Don’t let what you do stop you from doing what you love. At first, that may sound a bit trite, even cliche, but a truth is a truth no matter how you spin it.
Simply put, most of us do not spend our days doing what we love. We spend our days surviving.
As much as we want to do the “good” stuff, we focus on making ends meet. We aim to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. Some of us go so far as to take on several jobs, maybe two, three, or more part-time positions, to earn enough to keep the lights on and to support our loved ones. Others have one job, a career, a profession, but become so consumed by it they don’t leave time for anything else.
If you don’t have time for anything else, where is the you in your life?
It’s easy to let our “work”, i.e. our job(s), take over and even easier to justify it by saying that we need to do it. After all, those bills don’t pay themselves. The bigger issue is defining what is it we actually need. We need on a physical level (food and water), of course, and on an emotional one too. Some of us even feed into the notion that we need to meet society’s expectations. Bleh!
What we really need is balance. That means pursuing those things we are passionate about, and if that is the “work” we do, even better! We need to leave room for those things that motivate us, drive us, and inspire us. For me, that means chasing my writer’s dream.
On America’s Got Talent this season, there was a young 29-year-old family medicine resident named Brandon Rogers. He hit the stage and sang his heart out to a Stevie Wonder song. With the vocals of a young John legend, he won over the crowd. It was no surprise the judges voted him into the next round. Unfortunately, he would never get the chance; he was killed in a car accident before the next show.
This hopeful young man lost his life but not before he showed people what he was really passionate about. I hope that is something his family can hold onto.
Something judge Simon Cowell said during that episode caught my attention. After all his years of judging on America’s Got Talent, Britain’s Got Talent, and the X Factor, he said a doctor had never auditioned before. Is it that doctors don’t have talent? No, it’s that doctors rarely feel they can show their other sides to people.
As you know, I am a family physician. People who know me well, understand that I am a multi-faceted quirky sort of woman. I am loyal. I am passionate. I am a pop culture maven who runs on tea and chocolate. I am a writer. Patients, however, may not be willing to know that about me.
Society often puts doctors behind a one-dimensional veil. They think of doctors as firm and serious, objective and restrained. As professionals, they have to be formal. They are there to serve. They are there to help people. They went through years of training and are expected to put their profession first. They cannot be emotional; they cannot be playful; they have to know all the answers.
Oh no! I am a complete and utter failure!
I am ashamed to admit I once fell in line with those societal expectations. I felt an obligation to my career more than to myself. Society can do that to you, brainwash you with expectations and warp your priorities to fall in line with every stereotype under the sun. Those expectations can make you forget who you are.
I am more than a doctor.
Growing up, I was a story teller. I still am.
In elementary school, I wrote poems. My mom may remember a poem about an onion crying (cute, right?) that she posted on our refrigerator for months on end. In junior high school, I wrote stories about my classmates. Those words allowed me to come out of my shell, to be less introverted, and before long I was approached by newfound friends to write even more stories. In high school, my best friend Laurie and I wrote what we lovingly called “scenarios”, where we put ourselves in outlandish situations and adventured our way out. It was liberating, inventive, and creative.
In college, nothing. My writing stopped. My focus shifted onto the work of becoming a doctor. Those had to be my priorities. Everything else had to be put aside. I did what I set out to do. I attended medical school; I completed my residency program; I practiced clinical medicine; I helped people; I even saved some lives. It is rewarding to know I made a difference in the lives of others.
Still, it is a damn shame I left my full heart behind all those years ago.
Writing was a big part of who I was, but I lost my light in a fog of responsibility and expectations.
Fifteen years, it would take me that long to find my way back. All it took was a call out from a writing competition in 2008. I won, by the way. Renewed, I gave myself permission to write again.
When all is said and done, being a doctor does not define who I am. Mother, wife, friend, advocate, consultant, runner, teacher, writer, no single role defines me. I am a potpourri of individuality gathered into a one of a kind bouquet. There is no one like me, and there’s no one like you either. Stay true to that. Stay true to you.
Don’t let what you do stop you from doing what you love. I learned the hard way.