COVID-19 – Identity, Community and Gratitude
By: Amisha Singh, DDS
I sit staring at the white space on the paper. I am in my home office after having been at home for six weeks, practicing social distancing and watching the world change before my eyes. My children play under the table at my feet. My eldest is tackling remote learning beside me. I am tasked with the challenge of writing something relevant for you when our world is changing hourly. My heart is filled… with fear, with hope, with uncertainty and with gratitude. I yearn to put words to paper that ease your worries, encourage you, uplift you… all while wondering how life will change in countless ways before this article is printed before it gets to speak to you and share in your joys, your sorrows and your triumphs.
Our world is different. It has changed so quickly and so significantly that it seems surreal. Some have said it feels like a dream. For others, this is closer to a nightmare. Some have been able to find new time with family or experience a pause and a reprieve. Others have lost loved ones or have struggled with their own mental or physical health. A few weeks ago, we could never have imagined the way that the world has changed. And change, especially when it comes this quickly, can impact the very foundation of our lives. Change can impact our identities and that impact brings a world of challenges.
As we grow, research identity models generally agree that we start forming our identities in childhood. These identities gain prominence in adolescence and remain fluid and dynamic throughout our lives. They morph based on our experiences, challenges and conflicts. For many, our identities have subtly been uprooted and rerouted during the COVID crisis. We tie our identities to our spaces. College students around the country who were in the middle of discovering their adult selves in their communities, dorms and campuses have been forced to pause that process. Parents across the world who relied on their office and their work culture to create boundaries to fuel their contribution have been handed the challenge of parenting and working at the same time. Children who relied on their classrooms to learn and thrive have lost that outlet of creativity and growth. And in our community, dentists who relied on their practice to be able to live out their calling and help their societies have temporarily lost that space.
Our identities are also dependent on our habits. Everything from the sanctity of the routine of a podcast during a morning commute to a cup of warm coffee while reviewing patient charts to prep for the day help purpose and structure in our lives. A trip to the grocery store, which previously may have been peaceful, rejuvenating or at the very least fulfilling, has transformed into something which violates our physical and psychological safety. Our habits have been replaced with ones perhaps chosen with less intent. We are left wondering how long these new default habits and routines will need to last. The indefinite time we have had to sacrifice our routines has impacted our sense of self.
This pandemic, despite impacting us in so many diverse ways, has also been an experience that our entire world has shared. For the first time in my life, my day-to-day experiences and challenges are identical to those of my father-in-law living in India, my best friend living in Kenya and my cousin living in Canada. This pandemic has united us as a global community in a way few things, if any, have ever done. This experience has brought profound pride and peace in simply being a member of the human race.
For me, this experience has also been pivotal in establishing growth, presence and gratitude. It has shined a light on what really matters: the beauty in the present moment and the profound gratitude for things I previously took for granted – health, dinner with my family, a glass of wine with friends. As I write this, I am filled with hope that as you read it, we have all found some normalcy in our lives again. I pray that wherever this article finds you, it finds you in health, happiness and prosperity.
But may we also always remember the lessons we learned during this transformational time. May we choose the normal we want to return to with intention. May our values guide our choices and our decisions.
I know as a community we have been handed a mountain to be moved. Dentistry, identified as a high-risk profession, was impacted significantly. But may we also find reminders of our privilege. Our hands are skilled to serve. We are positioned to use our training and our passion to create health, educate and spread a message of safety and unity. We are seen as leaders and in this call to lead, we have a responsibility to those that we serve. Leading in these challenging times is the truest test of leadership and as dentists, we are all being called to be true leaders. We are being called to lead when we may be gathering our own footing, fighting our own internal battles. We are being called to lead in our practices, in our teams, in our communities and, most importantly, within ourselves. It is hard but it is also important. It will shape who we will become and, in turn, what our profession will become. And, although it may be easy to see this as a burden, especially when we are weathering our own internal storms, I encourage you to also see this as a privilege. The health of our communities, the impact on our profession and the influence of our calling lies squarely within our hands. During this time, I am immensely grateful to belong to this community and have incredible people of consequence like you by my side. As a dentist, we belong to a club of caring, passionate people and these are the very people who will rebuild this world. I wake up every day and face the unknown with this fact to give me peace. I am a dentist and I have an incredible professional support system of some of the most amazing people. And for this, I am eternally grateful.
Amisha Singh, DDS is a Denver native and loves living in beautiful Colorado. She is an active member of the American Dental Association, Colorado Dental Association and Metro Denver Dental Society. She was recognized as one of the 2018 Top 10 Under 10 ADA Dentists nationally. She serves on the CDA House of Delegates, on the ADA Dental Wellbeing Advisory Committee and on the MDDS and CDA Membership Councils. She is also a blogger and professional speaker who works with IgniteDDS.
The Metro Denver Dental Society is a not-for-profit component society of the American Dental Association and the Colorado Dental Association.