This is a guest post from the anonymous blogger behind medicinesux. I have been reading this blog for a while and decided to ask a guest post after the recent guest post from an anonymous lawyer led me to believe that professional careers(*) have much in common. For a book on the topic I recommend Disciplined Minds. Also see this paper and the resulting book.
(*) Career from old French “carriere” meaning “racecourse” (rat race?).
When I was first asked by Jacob to write a guest post, I was excited yet also a bit overwhelmed as to how to approach the task. After some thought, I’ve decided to focus more on what led me to where I am now rather than vent on and on about what is wrong with our broken American health care system. Anyhow, one blog entry would simply not be enough to do that topic any justice. I figured if anyone was interested in hearing about the crap I put up with on a daily basis they could always read more over on my blog, medicinesux.
With that said, to deny that any of these outside forces did not play a role in my growing disenchantment would be naive. Yet at the same time, a growing realization that built up from within me collided head on with what was happening to me on the outside. It is these internal feelings and how I came to learn of them that I would like to write more about here.
It is hard to say whether I would’ve found out about the concept of voluntary simplicity if it weren’t for the fact that my career in medicine came to tax my soul to no end. I’ve always compared my journey in medicine up until now to that of a marriage gone terribly wrong. So bad in fact, that I am about to file for a divorce. I thought I had found a diamond, but instead I picked up a rock. I had the best of intentions going in and in the beginning everything was going quite well, but with the passage of time things started to slowly come apart. For as long as I can remember, I always vowed to myself that I would choose a career where I could help people and make a difference in the lives of others. I also had a knack for science and did all the prerequisite health care volunteer work from working in a nursing home to joining the university EMS squad. So, I was quite excited to apply to med school. The first two years of med school where one learns the meat and potatoes of medicine in the classroom were interesting (the honeymoon phase). I always loved learning new things especially when it involved the human body. However, upon entering the clinical rotations in third year, I began to get a taste of the ugly side of medicine. And in residency I was getting fed it with a shovel. And as an attending, it is the same BS but now you bear all the responsibility when the shit hits the fan. (Here is where I would start going on an explosive tirade but I will refrain.) I began to realize that 30 more years in medicine was simply not going to happen. I needed an out, but how to go about it???
For starters, I started my blog about halfway through my residency. It was a way for me to get out my frustrations and stay sane. After working 12 or gasp…24-30 hr shifts at the hospital, I would also come home and spend my evenings online diligently seeking out more information to plan my escape from medicine. It is around this time that I learned the concept of “Early retirement” for the first time. It was like a lightening bolt went off in my head. I remember thinking to myself that this was it! This was my answer to finding my freedom. Hearing of stories of how others were able to do this on early retirement forums and blogs such as Jacob’s opened my eyes like never before. Only if I had known about this pathway a decade earlier, I could’ve spared myself so much grief! Yet I don’t think I would’ve ever found it if it wasn’t for the fork that I took in the woods when I decided to go to med school.
I had always been a frugal person but like everyone else I had my splurges. I knew in order to make this early retirement thing work out, I had to put the plan in ultra drive. I immediately called up the building management the following week to tell them that I would not be renewing my lease which was soon to be up. Two months later, I moved two blocks over to a tiny walk up studio which effectively cut my rent in half for the remaining two years of my residency. I hired some guy with a van on craigslist to move my belongings for 150 bucks. Well worth it since I had no car living in the city (I walked to the hospital) and didn’t have much time either since I was a busy resident. After moving in, I felt so much “lighter” living in a smaller place which completely fit my needs. After seeing how quickly I could save money, even given my meager resident salary, I became hooked. Every dollar saved meant I was that much closer to getting out for good. I went as far as sitting in my underwear when it was 90F degrees out so I didn’t have to turn on the A/C! Yes, I wanted out that bad. LOL
So here I am, about nine months out from finishing residency. The days are as painful as ever and I am exceedingly close to pulling the plug for good. The fancy car, McMansion, and latest toys and gadgets no longer mean anything to me like they once did. Money is like a drug. If you let it consume you, it can really take over your life. Sacrificing my time and freedom to become enslaved to a career that has sucked me dry is simply not worth it. I have found an inner peace that I would never have achieved if I were somehow able to remain in medicine. I believe that knowing when you have enough and appreciating what you have without killing yourself for it is the key to finding this serenity.
Some people outside of medicine may think I am insane for walking away at this point. My response is F them. Until one walks a day in my shoes they cannot really judge. Interestingly, many fellow physicians would leave in a heartbeat but have bogged themselves down with mortgages and other debts and are trapped. The golden handcuffs of being a doctor can be a terrible thing. I’d rather have my hand amputated than have those things put on me. I wish I had the tolerance to stay longer but I simply don’t have it in me much longer. I am long past my expiration date as it is. During this whole process, I learned that I need to live for myself first. I really don’t give a damn anymore what society esteems, from how much money we make to what jobs we hold. I just want to be free.