeling of familiarity is an anchor in an ever changing, sometimes violent sea.

I walk into our first lecture hall, bee-lining for ‘my’ seat. I see my best friend, and no matter how I feel, her warmth and positivity wash over me and I instantly feel better. Cassie and I met at the beginning of the program, and only 7 months later I would go to the ends of the earth for this wonderful, amazing being. She just gets me. Dental school friendships are like no other. From the lecture hall to the clinic to the gym, the overwhelming stress (27.5 credits a semester, to be exact) of D1 year creates the ultimate bond. Whether it is studying until 2am or staying on the dance floor until 2am, these 105 people are by your side every step of the way. Together. Everyday. All day.

The lecture begins, and I spend the first 5 minutes trying to figure out which class this even is. Download the slides. Check my email. Refresh my Instagram feed, and then in an attempt to learn something I shove my phone to the bottom of my backpack. I follow along for a few slides. I hear Josh opening his first granola bar of the day. After 3 minutes of painfully trying to focus, I allow myself to check Facebook and I automatically tune out the professor. I hear someone drop their coffee mug, and the momentary panic of hoping nothing has spilled. I see Brandon tense up in his chair, so I know the professor’s microphone battery has just died. People start to chatter. The lecture resumes. It takes all of my willpower to keep my eyes open and my mind focused on the information being thrown at us. The slide changes to a very graphic image of tooth decay, and I feel guilty about sipping my coffee (with sugar!) and immediately pop in a piece of Xylitol gum. Before I realize, it’s 8:50am and we get a 10-minute break before our next lecture. I take a deep breath and think to myself, only 7 more hours until the end of the day; inhale ‘I’, exhale ‘can’.

Two hours of cariology discussing potential vaccines against Streptococcus mutans. Two hours of Nervous System discussing axon guidance and neurotrophic factors. By the end of this week, we have had about 22 hours of new lecture material. I compulsively open my google calendar during class, blocking off time for reviewing this material. The hours of my weekend disappearing as fast as my morning coffee. I stare at the list of upcoming exams and due dates, calculating how many more scantrons I will be filling out this semester. 5 exams down, 21 to go. Inhale ‘I’, exhale ‘can’.

At 11:57am I am walking into the gym for my lunchtime workout. I mentally make a bet with myself about how many people from the dental school I will see today: I guess 8 people. We are all creatures of habit. As I slide plates onto the bar, I mentally go through my never-ending to-do list.

By 12:45pm I am scarfing down my lunch, wandering around the Forum before our class at 1pm and mingling with the upperclassmen. I run into my sister (a D4) on her way up to clinic as she quickly relays me a message from Mom and confirms dinner plans. I fall into step with a few D2s and we chat about the upcoming festivities for this weekend. I text my friend about our study date later tonight as I simultaneously talk to my classmate about the online quiz that is due soon. All at once, I am caught up in the whirlwind of my day, all of the parts of my life blurring together into one massive, messy painting; my sister, my friends, my studies, my health, my happiness. I smile to myself, trying to remember this feeling of satisfaction with life. With a jolt, Dr. Karl’s voice comes onto the mic and by 1:03pm I am learning about ways to avoid removing too much tooth structure when polishing a Class IV restoration.

This day is not too bad. It’s Friday after all. Lecture is dismissed and we have the rest of the afternoon in pre-clinic to prepare for our practical next week and complete the project sheet due a few weeks from now. I head to my locker to switch out my backpack for my white clinic coat. I rush to gather materials before the line builds and set up my lab bench. As the lab session goes on, I am caught in a frenzy between rushing to find faculty to evaluate my work and taking my time working, surrounded by people laughing and happily chattering away. I get up to stretch my legs and relax my eyes from the precision of working in millimeters. I joke around with my row instructors and ask about their week and their children. Every now and then, a friend sticks their head over my bench to say hi and we talk about plans for tonight. I am having an internal battle with myself about whether or not to go out tonight. It’s cold and I’m tired. But I don’t want to miss out, and if I stay in, I will probably end up staying up until midnight watching Netflix anyways. I get my last signature for the day and I feel very satisfied with my work, so I start to pack up.

At the stroke of 4:30pm, I am out the door on my way to teach a yoga class at a studio just down the street from the school. As I walk there, I try to compartmentalize all of the information that has saturated my head since 8am. Twice a week, I get to pretend I am not in dental school and I teach hot vinyasa yoga classes. Having this job outside of the program has given me an entirely new community of friends and an outlet for my creative passion. I get to socialize with my students before and after class, many of whom are regulars, and some are even dental students. It is such a privilege to witness progress in my students and it brings me so much happiness to inspire a personal growth in each of them.

By 6:30pm, I am locking up the studio doors; my throat raw from talking through a 60-minute class, my mind tired from full day of school, and my body still buzzing from the high-speed drill.

I stand outside of the studio on the sidewalk, looking left and right. I am unsure of what to do in this moment. I am technically done with school and work for the week. I mentally roll through my to-do list, feeling torn in so many directions. Should I study, socialize, or sleep? I feel this compulsive need to always be doing something. That obsessive drive all dental students have, the reason we are all here at the best dental school in the country.

I pause for a moment to put my headphones on, press play on Beyoncé’s ‘Me, Myself, and I’, and ask myself, what do I truly want in this instant? I wipe sweat from my forehead and try to smooth down my frizzy hair, feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders, literally: my backpack, my lunch box, my bag of scrubs, my yoga mat. My honest answer is a glass of wine.

I walk the few blocks to Sava’s and plop down at the bar. I order glass of wine, savoring this moment of freedom from obligation, small talk, the need to please anyone but myself. The smells of delicious food and cozy chatter surround me. In this moment I am happy. I am doing exactly what I want to do in life, and even though my days have never been more exhausting I am enjoying every minute.

Someone notices my M Dentistry shirt. “Are you in the dental school?” And just like that, I make a new friend. I sit with this person, who happens to be a law student, for a few hours chatting about the life of a grad student. I am reminded that life cannot get any better than this: being at this outstanding school, in this incredible town, with new experiences to be pursued and friends to be met everyday.

If you’re wondering how the rest of the story ends: I ended up in bed by midnight and I was able to wake up early the next morning and get an entire day of studying before enjoying a fun Saturday night out with classmates! Sunday again consisted of teaching a yoga class and studying, only to bring me back to Monday. 8am-5pm, just to stay alive.

Shivani Kamodia is a D1

One Comment
  1. Andreana permalink
    February 17, 2015 11:26 pm

    Such a great read Shivani! Such an honest, yet uplifting perspective of life in dental school. Great work 🙂

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