"So, now you're just going to clean people's teeth...?"

I literally almost ran into a former coworker in a parking lot last week, and she asked me this.  As someone still deep in the trenches of public education, this woman couldn't understand my new career choice.

Yes.  Yes, I left teaching for teeth.

There are many reasons for this.  I'm not particularly drawn to caring for teeth over caring for people, but mouths are obviously important, and dentistry encompasses both.

Primarily, I left teaching for family reasons.  But regardless of how many different times or ways that I try to explain my decision, some people, particularly educators, cannot comprehend it.  

Several months ago, I dreaded seeing former coworkers in public for fear of telling them that I had abandoned the teaching profession.  After breaking that news, I would then attempt to justify a situation that needs no justification.  (Please tell me that I'm not the only one who does this.)

Photo by  Kate Bernard

Photo by Kate Bernard

My change of career paths isn't anyone's decision to make but my own, and yet I often find myself doing that people-pleasing thing where I try to make everyone get inside my brain and affirm me.

Teaching is a noble profession, no doubt about it.  But, "the ordinary" is a high calling, too.  When I think about the technical aspects of my future job, I'll be scraping plaque and squirting water and that isn't very glamorous, but it's necessary and good, just like trash collectors and construction workers are necessary and good.  Can you imagine a world without them?  I can, but I'd rather not.

So, the next time someone questions me about my career choice, I'll hold my head proudly and flash my straight, white smile, because I had a great hygienist once upon a time who helped it get that way.

"Yes, I'm back in school for dental hygiene," I'll say.  And that will be a sufficient answer.