These past few weeks I’ve been feeling pretty calm and collected (on my holidays). As my annual leave is about to end, I’m scared. Finishing residency is a huge achievement for me, but realising that there’s only 11 shifts left is making everything real. Going out into the world very soon and starting a path away from medicine is causing me a lot of anxiety.
My biggest fears on leaving medicine
The lists of fears can be endless. As Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her book Big Magic, “there are so many ways in which you might be afraid to live a more creative life”. Creative life does include changing from the well trodden path of clinical medicine, because you’re trying to think and do things differently. Ultimately, listening to fear produces the same thing everyday – to stop.
I’ve decided to write through my main fears on leaving full-time med.
Fear of finances
When you’re overwhelmed with stress and anxiety it can be difficult to sort through the exact source. On questioning myself and further self reflection I’ve realised that the financial aspect of leaving medicine is one of my biggest concerns.
If money wasn’t an issue I know I’d be pursuing different things. The answer would be easy.
However, I haven’t won the lottery or have a family inheritance to rely on. So, how am I going to pay the rent? What about buying food? The bills? I’ve got savings that can carry me through a few months without income, but it’s a limited time.
Soon enough, I’ll need to figure out a way to make money.
For an in depth look at how I’m managing the financial side of leaving medicine click here.
Fear of what others will say (especially my family)
Being a doctor is a source of pride for my family. They’re all so happy with my career, and will tell anyone that will listen about how I’m a doctor. For them, they would rather I apply myself and become an anaesthetist. Even becoming a General Practitioner wouldn’t be that great for them, but merely okay.
For me, it’s mainly my family that will be the source of issues. However, I’m an adult. In the end, there comes a point in your life where you need to live it for yourself.
If you do the specialty your family want, or stay as a doctor to keep others happy it’s only truly affecting you. The outsiders won’t be studying every day, doing a masters or night shifts to become a specialist. Once you’re a specialist you’ll be the only one doing that work daily.
Is making a choice based on others happiness really worth it?
For help on dealing with unsolicited advice click here.
Fear of regret
What if I’ll like a path in medicine that I don’t know of yet?
Lately, as I get closer to closing the door on full-time clinical medicine I’ve begun to feel worry about if I’m making the right choice. Closing the door on medicine seems very final, I’m doing a half hearted door close currently with the plan to locum.
It’s a soft change, but it also means I’m in this strange middle ground. Instead of burning that bridge I’m standing in the middle looking at both ends.
Should I focus on new skills and creating a career outside of medicine?
Or should I cultivate my medical resume and work towards some sort of career in medicine. Maybe I haven’t found what I like yet? Hospital medicine isn’t for me, but perhaps I’d like something else?
I don’t really know, and I’m scared to completely shut off that possibility.
To be truthful, I almost feel a degree of FOMO (fear of missing out). Others are signing up to conferences, masters, courses, and doing medical research to be more employable. Since my heart hasn’t fully been in med these past few years I’ve not been doing this and am falling behind.
Basically, I’m unsure of where my future is going to lead me and am scared of regret.
On the flip side, if I don’t change now I will probably always regret the fact that I wasn’t brave. That I never gave the change a go.
Fear of failure
I’ve written a whole blog post on this, to read it click here. Fear of failure and why it’s been holding me back from leaving medicine.
I wasn’t fully aware how scared I am of failing until speaking with Dr Anjalee Perera from the Disillusioned Medic.
Fear surrounding finances was what I thought were my biggest ones, but I began to realise there was more going on.
If I had a successful alternate career option (preferably a lucrative one) to slip into immediately, I’d feel vindicated in my change. I’d also feel comfortable opening up to my family about the career move.
Unfortunately, careers don’t fall into your lap. It takes time and effort to slowly build your way up. Overnight success stories are myths, the seeming overnight success is usually a person that has worked for years in the same thing. Eventually achieving widespread recognition one day, where the public may think they only started the day before their fame.
Many successes have failed multiple times. In fact, it seems success and failure go hand in hand. Yet, I’m so worried about failing. I’ve never truly failed in my entire life. I believe medics are used to achieving, since childhood. So that particular muscle can be poorly developed.
I have an inkling that this year I’m going to be practicing how to bounce back after defeat.
What am I going to do next?
This list could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it up here. My other big concern is about what I’m going to do next.
The future is not clear and I don’t have the answers.
I’m trying to keep faith that it will slowly reveal itself to me, and that I’m currently exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Right now, I’m following my heart and making a decision that is best for my own wellbeing. Also, I’m trying to resist the urge to throw myself head first into a new job. The past few days I’ve been furiously working at being accepted into locum agencies. It seems my default mode is “work now, think later“. My comfort zone is production.
It’s time to give myself permission to let go. To show myself self love and compassion. That it’s okay to be a bit lost, it’s okay to not work for a month and to think. This is a steep learning process and soon I’m stepping into the unknown.
Maybe in a years time I’ll look back onto this article and laugh, at how unnecessarily worried I was. All I know is that I need to try, I can’t keep doing the same thing that I’m doing now and never know the alternative.