“You’re brave” they said when I left medicine. That was bold. That took courage.
Perhaps those were veiled ways to say “You are one crazy chick! No one leaves a career they have worked this hard for, paid that much for, on and on…” But hey let’s dissect that.
Courage is the choice to confront fear, to persevere despite struggles and hardship. Let’s be honest… it takes courage to STAY in medicine these days. Just because that is the status quo, doesn’t mean it is a comfortable path or doesn’t take courage.
You want to know what it really takes to move people to action, to confront fears…generally one of two things— passion or desperation.
It was not passion toward something else that pulled me from medicine, it was desperation about my current situation.
I am not some extraordinary human. I am not endowed with certain powers that you, the person reading this doesn’t have. I have fears just like everyone else. I just got to the point where I chose to channel that fear, to stop waking up every day with the same fears, hating myself for not doing anything to change my circumstances.
- I feared that I would be 50 years old still hating my job.
- I feared that I would be 38, 100+ lbs overweight, continuing to destroy my health and on the fast track to a heart attack.
- I feared that I wouldn’t be able to have kids because of health issues, time constraints, etc.
- I feared I would never see the world, volunteer, learn another language, or truly spend time with myself again. (Had I really done this since high school when I began the career fast track)
- Mostly I feared the loss of my mental capacity (substance abuse, suicidal ideation, loss of happiness, and just going through my days robotic not ever experiencing joy… other than when a colleague or patient encounter injected sparks of joy in my day!)
Was I letting my fears run me? Perhaps. Are there physicians that lead happy, balanced lives? Yes, although I think it’s getting harder to do. Was I probably naive entering the field of medicine about what I would be able to handle and how much I would be willing to sacrifice of myself? Absolutely.
So yes, I won’t deny that it took courage to leave. I was praised for taking care of myself but I was also criticized and shamed for leaving a helping profession. I have certainly made sacrifices leaving, including a lot of security in many areas. I have learned to live without that security which has been an interesting life lesson for this life-long planner and over-achiever.
Ultimately, I would do it all over again. And I have found that being “courageous” in one area has translated to more areas of my life.
(For those who don’t know… I am doing “30 days to 30” and sharing life lessons and stories in order to celebrate my birthday—hoping to break stigmas and stereotypes about what 30 means and looks like)