A few years ago, my husband and I got together with a man and his wife that we had known as young adults. This man is now a prominent figure in our community, and is well known by most of the people in our small town. After an evening with this couple, my husband remarked, "It was nice to see them, but it's almost like he can't relax - like he's always on. He's just not fun anymore."
Fast forward to the last few weeks. A dear friend of mine came thousands of miles to be "back home" for the summer. We had several opportunities to go out to eat, take the kids swimming, etc. As we talked, I found myself noticing something -
I'm just not fun anymore.
Before mentioning a tidbit of interest I would have to think - is this person a patient? Would I have even known this information outside of the practice of medicine? When I'm in public, I feel that I am always "on." When I'm at the store I might be greeted by the dad of a baby I just delivered, or be questioned about a new medicine, or be updated on a cough. I know, though, that this is to be expected, especially as I take care of many people that I've known since before I started medical school.
In a community this size, being a doctor is like being a minor celebrity. I'm not exaggerating when I say that hundreds of people know which day I have off, or where I went for vacation this summer and when. Often it seems that just when I am starting to relax or spend time with my family, I will hear the call, "DoctorGrace!" I find I can't be anything less than pleasant and professional when I'm "on duty," and I feel that I'm on duty nearly all the time that I'm physically present here.
Now, I realize that I signed up for this; I know that this is a tremendous privilege, this look into the lives of others. I honestly love my career, and there is no other life that I would have chosen. I had another career before medicine and I really feel that I walked into this with my eyes open - as much as is possible, anyway.
I knew that medicine would demand my time and energy. I knew that I would sacrifice time for my family and myself. I just didn't realize until now that my spontaneity and sense of fun would be a casualty as well.
DoctorGrace is a family practice doc in the Midwest practicing full-spectrum family medicine.