Monday, April 25, 2011

Wishing My Life Away

Do you remember when you were younger and you just couldn't wait for the next birthday? (or holiday? or summer? or Christmas?) My dad used to tell me not to wish my life away. Somehow, I feel like medical training and now, my career, has caused me to wish away a significant portion of my life. Wishing for first and second year to be over to get to clinical rotations. Wishing clinical rotations to be over to start electives. Wishing to get started in residency. Wishing to BE FINISHED with residency (probably one of my biggest wishes, ever). So now, I am here, through all of my training, practicing in what is pretty much an ideal situation as an Ob/Gyn. One weekday call per week. One weekend call a month (with the post-call Monday off). Nice offices, beautiful hospital, great staff, good patients; no doubt, I run from 7 am until 6 pm most days. I think that (most of the time) I am happy, but I still catch myself wishing for the day to be over, wishing for the baby to just come out already, wishing for the next weekend, the next break, to win the lottery, for the next chance to not do what I have spent a significant portion of my adult life busting my tail to learn how to do. What is wrong with me? Burn-out? Have I chosen poorly? Inevitable no matter what profession one has chosen? Is it human nature? Our we destined to continuously wish our lives away? What do you think?

15 comments:

  1. Maybe you're burnt out, I don't know. I do know that we always need something to look forward to. That helps a lot.

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  2. I think this is almost the human condition of modern society.

    It is important to remember we are human beings not human doings, as medical mums we're always "doing" something or looking towards the next thing we're doing.

    Some of the best moments in life are simply the "being".

    Maybe thinking of all the things you enjoy about your life on a regular basis?.. sounds like there are many!

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  3. I think it is time to get out of the habit. Two years after I finished training, my husband and I took a 14 month leave of absence and traveled around the world. One of the big lessons of that trip was the central role of high quality work in leading a satisfying life. I have reflected on that often over the past 17 years; it reminds me to enjoy the moment.

    From a presentation when we got home:
    Things we missed: Our work. It came as quite a shock how much we missed our work. We hadn't expected to think about work more than a couple of times on the entire trip. But, even though we had been traveling long enough to disengage from work, we couldn't help thinking about the sense of achievement work provides. While working day-to-day it is easy to focus on the negatives: on the road or on call too much; long hours; clients or patients who show less gratitude than we feel is due. These negatives all melted away. What remained was the thrill of working long and hard with a team and finally getting the right answer. We realized that we are not just working on individual patients or serving clients on individual projects. We are building the body of work upon which we will look back once our careers are over. It is easier to work on building the accomplishments that will define your contribution than simply to go on doing your job day-in and day-out. Before the trip, we prided ourselves on being work to live, not live to work type of people. The trip taught us the central role of high quality work in leading a satisfying life.

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  4. I have been contemplating the exact same thing! I realized I have a very difficult time living in the moment without constantly having something "new and exciting" to look forward to...I am trying VERY hard to be content regardless of my current situation--esp since that situation happens to be an ob/gyn residency starting this summer. I don't want to look back on my life and realize I wasted most of it wishing for the next thing...what a waste, I mean, what am I in such a rush for? Why rush towards death?

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  5. Probably you are still recovering from your education and training. Medical school and residency + or- fellowship are all about delayed gratification. That's all you do for all those years. Getting a few more years away from that helps. So does a conscious effort to enjoy the moment/process, which you haven't had much opportunity to do (the present moment/process in the training years are things you really wanna get through/forget!).

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  6. I have been following this blogger/author/recipe writer since long before I even knew what the word blog meant (which was embarrassingly not so long ago!) when she started over at baby center. This is one of my favorite articles that she (Catherine Newman) wrote - when I first read it I got all teary. Here is the link -

    http://wondertime.go.com/parent-to-parent/article/dalai-mama.html

    Anyway, your post made me think of this article, and thank you! read it once again.

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  7. I am not in medicine but I know that feeling. I don't think it is always burned out. I sometimes have to remind myself that it is okay to be content with where I am in my life. I've only been out of college three years but I recall spending so much "wishing" I could just make it through this one midterm, final, class, or semester. Now I look back and think and wish I would have savored every moment I had with friends or with my favorite professors and classes. (I know college can't be compared to what med students and residents go through!) Now at work I find myself sometimes working just to get to a weekend, vacation, or special event. Sometimes it is burnout but other times I am just not being content

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  8. Maybe it's just human nature to divide life into stuff you like more and stuff you like less. And then spend your time looking forward to the stuff you like more, even if the stuff you like less isn't that bad.

    I mean, a job is a job, and I know there are people out there who say they "love" their jobs, but I really doubt there are many people who love every minute of what they do. At this point, I'm just happy that I don't have a job that I dread.

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  9. Dr. Whoo - you do work a lot. I read your blog 11 hours a day of high intensity non stop roller coaster, then call. When I worked 11-12 hour days I felt like you too. It seems like a serious burn out. Even though your job is much better than what you had before, but your prior job seemed to be a killer. So, its not like you have a life now. Consider cutting back if possible, long weekend once a month, maybe your practice would hire a midwife. I know its hard when you are a breadwinner, and I am one too. But I cannot be happier with my new 8 hour a day job, and no call. I actually look forward to my work days now. I not only enjoy all my kids activities, but found a new hobby for myself

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  10. Fizzy-I am one of those who loves my job but everyone needs time away. Today is the end of a 7 day break and I am refreshed and ready to go back.No one can do even their avocation without that. That said, loving what you do and appreciating your body of work can also help you to live in the moment and prevent burn out.
    Good luck Dr whoo and take some time for yourself--that may help.

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  11. Fizzy is always right. It is amusing to see that every time Fizzy will say what everybody is thinking, there will be some opponent that just lives life to the contrary of Fizzy's statement. We work to live, as one of the commenters said. In this culture though every life experience is supposed to give you a thrill, fullfillment and divine feelings. That is why so many people are disappointed and feel entitled in their personal and professional lives. People I met who state they love their jobs, worked 2-3 days/week,or had home staying wife, or had grown successful children out of the house. And what's very funny these very people were slackers at work and work shifters, they were often looking to blaim someone else, or have someone else do the assigment. Work lovers I know do not go extra mile, or take extra responsibilities. Go figure.
    I think the rest of us reserve our right to keep looking for life/work balance.

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  12. Thanks for the link Giz, I really enjoyed it.

    I don't think this struggle is unique to medicine, but I suspect the training path and long time between goals definitely exacerbates it. The timing of this post is interesting as we just got into this discussion on the SDN non-trad forum.

    http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=815163

    I kept a little journal awhile back when I noticed I wasn't paying enough attention to the here and now. I just jotted down a note about one or two precious moments I experienced each day, to remind myself that they were there. Something as simple as watching the parade of a mom, little boy and gangly awkward puppy wobbling his way across the street in front of me while stopped at a light. It really did help.

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  13. Dr. Whoo- are these the best hours you can find in Ob/Gyn? I am actually looking at going into the field, but I agree with an above poster that these are LONG hours! putting in 11 hours a day plus call is no cake walk. I hope you find some new way to feel refreshed even with your demanding schedule. maybe an enjoyable hobby?

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  14. A lot of people don't love what they do. I don't think I am disagreeing with Fizzy when I say that enjoying my days helps long hours. No one says that every day is perfect and most WiM are perfectionists. They want the perfect job,etc. Well, I am happy to like going to work everyday. Is it perfect, no. But that contentment is my way of preventing burnout, which is what I hear in Dr whoo's post. It took a long time for me to learn to live in the moment rather than searching for that next piece of perfection but I am glad I did.

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  15. Maybe it is burnout...but maybe part of it is your personality? If you've always been this way, then you may just be prone to this sort of looking forward to what comes next.

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