A few years ago, if you asked me where I thought I’d be today, I’d say anywhere but here. I mean, that was the entire point of my life up until 2 years ago. I held on to books the way other girls held onto dolls. I learned early on that books were an escape in both a literal and figurative sense. Sure, they transported my mind, but I also knew they were my way out of the small everybody-knows-everybody-but-nobody-cares town I grew up in. I always knew I’d do something with books, but it wasn’t until I found Emily Dickinson that I decided I wanted to write them. It blew my middle school mind that someone who never went outside could look out the window and write about the flora and fauna on the other side with such vibrancy and devastation. I wanted out from behind my own window, so I pushed myself to get the scholarships that would take me to California for my undergraduate degree, and then New York for graduate school. There was a time when everything seemed so clear to me, a time when I thought I could go on forever getting everything I wanted if I just shoved myself through the door, but at some point, I outgrew the doorframe and ended up back in the town I was always cautious enough not to call home.
I was sad. My life felt like it was over. I spent almost a decade in two of the largest cities in the United States, lands of opportunities, and I was sure there was nothing for me outside of them. I worked a few jobs I hated. I mean really hated. One of the common threads that kept me depressed was the way I was treated as a woman in the workplace. I worked in a few restaurants where sexual harassment was the norm. And then I worked for a company where the women would tear each other down because they were afraid of one another. Afraid someone else would take their spot as there was only so much female success allowed in one place. I wasn’t writing at all, not even when I got home from work. I wasn’t doing a lot of other things either because I wasn’t happy. And then a little over a year ago, a friend recommended Benco Dental to me. I’ll be honest: I didn’t want to do it at first. I would be dispatching service technicians to dental offices to fix broken equipment. Nothing about that appealed to me. There was no opportunity for me to write. The shift and drive time took up 12 hours out of my day. It sounded like another job I would hate, or at least be apathetic about.
But then Benco surprised me. Benco Dental is the first company I have ever worked for that acknowledges outside talents and empowers its female employees. Sure, I dispatch service technicians to dental offices to fix broken equipment, but sometimes a company’s culture can encourage personal growth in ways I never would have imagined. I started writing again last year. And I started sending my writing out into the world and gaining recognition for it. My coworkers inspire me every day. I work with women who studied Marketing, Finance, Neuroscience, Political Science, and the list goes on. We are kind to each other; we try to be kind to ourselves too.
Benco’s Lucy Hobbs Foundation is particularly inspiring. I am honored to work for a company that supports women in dentistry and celebrates their accomplishments. I am proud to work for a company that acknowledges my worth. And for the first time I could remember, I don’t mind where I’m at. In fact, my partner and I just bought a house last month, and I’m not afraid to use the word “home.” Yes, my day is tied up from 8:30 am to 8:30 pm most days, but I’ve adapted to it. I wake up at 5:30 am to go to the gym, write, and read before work each day. I give myself time to relax before bed. I cook on Sunday to make sure I have enough food to eat for the week so I don’t have to worry when the day gets too hectic. I feel more successful now than I ever did in school because I am both motivated and happy, two words that felt mutually exclusive to me in the past.
I still think of Emily Dickinson every time I sit on my sun porch, wondering how different her life would have been had she touched the flower petals she wrote about, tipped her head back to the sky she loved and hated in equal turns. Would she have kept running, door slamming shut behind her? Or would she have been satisfied enough with the sun’s burn on her skin and spring’s pollen sticking to her hair to take a look around and go back inside, wondering if she’d want to come out the next day, or what the world looked like at night. Maybe the power isn’t in escape after all. Maybe it’s in having options.