Hello. Hi. How’s it going? It’s been a while, again. Life is all good and things are going well, I just haven’t been giving this blog the attention I should be giving it. I don’t mean to return on a somber note, but as I reflect on this past week, there’s something I wanted to talk about. Failure.

I had my first operative practical this past week. We had to complete four projects on plastic teeth in just under three hours. Two of them were specific preps (which is when you drill the teeth), and two of the projects were fillings on pre-prepped teeth. I am known to be incredibly hard on myself. I want things to go well and I want what I do to look good. After that practical, I could just tell that what I had done was not my best. One of my preps was much more shallow than I thought it was (which is not good) and somehow I managed to cause a significant amount of damage to one of the plastic teeth I was filling when I had NEVER done anything like that before on a project or when I had practiced on my own. Another one of my preps turned out much bigger than it should have and it was in the wrong spot just slightly.

I think I actually failed something in dental school. And if I truly did fail this practical, it will be the first academic failure I will ever had encountered in my life.

As I share this post, my goal isn’t to make anyone feel sorry or bad for me. I think it’s just important that I share what was going through my mind because I bet someone out there can relate, even if it isn’t specifically relatable to being in dental school. Did I receive a score right away? No. Have I received feedback yet? Also no. So am I potentially just assuming the worst because I wasn’t happy with how I did? Maybe. Am I being way too hard on myself? I think yes, but also I know I could have done much better. Tears were shed on my drive home let’s just say and my performance on that practical put quite the damper on the rest of my Monday.

Since the day of my first operative practical, I’ve done some reflecting and even talked with some upperclassmen, and a couple of things have come up that I think are important to share regarding failure, or at least feeling like you’ve failed.

  1. If dentistry was easy, there would be more dentists in the world. I am trying to learn something that is totally foreign to me. Becoming proficient at working with a handpiece is going to take time and practice. This is something I began thinking about day 1 of my dental school journey and it’s something I have to continue telling myself. I will learn everything I need to learn. It will just take time.
  2. Failure is OK. Making mistakes helps you learn. It helps you grow. You can see where improvements must be made to get better at whatever it is you’re doing. And on that note, growth won’t always be comfortable. If you’re always in your comfort zone, you can’t grow! There’s no push!
  3. Don’t let failure win. It is so easy to let a setback tear you down and rip you apart. You should have seen me at lunch following my practical. However, you can’t let your sadness, frustration, anger, or whatever emotion that may be consume you and allow you to bury you alive. Just because one bad thing happens doesn’t mean you’re doomed. You won’t flunk out of school. The world won’t end. Cry it out, do whatever you need to do, and then get back to work. See what can be done so that success happens the next time.

Regardless of what happens with my practical grade, things will be ok. If I have to remediate it (which means take it again because I did fail it the first time), I’ll remediate it. And I will be kind to myself and take this as an opportunity to show that I am capable of doing good work. And if you fail something too, do the same. Be kind to yourself and come back stronger on your next take at whatever it is you’re doing. Have a good week everyone. ❤️

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