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The Wake Up Call

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A physician's wake up call; becoming a "true self" after dedicating oneself solely to medical practice.
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It was 9 pm. I was lying in my bed, exhausted. I was crying. I could hear my husband talking and my small children squealing. As usual, I was missing out on the fun because I just couldn’t join in. I was sad, frustrated, overwhelmed…you name it. I recently pivoted in my career a job in my subspecialty and moved to another city to practice my core specialty. I thought I wanted to return to my subspecialty practice, and that was the reason I was unhappy. What I really wanted in that moment was to escape. My minds’ eye filled with a scene of me not being on this earth anymore. I was free from depression, pain, sadness and an unfulfilled life. My kids and husband would be better off if they didn’t have to see me suffer day in and day out, I thought.

That was it.

That was the wakeup call. I had to do something, and fast. In that moment I realized I loved my life. I loved my family, my husband, my babies and I didn’t want to leave them.

I wanted to leave medicine. Not just to leave, but to run towards becoming my true self again.

Long ago, before medical school, I had dreams of presenting my gifts to the world. I had goals to touch people through music. I wanted to be a concert pianist and a doctor when I was 5 years old. I wanted to play music and travel around the world. I played music in a religious setting but felt constantly compared to others and inadequate. I thought I wasn’t good enough and my desire to be a musician and bring joy in the world was just a dream. I talked to Jazz musicians who spent their lives entertaining people. They saw my drive and passion for music and told me to go for it, to follow my passions for music full force. I talked my family and friend’s ears off about how much I wanted to be a musician but medicine was interesting and was the more reliable career choice. The truth was, I was scared. I was scared I was not good enough or talented enough to make a career out of music. There are so many failed musicians, and I didn’t want to be one of them. Ultimately, I suppressed my true love and passion for music to become a physician. We all know the hours, days, weeks, months and years of commitment and study it requires to be a doctor and I did not give the same time, attention or level of practice to music. I tried to love it from afar, to dabble, to play on weekends and in showcases that didn’t interfere with medical training. I called it a “hobby”. I rationalized that I was grown up, I had kids, I had to be “responsible”, but it kept calling me in my thoughts and in my dreams. In choosing to ignore its call, I slowly withered away over many years. Now I knew it was time for a massive shift- a drastic change.

The next day, while driving to work and praying, I heard God’s voice asking me if I would finally take the time to spend on music. Would I take a sabbatical of sorts to work it all out, to study, practice, play and find myself and my joy again. Would I trust God and myself enough to really give myself to it fully? I decided – I would.

Soon after my decision, I had a very difficult period at work. The pressures of the job and the demands proved to be too much for me to bear. It was then that I made the decision to….walk away.

I know – I had to speak to my husband, I had to explain to him how we would get by, but not really. As someone who met me before medicine, he already knew. He saw the light fade from my eyes year after year. As a musician himself, he consistently reminded me that I was musical down in my bones. He bought me pianos, keyboards, gadgets, anything he could to get me to play something. In a very low moment, he was the rock I needed along with my family and friends.

In all of this, was initially worried about how this would all look and if people would think I was mentally unstable or was having a mid-life crisis. I felt like such an outsider in medicine but also in music. I didn’t feel fully one or the other as my heart wasn’t fully committed to either one. I always felt “different” from my colleagues and now I was sure I would be judged harshly. Ironically, those close to me in the medical community embraced me and supported me. Many asked how did I decided to leave and how they could too. My best friends, the high school and college friends – collectively breathed a sigh of relief and said it was about time I stopped crying, lamenting and trying to be there for everyone else but myself. There was a spring in my step, I was lighter and I smiled genuinely for the first time in a long time.

The next day was nothing spectacular, but, I was able to sleep in a little longer, hug my loved ones, walk to my piano, play to my heart’s content and smile. I decided to immerse myself in playing music first thing in the morning daily and to let out all of my emotions. A great healing process began in my mind and soul. I wrote music for the first time through that time period. I heard music more clearly than I ever had when I was practicing medicine. I eventually learned how to re-create what I was hearing and taught myself how to produce music.

By the way, I was not rich when this happened and didn’t have a savings or safety net, but I was incredibly blessed with supportive family and friends. This was not for the faint of heart and I don’t recommend this route without much preparation and planning. It was uniquely my path. Chips fell. Tears fell. Money was tight. All of the things you can imagine happened did. We moved, we adjusted and now on the other side of things, I can say I don’t regret it one bit.

Not everyone needs to leave medicine to find themselves or to become the best version of themselves. In my case, I was at a point of extreme burnout and depression. I felt like it was life or death for me. I finally chose life – MY life. I chose to become more of my true, musical, creative self for once.

I built a home studio and started writing and producing songs over the course of the following year. I released 4 songs to date. I consulted with mentors and leaders in music to learn from them just like I learned from my medical school attendings. I am a true believer that music is healing and facilitates emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. I now write music for healing and relaxation and music with positive, uplifting messages with 2 albums under my production company Breaking Free Music. My experiences in wanting to discover my creative side also lead me to form a small community of likeminded physicians creatives who see artistic expression as apart of their contributions to the world. I also use my medical expertise in various non-clinical projects. Through this process I’ve come to an epiphany. I am fully a physician and fully a musician but neither define the sum total of who I am. I’m just grateful and happy to be here, still able to hear my husband and my kids chatter, squeal and laugh.

 

 

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