I was watching another Diane Keaton movie when I remembered, ‘This is my life.’
A Reminder to Grab Hold of This Very Moment
I was sitting with my parents, watching a string of movies with a common theme:
- The protagonists were all sixty plus — with humor to match their post-menopausal age.
- The surviving characters were mostly women — good news for me.
- And the women were dead set on defying age stereotypes — to which there would have been a dad-quality joke about being near death; and if there weren’t, sure as his head is bald, my dad would have interjected with one.
Suddenly, I looked up at my reflection. I was sitting in the red leather recliner we inherited from an elderly woman, covered in a quilt despite the ridiculous desert heat, watching a movie on blue-ray because we couldn’t figure out how to connect internet streaming to the SmartTV.
I’m not saying I’m old. But reality hit me with my thirtieth mosquito bite:
This is my adult life. Maybe not exactly THIS. But today, tomorrow. THIS is my life.
My parents are growing older, resonating with themes of retirement and memory lapses. [Though their memories are certainly sharp enough that I’ll never hear the end of writing that last line.] Our family, in fact, is better mirrored in movies filled with adults than movies centered around youth. Which shouldn’t be shocking, being a doctor, 27, and on my own thousands of miles from where I grew up.
Yet, somehow, reality — and the present — tend to sneak up on you when you stop paying attention. And that’s easy to do in today’s world.
For the longest time, I’ve been a student. I’ve been a scholar. I’ve been enjoying the journey, as the saying goes, but more determined than anything to reach the title of doctor. And with good reason: to me, that title carries so much value. It is my way of contributing to the world, of giving back in gratitude for the pain-free smiles I have been gifted. It is a valued title in pursuing my passion.
But as a student for the past I’m not going to count how many years, not much has logistically changed with regard to my role in the family. Ever since moving out of the house for college, Christmas and summer breaks have marked my visits home. Small apartments and dorm rooms have carried the belongings I most needed. My childhood room still shelves all the memories I couldn’t pack. I had planned to take them when I had my own place. I didn’t tell my parents how far into the future that would actually be. According to student loan policy, even my finances were intimately linked to my parents through May of 2019. Despite becoming a doctor, to the eyes of FAFSA and logistics, my life was still that of the child in the family.
And it will always be that. I’ll never grow out of my role as the oldest daughter in the Price is Right duo, or Sissy to my sister.
But the next picture my parents hang on the wall won’t be a graduation scene. I don’t think we even attend that sort of a function for residency. Rather, it will be an image of me with the house I buy or the dental practice where I work. Maybe it will be a Give Kids A Smile function I coordinate, or a family I start.
Life seems so far off when you are focused on a major goal before you.
I dreamed of being a dentist. In fact, I’ve had that same dream for 20 years. It wasn’t until yet another Diane Keaton movie that I realized (a) some things are never comfortable to watch with your parents and (b) I AM a dentist. Today. Now.
I don’t have a plan per say for what lies ahead. I know I will be a resident at Boston Children’s Hospital. I know I will visit Nashville because country music. I know I will continue to write, and to play.
But for the first time, I find myself with eyes open, stunned at the brilliant possibility that comes to mind when, instead of asking myself what I want to be in life, I focus simply on a single step of a single moment in a single day.
So wherever you are in your journey or the world, just stop for a second. Imagine all the possibilities of what you want, not from your entire life, but from this single moment of this very day.
What will you do with this time you have right now?
The possibilities are endless, the opportunities so heart-fluttering-exciting.
Dr. Mirissa D. Price is a Harvard-trained Doctor of Dental Medicine and pediatric dental resident at Boston Children’s Hospital — Harvard. She serves as a Scholar of Dental Education at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, a National Oral Health Ambassador for the American Dental Association, and a Give Kids A Smile Leadership Ambassador for the ADA Foundation. Dr. Price’s research and outreach interests include social-emotional development in youth; addressing barriers and access to pediatric dental care; interprofessional collaboration; and dental education. As a child, doctors told Dr. Price that she would live in a nursing home, confined to a wheelchair, crippled by pain. Instead, Dr. Price uses her medical experiences to inspire others, living each day with a passion to spread pain-free smiles through her dental work, writing, improv comedy performances, and nonprofit work with children. You can stay up to date with Dr. Price’s writing at mirissaprice.wordpress.com and follow @Mirissa_D_Price on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. You can even take home a few inspirations of your own, at Dr. Price’s Etsy shop, A Smile Blooms.