Practicing Perseverance

Morgan Atanasio, Inaugural Class of 2020, Shares Her Perspective on Staying Positive and Productive in the Midst of Disappointment

March 30, 2020

Over the past few weeks, I, like most, have to pause and remind myself that this is not a bad dream. Who would have thought that with two months left until graduation, our world would undergo such a tumultuous shift? 

Like most of my classmates, I imagined my D4 Spring would be a time where I continued to see my patients, some for the last time, finished my competencies, and enjoyed time with my friends before we part ways in May. Grand celebrations were supposed to be in order, but these days it feels like there isn’t much to celebrate.

As dental students in the inaugural class, we have grown accustomed to an expectation vs. reality lifestyle and we have practiced the need to adjust when things are not what they were supposed to be. When we arrived to a brand new school without a classroom or laboratory yet in place, we adapted and persevered. When we joined a newly established dental clinic still working out operational kinks, we adapted and persevered. We’ve been pioneers, champions of action, a community with a voice and the drive to persevere

Times like these force us to fall back on skills we’ve learned to master over the past four years—flexibility, mental toughness, and solution-mindedness—and adjust to this new normal, just as we’ve done many times before, but in a different way. At a certain point, we realize that we can no longer dwell on the current situation and have to make the best of what we have. While we grieve the temporary loss of freedom to roam, practice dentistry, and physically connect with others, we can distract ourselves with positivity and productivity.

If you’re like me and need structure or ritual to thrive, you could fill your Google Calendar with blocks of activities from 8 AM – 5 PM every day. These could be as detailed as scheduling a specific time to attend online classes (thank you, TCDM faculty!), eat, workout/practice self-care, meet virtually with a TCDM club, read, or learn a new skill. Now is also the perfect time to establish healthy habits like meal prepping, eating healthy, and exercising. Some say it takes about 21 days to establish a habit so why not create ones that will make your life that much better when normalcy resumes? After all, we’re just a few months away from becoming doctors and life is going to get very hectic, very quickly. Additionally, check-in with your friends and family via Facetime or Facebook Messenger and host a family game night or virtual happy hour. Do not forget to support the people who have supported you over the past 4+ years. We couldn’t have gotten this far without them. Lastly, do something dental-related. Recently, I signed up for a free virtual dental conference, purchased a suturing practice kit, and explored the Instagram pages of dentists with interesting cases.

Ultimately, how we choose to react to the current situation is in our control. Imagine if the same amount of time we dedicated to formulating negative thoughts or fears could be redirected to positive or productive thoughts and actions. It comforts me to know I have a supportive TCDM family to help my colleagues and me through this time. Our administration has been meeting tirelessly to come up with reasonable solutions that will help us to perform academically and graduate. Our faculty have also provided us with engaging ZOOM lectures that keep our minds working. Our student body has planned a fun-filled Spirit Week so that we can feel the camaraderie from our own homes by sharing and connecting with each other and, hopefully, laughing a little. We will get through this and forever carry the stories of our shared trials and tribulations with future generations to come. And yes, we will celebrate even more when this ends…it’s not a matter of how, it’s only a matter of when. How sweet that will be!