A new career is always exciting — and nerve-wracking. What happens when the most important day of your life turns into a nightmare? Do you overcome the embarrassment, and convert it into a learning lesson? Do you hide yourself in a deep hole? I can only say, “Prepare yourself for the unexpected.”

When I finally got my big break as a dental assistant in a public clinic, I was ecstatic. This was the beginning of my new career, and my confidence level was very high. The red carpet in Hollywood could no beat the sidewalks that led me to the doors of my new job. I felt like I had wings and was at the top of my game.

The head assistant at the clinic was an older woman with thirty years of experience as a dental assistant. She reminded me of Albert Einstein. “Einstein” knew everything, and could tell whether or not you can cut it as a dental assistant. She had been training me for two weeks, and I was more than ready to assist the dentist.

Finally, my day arrived, and I was ready to show her what I could do. Einstein said, “Today is your lucky day. You get to assist the dentist.”

I felt chills running down my spine, and was not sure if this was a good or a bad feeling. I thought to myself, Did she just jinx me? Then I proceeded to set up the treatment room.

The room appeared set up for a couple of fillings. This, to me, was a no-brainer. Once I called the patient back and seated her, I let the dentist know we were ready to begin.

This was the beginning of my jitters.

We proceeded with the treatment. Both of my hands were loaded: my left hand with the air and water syringe and my right with the suction, which had the force of a jet turbine. I was ready to start.

The dentist began to prepare the tooth for a filling. While using the suction, I accidentally got the patient’s tongue, causing her to gag on her own spit. The patient immediately sat up and was coughing and hacking.

Not knowing what to do next, I then started to pat the patient’s back to relieve  some of her stress. The dentist looked at me and nodded his head, as if to say, “What are you doing?”

As if things couldn’t get any worse, my legs had a mind of their own. They were shaking uncontrolably like jackhammers. I tried to stop them with my hands, but it was useless; I was now distracting the dentist and the patient. I felt my face getting hot like someone had lit it on fire, the embarrassment making my face a brilliant shade of red.

“Can we proceed?” the dentist asked politely. We then continued with the procedure. Just as we were finishing up, the dentist asked for some air on the tooth. I then accidentally pushed the water button — and got the crotch of his pants.

That topped it off, like butter spread on toast. I couldn’t find the words to relate how perplexed I felt. What went wrong with me?

I pulled myself together and apologized to the  dentist. I explained to him that I was extremely nervous, but that I normally work well under pressure.

The dentist just laughed. He understood, and explained that I’m going to make mistakes down the road. The key to those mistakes, he said, is learning from them, so that you know what to do the next time.

Einstein then approached me, having witnessed everything. I wanted to hide in a deep hole. She patted me on the back and said, “You did alright, kid. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

What a relief to know that I did alright after everything that happened to me today. What a mix of emotions in one day.

That day I learned to expect the unexpected. You never know what can happen to you when you have the jitters. I will always treasure my first day as a dental assistant, and how the dentist went home with  wet pants.

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