Do you ever want to quit?  Do you ever wish you could just take your life and turn it upside down?  Do something entirely different?  Do you ever, dear doctors, fantasize about other jobs, other professions?  Do you feel guilty when you have such decadent thoughts?

I think about it sometimes.  Not because I hate medicine, or because I’m burnt-out, or because I’m impaired.  I just think that maybe, life is too short and too wonderful to do only one thing for an entire lifetime.  I’ve fantasized about all kinds of different careers.  After a busy emergency department shift, when I’m asked about 10,000 questions for eight hours, I think I’d like to retire as the night security guard for a mall.  Just walking and checking locks, sitting down when I want, exercising as much as I need by pacing the circumference of a large shopping center (on a carpeted floor, more cushioned than our hospital tile and concrete).  I’m sure it’s harder than that, but it’s my fantasy!

I’ve imagined life running a bookstore, or working as a hunting guide; owning a gun-shop or being a firearms instructor.  Of course, you know that I love to imagine myself as a writer, being paid for the words that come out of my head onto paper and computer screens.

Why do I do it?  How many people fantasize about being physicians?  I mean, I get to help the sick, save the occasional dying, do incredible procedures.  I get paid very well to do it, to boot!  Why change?

Why change?  Maybe we all get a little bored.  Let’s face it, even the best trauma surgeon in the busiest trauma center eventually says ‘well, I guess I’ve seen it all now!’  All of us have monotony built into our work lives.  Chest pain, abdominal pain, headache, fracture, poisoning, gun-shot wound, all of these entities become part of a dance in the end.  And it’s a dance we know so very well, having moved to the music thousands upon thousands of times for each of our most common diagnoses.  EKG, Chest X-ray, enzymes, da,da,da; aspirin, nitro, oxygen, da, da, da.  ‘The same as it ever was, the same as it ever was…’

This may be good, so long as we don’t fall into laziness.  We become very good at things we do over and over again.  The old martial arts maxim holds true:  ‘The secret is, there is no secret.  Repetition and practice are key.’   And yet, repetition, boredom, the same thing, all of these can get inside our brains and make us want to be, well, security guards or something!

It isn’t wrong, you know.  To want to quit, or to quit!  Just remember that no one else will understand; no one outside of medicine, that is.  They’ll say, ‘oh, but you help so many people!’ Or ‘you’ll be wasting all of that education!’  Or this:  ‘God gave you a gift!  You can’t throw it away!’

Remember, if you want to change, that these people would have said to St. Peter:  ‘Sure you could follow Jesus, but people need fish!  Don’t quit yet!  Give it a little while!’  And to young David, ‘King?  Who wants the trouble?  You’re an excellent shepherd.  Don’t forget how much the sheep need you!’

We all have a path to follow.  Sometimes, I believe, God takes us in very un-expected directions.  And sometimes, a thing that seems wonderful to everyone else isn’t so wonderful anymore to us, as we trudge the halls of the world’s emergency rooms and hospitals, overwhelmed, tired and often quite traumatized by what we have seen.

If you need a break, do it.  And don’t feel guilty.  Maybe you’re needed somewhere else!

Edwin

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