I moved into an apartment recently. It’s an older apartment, but roomy. In this apartment is a sunroom with a large window looking out into the Seattle summer. I like to stand in this sunroom from time to time. Sipping a drink or brushing my teeth or just to stand and stare after a long workday.
The first thing my eyes go to is the interstate. I open the window to hear the roar of eight busy lanes of commuters hurrying from place to place.
It’s not incredibly attractive. It’s an interstate. Concrete and asphalt and taillights and the rare sound of a car horn (it is Seattle after all). If I allow my eyes to glance up, I’ll see the neighborhood of South Lake Union, home of Amazon headquarters. A bunch of buildings and windows and cranes and unfinished work in a place under constant growth and construction.
Past that, a little farther up, things change. I’m met at eye level by the Space Needle, the icon of Seattle. A towering dream for lovers of landscapes. Because just past the Space Needle is the mighty Puget Sound, a large body of blue. Filled with sailboats and ferries and the occasional fin of a surfacing sea mammal.
And past that? The bold snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountain range. A towering shadow that I mistook as clouds upon my arrival to Seattle one year ago. These things pull together to create one of the most beautiful city/nature combinations I’ve ever seen. Literally right outside my window.
The view from my sunroom is a lot like my view on life and the daily nuances that fill it.
Sometimes I complain. Sometimes I’m a pessimist. Sometimes I see the worst in things and people and situations. And I guess we all do. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of. But it’s the truth.
Whether we know it or not, our lives are steered by attitude. Steered by our mood and the lens that we’re viewing our world through at any given moment. And things tend to look a lot different depending on the lens that we use.
One of my biggest fears is that one day, I’ll stop my gaze at the interstate. I won’t look past it. I’ll see the interstate in its plainness and wonder why I even have a sunroom. And I may give up looking out the window altogether because after all, what’s the point of trying to see the world if all that’s out there are interstates?
It’s tough sometimes, but we have to get ourselves out of this interstate frame of mind. With every day and with every situation, we will always have a choice of how to view it. We will always have a choice of seeing the good or seeing the bad. Being a pessimist or being an optimist.
As doctors and dentists, we have a duty of being an optimist no matter the situation. When your patients are upset because they just received a daunting medical diagnosis. When your coworkers are having family problems. When your staff is having a bad day. As a dentist, we are the leaders in the office, and our attitude and the way we look at the world around us matters more than we may think it does.
So what do we do?
We see the interstate for what it is, but then we don’t stop there. Instead, we keep looking up. We find the beauty in the everyday. We see the Space Needle and the mountains and the sky and realize just how grand and beautiful the world can be. And how our lives and the way we conduct them really do matter.
And then we invite others into our sunroom. So we can all enjoy the view together.
Dr. Joe Vaughn is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and a member of the American Dental Association. He grew up in Alabama and recently graduated from The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry in 2015. He now lives in Seattle, Washington, and works at Neighborcare Health, a community health center in Seattle. Two cups of coffee, writing and indie music are everyday occurrences for Joe. Go Seahawks and Roll Tide!