John Sweeney: One Man’s Bliss-Surf, Tunes and Perfect Smiles
In his light, airy office in his Waterford dental practice, Dr. John Sweeney is surrounded by waves and family. Gorgeous black and-white images of breakers and sand dot the walls, interspersed with colorful shots of his wife as well as young daughter and son. The space feels optimistic. With its high oak bookshelves and substantial desk, it also feels like something else: Success. Here’s a man, who, at 30, has made it.
Yet, the key impression one gets from actually talking with John Sweeney is that of a man with disarming humbleness. He has a mission (although he doesn’t call it that) to make the lives of those around him better. And he sees his dentistry practice as one component of that plan.
“I mean, I felt like this was where I was supposed to be. And so when I looked into it; to opening the practice and all of that, everything just kind of fell into place.”
It was three years ago that John and his wife Kim returned home to Leland, the town where he grew up, after studying biology at East Carolina University and graduating from dental school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Ever since hanging the “Open” sign on his dental office a year and a half ago, John has divided his time among his work, spending time with family, and his two great personal passions: surfing and music. The first passion, surfing, has been a part of his life for so long that he can’t even remember when he got started. What he does recall is that it was his older cousin who first put him on a surfboard and pushed him out into the Atlantic.
Now that he lives near the beach again, he spends just about every warm weekend surfing with some of the same friends he grew up with.
“I consider my friends my family,” he says. “It’s a bond that I am really blessed to have.”
Another intrinsic part of that bond is music. John started playing guitar five years ago in dental school, and began writing songs almost immediately. Now he plays regularly at open-mic nights and coffee shops around the area; he says, some of his best tunes come out of weekend jam sessions on the beach with his friends.
John’s musical style can be described as laid-back folk rock. When you ask him to classify his songs, he shakes his head. Like John himself, they come across as un-selfconscious and relaxed.
“I don’t really know. It’s my music.” Some of his songs are about family. “Often Times,” one of his personal favorites, reflects on his daughter and his priorities as a grown man. A lot of John’s other songs call for a different sort of assessment: about human nature in general.
“I always want to figure out why people do things, and why the world is the way it is. I’d say a lot of my songs are politically or socially-driven.
Like “American Way,” a song concerned with people’s awareness in this country, of what’s going on around the world. Then there’s “Easily Me,” which examines the singer’s gratitude for the blessings in his own life, in the face of recent tragic events like Hurricane Katrina and the Asian tsunami.
“How easily that it could be me with no job, or no clothes or no home to live in. That song always brings you back down to earth.”
Remaining humble is a huge part of who John Sweeney is. He says he hopes his songs and his life reflect that. He jokes that it’s difficult to get too prideful as a dentist, a field in which you and only you are held accountable for your errors. He’s glad of that, though, in a world where he considers pride to be a destructive force, both in people’s personal lives and on the world stage.
As for what’s next, John is now getting ready to put together a CD of some of his favorite tunes. As for fame and fortune, he says he’s perfectly happy with the way things are right now. “So that whole thing of being a rock star is pretty much out of the question,” he jokes. Then he pauses and adds: Unless Jack Johnson asked him to come along on tour. “Then I would have to think about it.”
For now, he’s happy with life’s current balance of family, music, surfing, and his work.
“I mean, ultimately for me, I just try to be thankful for what I have and what I’m able to do and then just try to be positive. I try to do something positive every day.”
Learn more about John Sweeney by visiting him at his office at 1003 Waterford Way, or on his website at www.sweeneydentalcare.com .