And Now For Something Completely Different
Have you ever had an idea about something you think you might like to do with your life, but the circumstances just are never quite right? You keep coming back to it, spinning in circles around it, feeling out your options, but never make the final decision to do it.
For a lot of people I think this idea is going back to school, or maybe starting their own business or opening a restaurant, or a home daycare, or moving across the country or overseas, or quitting work to stay at home with their kids. It’s the thing you’d choose to do in a heartbeat if you were another, less-practical version of yourself.
For me, that idea is joining the Army to work as a military dentist.
There are a lot of reasons I want to do it. It’s a great way to travel, experience new places, develop leadership skills, practice dentistry without worrying about any of the business aspects, and of course the benefits and bonuses are unbelievable and include student loan repayment. As a dentist I would be direct-commissioned as a captain, and would have some degree of authority and choice over where I was stationed. It would allow me to start over in a brand new place with an already-built-in community. And if I’m ever going to do it, now would be the time– before I’m involved with a private practice, before Caroline is old enough to be in school, and while I am free and single and unattached.
So? Here goes nothing. I’m gonna do it. I’m joining up.
If you’re going to make a major change in your life, I firmly believe you should make the choice that you keep coming back to when you are really and truly on your own, when your own happiness doesn’t depend on another person. This is that choice for me. Maybe it would be better for my daughter if I stayed here forever, near people she knows and kept her in the daycare she is used to. I am also running the very real risk of deployment and leaving her behind (though it would be only for a few months). But she needs a happy mama, too, and change is a part of life. Stability for her does not have to equal stagnancy for me.
Sometimes, being a good mother doesn’t mean playing it safe. It means making choices for yourself, that keep you going, that keep you alive and passionate and engaged in your life and in what you do. As long as those decisions aren’t actually irresponsible or detrimental to your child’s well-being, I firmly believe that stepping outside the box can make you be a better parent. For me, my divorce was one of those choices. This is another.
Maybe I will hate it. I’m a hippie and a liberal and I’ve never touched a gun. Maybe the time spent away from my daughter to go to boot camp will prove to be too much for me and for her. Maybe this is a completely crazy decision and I’m being a total lunatic. I won’t know until I’m in it and there’s no going back. But all I know is, the idea makes me feel alive in a way that no other career option does for me right now. I applied unenthusiastically for several jobs in private practices here in Connecticut and never answered any of the replies, because my heart just wasn’t in it.
My heart is in this.
And if I don’t do it, I will always wonder, and wish that I had done it.
I called one of my friends and told her about my plan, and she said nothing for a moment. Then she sighed through the phone and said, “Jules, you are a crazy person. Totally and completely insane. But you’ve got more balls than any dude I know.” (I’m sure it’s a measure of my craziness that I was nothing but flattered by that assessment.)
So bring it on: the next big adventure in my life, and Caroline’s. Sure, there are downsides and there are risks. But overall, it’s an incredible opportunity for both of us… And I’m gonna reach out and take it.