A Path's Way

Happy New Year!

Every author of every article and blog I have read in 2019 has begun their first post of the year with reflection of 2018 and anticipation of 2019. Appropriate - yes. Predictable - extremely! While important, my first post of the year will not be about diets, exercise or other resolutions. However, whatever your goals are: champion introspection, interrupt rumination, and delve into discipline. 

Image result for original oregon trail gameBeing a bonafide Millennial, I find perspective in the old green screen computer game Oregon Trail. Anyone of my peers can tell you that this game taught you valuable lessons in decision-making, hardships, family life, medicine, economics, and, most importantly, following a path to pursue a dream. But let's be honest, playing a video game - at school - was the real reason we all liked it. As I recently flew above the Rocky Mountains, I thought about playing that game in grade school. I thought about those early pioneers traversing our great nation in search of a better life and all of the dangers and struggles they overcame on their odyssey. I wondered if they could even dream that one day we could make that trip in a mere four hours.

I've always been a dreamer - in both senses of the word. Last night's visit was from my beloved and late Jiddo. He too, braved hardships and journeyed to America in search of a better life (Born in the USA: Our American Dream). Jiddo's visits are sparse, but always treasures. No words are ever spoken - just his presence, just his smile. I find myself trying to find patterns or correlations to these dreams, but am still searching for an answer. I take it for what it is: a blessing and a reminder to stay true to my path. 

From an early age, my Dad taught me that dentists were doctors, healers, educators, health advocates, service providers, engineers, artists, psychologists, business owners, team leaders, community leaders, visionaries, and dreamers. We are constantly pushing ourselves in an ever-evolving field to provide the highest quality of care with a comfortable and complete experience. I've been inspired by how my Dad navigates such a challenging field since I was a child. To work with him was my first true dream, my first true path.

Yet, paths are funny. Shannon and I hiked miles of Arizona's paths this past December. Some were straight and demarcated, others full of twists, without borders and open to interpretation. All of them rose and fell, but even when you could see where you were going, surprises entered - in our case a wild coyote (whom we named Frank)! Shannon reminds me of how unique I am when it comes to my path. Professionally, I knew I wanted to become a dentist when I was six years old. Personally, I knew I wanted to work with my Dad...when I was six years old. Apparently, not everyone knows what they want to do with their life, professionally or personally, before they lose their first tooth! Yet, for me, while the destination was clear, the path was not.

Image may contain: one or more people and babyFor nearly the past 25 years, I have had a role in our practice. From being the office mascot, to answering phones and filing charts (when we had paper charts), to becoming a dental assistant, and eventually becoming Dad's associate dentist. The path was arduous, required discipline, and would not have been completed had it not been for a myriad of helpful acts from others. While I did not cross a river with oxen, it was much like the Oregon Trail. And on July 6, 2016, I mirrored by Dad's broad smile when I reached the professional and personal destination I had been seeking since I was six years old. 

I can't tell you how much fun it is to drive to work every day. Dad always greets me, his coffee in hand. Some mornings we discuss the schedule or cases before our huddle. Other mornings remind me of being dropped off at high school as a freshman: Dad eager to tackle the day and I'm still waking up! Our relationship is simply and magically complex. The lines between father and son, personal and professional, employer and employee, teacher and learner must be crossed, reversed, and blurred on a daily basis. We have to wear many hats with each other and use several lenses throughout a day. It's fun. It's challenging. However, we are always at our best when we stop and appreciate the moment.

Image may contain: George Williams and Shannon McMahon Williams, people smilingAs the new year begins, I find myself in uncharted waters. I'm treasuring the path on a daily basis, but don't know the destination. Professionally, I have goals, visions, and dreams for our practice and our patients, which we will explore in next month's blog. Personally, I'm reflecting on the blessings I have had in my life. It was a blessing to have witnessed the incredible relationship of Dad and Jiddo for so many years. It is a blessing to be able to spend so much time with my Dad sharing a mutual passion, to have his guidance and expertise, but most importantly his unconditional support. And ever since Shannon and I saw that blue cross, it will be my greatest blessing to honor my Jiddo and Dad by carrying the blueprint they have set before me as fathers down our newest path.

Wishing you and yours a year full of happiness, health, and flossing!

Dr. George R. Williams is a general dentist at Williams Family Dental Group in Canton, Ohio. He is a graduate of The Ohio State University College of Dentistry and Canton Mercy Medical Center General Practice Residency.  For questions or suggestions for blog posts, please feel free to contact him at drgrw@williamsdentalgroup.com

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