One of the first things I tell my residents (after apologizing for cursing so much) is that “you can be whoever you want to be when you set foot in that exam room”
Some patients make certain assumptions about you as soon as you walk in and introduce yourself and will behave towards you throughout the entire interaction. Even your nurses will paint you a certain way and will treat you the way they see you. They might think of you as arrogant, or confident, moody, caring or incompetent. The reality is that I can be the gregarious doctor in my unit, the unbelievably passionate clinician in my exam rooms and someone who sets strong boundaries with utmost fairness when interacting with patients and staff.
Unfortunately, we love predictability. Starbucks banks on this and designs every store the same damn way, with the same damn coffee, and the same damn nice baristas and the same damn long lines in the mornings. The worst thing you can do to people around you is to be unpredictable. Sure, on every other dating profile someone writes “I want someone spontaneous” but they don’t want unpredictable. They want you to fit their mold but pull something unpredictable out of your ass from time to time… within that person’s set boundaries. Yes, I am single.
Maybe you enjoy fitting that mold. Perhaps it gives you a sense of ease and familiarity to walk into your work and know that the nurses see you as such-and-such doctor. However, at some point you must get tired of that too. Maybe you have that one doc in your office who does whatever the fuck she wants. And she’s damn good too; strong clinician, cares about her patients, helps out etc. But, you never quite know all that about her. You see her patients and they love her. You talk to nurses and they talk some shit about this or that but they finish by saying “but she’s always really fair”. A part of you must want to be like her.
Just like your identity isn’t predefined, your life doesn’t have to be predetermined
You were born and that was pretty much out of your hands. Maybe even as a child you were a piece-of-shit bully but you were just too young to realize that. Maybe your parents pushed you a little too hard to go into medicine. Maybe you married that guy because everyone around you said he would make a great husband/father. (Go ahead, cut and paste it and send it to your therapist, I won’t judge.)
But nobody said that you have to keep doing what you are doing. You have complete control over your actions which in turn shape the way your life plays out. In the end each snowflake will fall exactly where it was meant to fall. Some people live their life by that statement believing that they have no control over their destiny, their life course, their outcomes. They have these recurrent thoughts in their heads, incessantly telling them how things are. But these are only thoughts, created by various good and bad life experiences. And yet, this isn’t who you are.
I can leave my condo right now, walk tall, make eye contact with everyone I see. I can take long strides and appear as if I walked out of a James Bond set. If I act in this confident and carefree manner long enough it will soon become a habit, then a part of me and then my persona.
Where am I going with this? You don’t have to work 30 years of the same routine, spend miserable hours at your desk, stabbing away at the keyboard and fill your life portfolio with a significant other, kids, pets, a doctor’s house, a couple of doctor’s cars, vacations and impressive retirement accounts. You can change this at any moment. No, it’s not easy but not only is it doable but it is damn fucking pleasurable. When you start on the path of doing what you believe in and what makes you in tune with the world around you then you may just find your passion. And once you find your passion work is transformed into a hobby, a past-time.
This holds true for so many things beyond your work. The only two things that will hold you back are 1) yourself and 2) your friends/family. You will hold yourself back out of fear of losing who you already are, the familiarity that’s accompanied you all these years. Your friends/family will prevent you from stepping outside your role because they will constantly want to paint you with that same brush; they too, have become reliant on your old self. At first they will be shocked, they will then make a mockery of it, many will leave you, they will call you out as soon as you revert back even for a moment and they will not support you.
In the end two things will hold true, 1) if you behave a certain way long enough it will become your identity and 2) real friends/family will doubt you at first but will come around in the end and be even stronger supporters of the new you.
I am not going to end this post by talking about what changes I made to my life and where I am at now. If you read enough of my posts you will learn a little more about me. There is no 12-step process to break out of your current mold. You just envision the next step and you do it. It’s different for everyone but if you ever find yourself getting lost in it just imagine your 6-year-old self, when you wanted to be a Ninja Turtle and how you got that green bed sheet and the two curtain rods as your swords and you were instantly that ugly mutated turtle.