Today I am feeling reflective and sentimental. We are going to Brian's white coat ceremony at the dental school where he will take the oath of a dentist. This is a monumental step and one that means a lot to me. When people say things like "we're pregnant" or "we're going to dental school" you often think, no, she is pregnant and he is going to dental school. I usually am one who thinks the correction in my mind. But right now I do, and will continue to say that we got into dental school. The road to Brian's acceptance to Indiana University School of Dentistry is one that I took with him. It was an up and down journey that we experienced together.
Over four years ago, Brian and I were in our second year of marriage and new parents of Maybrie who was just six months old. Brian took the DAT (dental admission test) and applied to dental school for the first time. We were living at Wymount in Provo, UT while Brian pursued a major in Biology. We were young, naive, and hopeful as we picked schools to apply to, planned Brian's final year of undergrad, and dreamed about what our future would hold. During the months of waiting for mail to arrive to invite Brian for interviews we would lay in bed at night talking about the different schools and what it would be like to live in different parts of the country. I think that everyone who applies to a professional school understands the feelings associated with the waiting game part of the application process.
Brian, up to this point, was the kind of guy whom things always worked out. He seemed to have some magic luck where he got jobs without applying, rarely got sick, and married quickly without experiencing heart break. Not that he didn't have to work for anything, because he has always been a very hard worker. It was just that his hard work always paid off and produced the assumed results. So, because of this, I think we both just naively assumed he would get into dental school on his first try. The first application round he got one interview at the University of Washington, which would have been great because he would have received in-state tuition. But, he did not get accepted there... or anywhere. Opening those rejection letters one after another really affected Brian in a way I had never seen before. He had truly failed. He felt discouraged and defeated. It was hard to watch him go through and it was hard not to feel frustrated and disappointed myself. Our perfectly laid out life plan had been disrupted. We hit a road block, and now had to decide a plan of action after graduating.
We decided to move up to Washington so that Brian could maintain his residence and keep his shot at in-state tuition somewhere. We spent a year living at Brian's parents' house in Grandview, WA. Brian re-took the DAT and reapplied to dental school with an improved test score. Once again our savings were depleted with the application costs and the waiting game continued. We discovered that a biology degree is not very helpful in finding a job. Brian did several temp jobs like working at a blueberry packing plant and driving a forklift. He spent a while working at the Walmart distribution center before taking a job as the assistant manager for RE Powell (a fuel/lubricant distributor) in Yakima, WA. We had two interviews the second round at University of Washington and Western University and Pomona, CA. He was placed on the alternate list at Western in January, and we waited to here an offer up until the first day of school in August. He didn't get in, and once again the weight of rejection sunk our spirits. We decided he should apply one last time since he was so close being an alternate.
We waited a little longer to apply the third round because we kept waiting to hear from where he was an alternate and didn't want to unnecessarily spend money on another application. We applied in the middle of the application window, which turned out to be too late. Brian received no interviews. It was very frustrating. When Brian received rejections from UW and Western, where he had previously interviewed, we knew enough about the process to know we wouldn't be getting in that year. We had both decided to be done applying for dental school if he didn't get in that time, and move onto a different career path. Brian was doing a good job at RE Powell and was gaining valuable business experience, something that was completely unrelated to his degree. We considered him staying with the company and pursuing an MBA. It seemed like a smart decision, but somehow we both kept feeling unsettled about it.
Almost simultaneous with the dental school rejections, Brian heard about a one year master's program in Indiana that had helped a guy from Yakima get into dental school after years of trying. It peeked our interest, and we ended up spending months researching and praying about whether to keep trying for dentistry or not. We kept trying to talk ourselves into staying with RE Powell and pursuing a career in business instead, but it never felt right. We decided that if we were going to try again for dental school, we had to do something different. We needed to improve Brian's chances by moving to another state where he could show his face during the application process, and amp up his resume with success in a master's program. We took a leap of faith and decided to move our family across the country to Indianapolis, IN. We paid a deposit on housing and packed our belongings before we even had an acceptance into the Master's program at IUPUI. When others called us crazy, we moved forward, knowing that we were doing what the Lord had prompted us to do.
We sold most of our belongings and pulled a small U-haul trailer with our mini-van across 7 states over 4 days to our new home in Indianapolis, IN. It was what I like to call our personal pioneer experience. Brian started school two weeks after we moved into Manchester Village, and we began to settle into a new life in the midwest. We were hopeful about Brian getting in the year following completion of the master's program, but we really were going to push for him to get in immediately after. Interestingly enough, Brian's first rejection came from Indiana University in September. It was a huge blow, especially after all we had been through to get here. We spoke to some neighbors who were currently in dental school. We discovered that two guys, one dental student and one medical student, had originally received rejections from IU, but sent emails fighting the decision, and were later granted interviews and acceptances. We thought it was a long shot, but decided Brian should go meet with the Interim Dean and plead his case. It was good because she put his application back in the pool with a note to see his fall grades and then determine whether to invite him for an interview.
Over the next few months Brian worked hard to get good grades. He had a friend talk to the new Dean and arrange a meeting. Shortly after meeting the Dean he was granted an interview. Two weeks later Brian was put on the alternate list. Brian had a friend in his master's program who got accepted, but declined the offer to go to another school. In his letter to decline the offer, he mentioned Brian and said why he thought Brian would be a good replacement for him. Within days Brian was accepted. Coincidence or not, I am grateful for the kind words his friend shared. Along with the other friends who spoke to people at the dental school on Brian's behalf.
On March 18th, Brian texted me at work and asked if I could talk. I had a class just coming in. I immediately pulled up our email to see if the acceptance was there. Nothing. I greeted my students, feeling confused and anxious for a few minutes. Then Brian told me we were going to be staying in Indy for another 4 years! I completely freaked out! I started jumping up and down and told my startled class of Kindergartners the news. I made them all stand up and do a happy dance and cheer with me! I couldn't control my excitement. As soon as the class left I called Brian and congratulated him through tears. I was beyond proud, and the moment was even better than all of the times I pictured it over the past four years. I spent the afternoon texting family and friends and planning a last-minute celebration party. I had my friend Becca make a sheet cake that I quickly frosted when I got home. I grabbed some treats at the dollar store on my way home from work and I had Maybrie color some pictures to decorate. When Brian got home we shared hugs and comments of joy and disbelief. We went to Panda Express for dinner (one of Brian's favorites) and then came home to a party. Many of our friends and neighbors dropped in to offer their congratulations. It was a great day!
Brian started dental school on July 8th. He has been rocking it! He only missed 1/2 a point on his first practical anatomy exam, second best in the class, and his personal best test score since we've been married. I am so incredibly proud of him! He is working so hard, and most of all he seems to really love and appreciate where he is and what he is doing. We love it here in Indianapolis and are thrilled to be here for the next four years. The Class of 2017 White Coat Ceremony was held today. It was neat to be there and watch them put his coat on. The speakers told them repeatedly, "Today you are a doctor" and talked about what it means to be a professional. It was neat to think about what it will mean for him to carry the title of doctor. I couldn't be more proud of my husband for sticking with it and fulfilling his dream of becoming a dentist. We aren't there yet... but it sure feels good to know we are in and just four years away from the career he is so passionate about. I love to hear Brian tell me about what he is learning (even if dissecting cadavers is a bit repulsive to me) because he gets so excited about it. I hope he continues to find joy in the journey and in his future profession. I love you babe! So proud of how far you've come!
Chris Kirkwood, Daxton Pulham, Marcus Thayn, and Brian- The "Dude's Group" of IUSD
Our whole gang- The Kirkwood's, Pulham's, Thayn's and Naylor's
My Dr. Brian Naylor
Doesn't he look so handsome and professional?!!