…Unless you let it define you
My grandmother and I were at a party recently. She introduced me in the following manner: “This is my granddaughter Jessica, She is a doctor. ” I instantly felt uncomfortable. Not because I am not a doctor. Technically, I am an M.D, although I am not practicing medicine. No, because society feels the need to place labels based on status, and career often plays into this.
The moment I earned my medical degree, being a doctor became my defining characteristic. I was ‘part of the club’ so to say, and somewhere along the way I lost myself. I see it happen to so many people in their careers, particularly if they are highly educated or in high-power positions. However, that is not to say that it cannot happen to anyone.
I know that my grandmother meant well and just introduced me that way out of a sense of pride, but I find it incredibly frustrating that the conversation is then dominated by my career. And it begs the question, if I was a plumber (I do not mean offense by this, I hope there are some kickass female plumbers out there) would she feel the need to bring it to the forefront of conversation?
It’s the quintessential question “What do you do?”
-WHAT DO I DO WITH WHAT?…my time? family? friends? I know that this question implies what do you do for a living, but I am so much more than I what I do for a career, or at least I hope so.
I let my career and the drive for success entirely consume me and define my self-worth. Growing up I prided myself on my intelligence because that is what I received praise for. Too often people forget, particularly as Americans, that your life does not have to revolve around work. Americans get so hung up on career status and success. Yes, I want to enjoy what I’m doing with my life and be successful, but not at the expense of it becoming all consuming and unhealthy.
Therein lay my relationship with medicine. In my final months, no matter how many times I tried, I couldn’t see my future in medicine without being attached to my phone or pager, constantly worrying about patients and working long hours. Some may argue that they have very reasonable schedules as a physician; I applaud them. The key here is knowing yourself and your limits. I would never be the person that would create limits for myself, leave work to someone else, and be able to emotionally check out enough to relax. Call it an obsessive part of my personality, or what you will; it made me a wonderfully dedicated physician in many respects, but it also led to my burnout and emotional exhaustion. The more I became engrossed in my work, the more I found myself feeling trapped and daydreaming of a way out, imagining myself happier, traveling, more balanced, enjoying my life.
You are MORE than your Work Title
So here I am an extreme example of no longer being defined by your career (or education for that matter.) Yes, I do believe that many can achieve balance and create their dream life in their current careers without uprooting. You do have to ‘reality check’ yourself and be honest about what you want out of life and your career.
I don’t want my intentions to be mistaken. As a feminist, I am all for women pushing boundaries in their careers and holding top leadership positions. Break that glass ceiling! I just also want them to take care of themselves on the way up.This may be my personal opinion, but do not become so entrenched and defined by any position that should you lose it, you lose a sense of who you are, whether it be as a girlfriend, mother, position in a job, etc.
We as women, as humans, are so much more than the work title that we hold. I read somewhere once to think about the information that will be recited at your funeral. Will people talk about the deals you were able to close and positions you held (it’s possible), but more likely it will be because your actions impacted the lives of others.
Make YOURSELF a Priority
Now, everyday I’m working on progress over perfection, which is a hard concept for this type-A chica. At some point it clicked for me that we only have one life to live. I can spend all my time toiling away at something I don’t enjoy, to get to a retirement that I can then hopefully enjoy. Or, I can spend my time exploring my interests, enjoying my life, and ultimately growing more as a person. Some may see this as an immature millennial dream, and I admit that I held a lot of shame and guilt for a while about taking time to focus on myself versus serving others. Ultimately I realized I was not doing anyone any good by remaining in an unhappy state. The world deserves to know the most productive, happy, creative, loving version of each of us. They cannot fully know that if we are not taking care of OURSELVES!