For as long as I could remember, I couldn’t order a Double-Double at In-N-Out. Not because I’d get an allergic reaction, and not because I couldn’t speak loud enough to place my order. Instead, it’s due to my values. I keep kosher as part of my religion. According to the Jewish Torah, Kosher means “fit” and only certain animals are allowed to be consumed. For land animals, they must chew their cud and have split hooves. For sea creatures, they must have fins and scales. Animals must be slaughtered in the most humane way possible, and the meat must be blessed by a Rabbi. Meat is checked for signs of illness, infection, or broken bones, which would make it non-Kosher. Milk and meat products cannot be mixed – hence why I’ve never had a Double-Double. Keeping kosher has lead me down the path of a healthier lifestyle. In a sense, it is a lifestyle which reduces cholesterol and improves one’s digestive system.
I think of kosher as my daily internal promise of self-control. As a D3, it’s easy to think back to my first year of dental school when I started to live an hour away from my hometown. At the beginning, it was difficult being myself. I’d have to order vegetarian food any time I’d eat out with classmates, instead of having the luxury to order kosher meat from menus at kosher restaurants. I didn’t have the comfort to drive just a few minutes away to a kosher supermarket, and ask my butcher for an assortment of steaks, chicken, and lamb.
With time, I began doing more research on vegetarian foods which are high in protein, and have managed to keep a healthy, nutritious diet in place, while facing a rigorous curriculum. I feel my best in clinic when I take care of myself, both physically (through my diet) and mentally (by maintaining my spirituality). As a third year, I have adapted my own routine to maintain spiritual wellness and my own self-identity while in dental school. I meditate for at least ten minutes each morning, and I write down one thing (or experience) which I’m thankful for each night. Several of my classmates have similar habits which help them stay grounded while facing the good, the bad, and the ugly in dental school.
If you’d like to change up your routine in 2019, I encourage you to add a new habit to your day. Add something that you’d like to do, for you. You can begin to write down one thing you’re thankful for, or one thing you learn each day. In ten years, you’d have a Cliffnotes version of a Dental School Diary to look back on. For others, reciting a single mantra/positive affirmation/prayer such as “I have worked hard, I deserve to be here. Today will be a great day” at the same time, every morning, can flip your day upside down towards a path of success and confidence.
I would not be where I am in life if I neglected my spiritual wellness. Keeping kosher is my way of staying connected to my ancestors, while living away from home. Likewise, daily meditation and reflection have been my spiritual avenues throughout my transformation from a Student, to a Student Doctor, and soon, to a Doctor. It is easy to only think about your patients’ needs, and forget about your needs. Find something that makes you feel centered, and never let go of it.