Currently, I intern at a dental office as a dental assistant. I do both chair-side assisting, as well as the office work that comes with being a dentist. My one-year working anniversary has just passed and I have a lot to say about trying to balance my work schedule with school and life.
I am the child of immigrant parents, and I watched them struggle to navigate through life in the United States. While I chose my path — to become a dentist — I know that it originated from wanting to give my parents the luxury of living life to the fullest. Growing up, I vowed to myself that I’d make this goal happen. I think that’s where my workaholic nature came from.
I’ve been a workaholic and perfectionist for as long as I can remember. It didn’t really help that I was also an anxious person and everything I overdid came from being nervous about the work possibly not being my “best.” This mentality controlled my entire life, so I knew that in college, trying to distribute my time to all these responsibilities wouldn’t be an easy task.
At the office, I learned a lot — mainly about how to prepare each of the procedures I would be assisting for, as well as all the little details that were essential to know. I was eager to learn, but it turned obsessive. I went into the office as often as I could and even sometimes skipped classes because they were recorded anyway.
Over time, I burnt out. I skipped biology lectures because they were at 8 AM and recorded. I skipped my breadth class because it collided with work, even though that one wasn’t recorded. I’d skip biology discussion since it wasn’t required and I already had a basic idea of what was happening in class. I skipped physics lectures because they were recorded as well, and my biology lab lectures were asynchronous, which meant that I didn’t need to attend them either. On Mondays, I skipped all my classes because they were all either recorded or asynchronous and went to work instead. And that proved to be such a big mistake because I ended up having to watch all these recorded lectures after work, when I was tired and wanting a break.
I think you can guess what happened. Skipping classes and coming back from work tired eventually became a cycle that I was doing mindlessly. I showered at 4 AM, went to sleep for a few hours, and woke up bright and early for work. The cycle was so bad to a point where a lot of my hangouts with friends were study dates just so I could catch up on schoolwork.
It’s pretty easy to admit that I didn’t have much of a social life my sophomore year. I was too busy trying to juggle my academics and work, and I found little time to simply relax and enjoy life.
This year, I am attending all my lectures, whether they’re recorded or not. As soon as the last patient of the day leaves and I have finished sterilizing the instruments, I forget about all the things I still need to finish and move on. Those can wait until the next time I clock in for work.
This year, I’ve also started to reach out more to friends and family to hang out and forget about work and school. On top of all of this, I’ve improved my sleep schedule greatly and I’m rarely tired throughout the day. These were little changes I made to try to balance the scale a little, and I’m glad it worked out for me — I feel better about academics, work and life, and it doesn’t feel like I’m overdoing one over the others.
If someone were to ask me how to maintain a work-life balance, I’d honestly not know how to properly answer. I think that a work-life balance can only be made once you realize where your priorities are, or maybe struggling is the key to finding the “perfect” work-life balance people desire. I’m still trying to figure it out myself, but so far, I think I’m one step closer to that ideal goal.