01.28.15

the struggle

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:25 pm by Administrator

one thing i have been mightily wrestling with over the past several months is my career trajectory. every day that passes, i feel it more and more strongly, that it’s time for me to make a change. and the more i pray about it, the more things seem to shift in my circumstances. just two weeks ago, a mentor of mine offered me an alternate career path that might take me away from clinical medicine forever. it was an opportunity that i have been waiting for but perhaps never expected to have this early in my career. perhaps not surprisingly, the realization that this possibility was imminent made me profoundly depressed. as always, i just don’t know how to enjoy a good thing when it’s right in front of me.

but the shift in my circumstances has gone above and beyond cues for change. there have been really unexpected moments of affirmation as well. this week, one of my patients brought his very elderly parents into the clinic to meet me. they’d flown in from out of the country, and on the very short list of things he’d decided to do with them, having them meet me was one of his priorities. i was incredibly moved. and over the past two weeks, i’ve had several patients tell me in very heartfelt terms what i have meant to them in their long and difficult battles with HIV and AIDS.

beyond this, two doctors that i’d previously worked with each reached out to me in the past month to thank me for being the boss that i was to them. since i lost them two years ago, i always wondered if i could have done more to keep them, and i sometimes felt guilt as well as sadness about my inability to keep them happy. but from their recent communications with me, i realized that their admiration of me is what kept us together for as long a time as we had. and i realized that even now, two years after we parted ways, they still view me as someone who influenced them for the better, not only professionally but also personally as well.

it has not all been a waste. and as much as i suffer in my work, and as much as everyone who knows me understands why i cannot practice clinical medicine for much longer, it has been a work that has brought out some of my best qualities. i’ve earned my stripes as a leader by tending to the dying and by leading doctors through some of their darkest times. i’ve built a team around me that overcame fear and dysfunction to become the highest performing unit in my company. and i’ve been a pillar in the lives of my patients, many of whom felt ignored and mistreated before they met me. as much as my thoughts tend to revolve around the patients that i dislike and the situations at work that make me angry, i owe it to the people i have touched to recognize that i have been important in their lives—and that i have been good to them.

i have never enjoyed being a doctor, not once in my life, and thus it amazes me now to consider how effective i have been at a work that i have been so consistently ill-suited for. for most of the past twelve years, i have carried a burden as a primary doc that has twisted me, embittered me, and hardened me incalculably on my insides—and yet i have persevered. on the brink of turning forty, i’m recognizing now that my story is not one of failure; it is one of strange but nevertheless satisfying success. because if i could be a healer when i was personally unwell, how much more of a man can i be to my people if i am doing what gives me delight? a part of me, just a small part of me, really believes i can do anything. and to me, that is a wonderful thing to feel. i am not the disillusioned, aging, and unhappy man that i thought i was. there is, within me, a man just entering his prime, who has not yet even begun to live.

a year ago, i asked my son if there was anything he would change about me as a father, if he could. he asked me to stop coming home from work angry. i thought about this for a long, long time, and i realized the very simple truth of what my son was saying. my son wants a happy and fulfilled father; and my moods have become the single biggest predictor of the happiness of his home. i want to fulfill my son’s hopes in me. if for no one else, i want to change what i am and change what i do, if that change can give me any chance to be good to him and to all those that i love, as i have always desired to be

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