This is the time of year for talk of reflection and motivation, not teeth.

I’ve had some interesting experiences over the past year that have caused me to stop and think about the direction my life has been heading, and where I’d like it to go. For me the pivotal point of my year was actually the passing of a father of a fairly new friend of mine, or more correctly the speech this friend gave at his father’s funeral.  In his speech, my friend talked about the life his father led, the difficulties he faced, the strength and determination he showed, some of these experiences probably common for a man of his time.  I’d never met his father, but what struck me was how relatively uncomplicated our lives are now living in North America, how comfortable, and how the last generation of men and women who really truly struggled in life is slowly leaving us.

My Mom and Dad in 2000

My Mom and Dad in 2000

In this year, I passed the one year mark of the loss of my mother, a woman so headstrong that I am sure none of us who knew her can actually believe she’s gone. She and my father (who passed away in 2000) pushed and strived to better themselves, both of them attaining university degrees while my brother and I were children, and that message of hard work and perserverance was clearly passed to us as well. But more importantly, we grew up in a united family, full of love and support and lots of laughter, and this is what I try to create in my own family.

Through my work this year on the Ottawa Makeover Project, I have been so fortunate to partner with wonderful, giving, caring local business owners donating their time and services to help others in the Ottawa community. Also, I’ve had the good fortune to “meet” the many applicants we had, and be inspired by the efforts being made for self-improvement through this project.  In fact, this hard work has inspired me to improve my own diet and fitness!

My career in dentistry is certainly something for which I am ever grateful.  I entered dental school almost 24 years ago with very little understanding of the field but a strong desire to work somehow in medicine, and had actually planned to only use dental school as a stepping stone for the medical school down the street.  What I found in dentistry surprised me, that by chance I found a career I completely enjoy. Through my nearly 20 year career in dentistry, I’ve met some wonderful people, both patients and dental team, and can say I love going to work every day to treat my patients with the best dental team anywhere. I also happened to meet my husband in dental school, so clearly this experience was “meant to be.”

My most recent experiences, just last weekend, are what actually inspired me to write this blog not about teeth, but about “life.” Last weekend, I heard Jody Mitic speak at a dental meeting. If you click the link you can read his whole story, but the short version is that he was a Canadian Armed Forces sniper who lost both legs several years ago to a bomb while on active duty. While he is clearly not completely comfortable being the “spokesperson for amputees”, in my mind he is the embodiment of what you can do with your life when you really push past disaster. I sat next to him at lunch after his talk, and when we asked him what he plans to do in this next chapter of his life, his answer was quite simple, “Get people to just be good and do good.”

So…where is this all going?

The older I get, the more important it becomes for me to make the most of every year/month/day/hour/minute. For some people this means working less, but for me it means working with more purpose. There are many people who do what I do for a living, but I count myself as lucky because I am one of those who love what I do; I am also honoured by every single patient who walks through my door to seek my treatment, because it is a privilege to help them. It’s why I don’t only do “basic, regular dentistry”, but also the complicated stuff of pain relief and the desire for dental beauty…these cases are HARD to do, but I get such joy that I will continue to strive to get better and better for my patients.

They make me want to be the best possible version of me!

They make me want to be the best possible version of me!

My family is naturally of great importance to me as well. I know, everyone says that…and I will tell you that in some ways I’ve taken that for granted over the years.  The loss of my father 13 years ago, the warmest, kindest man, pushed me to hold my family closer; however, it was the loss of my mom just over a year ago (a woman I thought was so determined to complete her bucket list that she would never be gone) that really kicked me hard. But I realize how lucky I was to have them in my life, and my focus now is to ensure my kids and my husband and I create the same warm envelope of caring and support that I was so fortunate to have.

What is the message?

People often take this time to reflect on the past year…but I would like to put my energy towards the year ahead. In 2014, my plan is to take better care of this body I have been given with healthier eating and consistent exercise, as well as challenge that fitness by participating in my first half-marathon (there…I said it in print, so now I REALLY have to do it!). I will also continue to push myself to improve my professional skills for the benefit of my patients and myself.  Last, but certainly not least…I will hold my family and friends close, show them love and support, and have great fun with them as well. What will YOU do this year to make it your best?

Dr. Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario. If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer!