New Beginnings – and Tears That Come With Them

I’ve spent about half of my life in school; 12 years from elementary through high school, four years in college, three years in grad school when I still wanted to go into art history, seven years of dental school, and a few more years of schooling here and there. After all that time, to me, the new year doesn’t start in January. It starts in August or September with the first day of school.

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I’ve always loved the fresh start a new school year represents. I love buying new supplies, like clean notebooks and just the right pens — because obviously you’ll be way smarter if you have just the right pen. The new year is an open book of possibilities, and I still get excited about that thought. Though, to be completely honest, while I’ve always loved the idea of a new school year, I’ve always hated the first few weeks.

A new school year brings a lot of change, and while I like change, I absolutely hate it at first! Everything is different on the first day of school. New classrooms, new teachers, new schedules … and I always ended up with the worst of everything! At least, that’s what I would tell my parents every day after school. To me, those first two or three weeks of the new were a nightmare.  You’d have thought it was the end of times with the way I carried on.

When I came home in the afternoons, I always brought with me horror stories about how mean my new teachers were and how awful everything was and how I wouldn’t be able to survive. I honestly don’t know why my parents didn’t stop me with, “Enough, Leslie! You do this every year.” They probably did at some point, but I’m sure I insisted that this year was different. Of course, it wasn’t different. After a few weeks, my anxieties would subside, I’d enjoy the year, and I’d forget all about my horrors until the next year started.

You’d think all of this trauma I experienced would have put me off school, but I kept going back. It wasn’t until dental school that I stopped facing the start of school with such dread. It took a long time for me to learn that even if things start out rough, they often get better after a little time. Now this is a lesson I teach many of my patients.

The first few weeks of wearing braces will be horrible. Whether you’re dealing with traditional braces, lingual braces, or Invisalign, it’s going to feel like the worst decision you’ve ever made. Food will get stuck, you will have to relearn how to brush and floss, and you’ll have to remember to put the plastic aligner back in after you’re done eating. But by week three, I promise things will seem so much easier.

Anytime we start something new, it’s hard. It might be braces, a new hobby, a new job, or the first day of school. In the beginning, everything feels challenging, and we might not remember why we wanted to do this thing in the first place. And then, all of a sudden, it’s easy again. No matter the tears, trauma, and drama, it gets better. We just need to give it a little time. After 30-plus years of school, I can say that for a fact.

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