I try to be as transparent as I can online. I think it’s important to show up as myself since there’s only one of me and because someone out there just might relate to what I say or what I’m going through.
This week, I find myself at the crux of a pivotal life decision. Let me provide some background context.
At my core, I am a creative person. Since childhood, the only thing that I enjoyed to no end was making something out of nothing. There is a particular feel to the creative process. It’s a feeling of listening to your intuition while also using the mind to find solutions to problems that arise. It almost feels like a dance. As a child, I found joy in art and craft from beading to painting. I wanted to do it all. In secondary school, I had an engaging art teacher who always pushed the bounds of my creativity. During university, as I studied medicine, I still worked my creative muscles by making and selling hand-crafted greeting cards. Then, I found the world of digital creativity, where I could combine my love for organization and structure with my own creative style. As my time in university progressed, I had less and less time to create. I had to focus on the many moving parts of medical school and especially, passing my exams.
I managed to power through and in July 2019, I completed five arduous years of medical school and began my internship year as a doctor. I graduated in October 2019, finally completing this phase of my life but a peculiar feeling began to settle within. On my graduation day, I did not feel fulfilled. My peers and colleagues seamed elated and brimming with a sense of accomplishment that I could not fathom. I knew deep within me that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
Nevertheless, internship year was already en route and it was truly a physically and mentally taxing one. By the end, I knew that I grew significantly in both my medical knowledge and as an individual but something still felt off. My intuition was trying to tell me that I still was not in the right place.
You may be wondering, “Wasn’t there a specialty that you felt drawn to, something that you wanted to dive deeper into?”
Well, throughout medical school and internship, I was searching for a specialty that I would fall in love with or at least some facet of medicine that brought me an ounce of fulfilment. There were two specialties that intrigued me: psychiatry and pathology. As I write this, I pause and remember how much I enjoyed the time that I spent in psychiatry. I found the material engaging while studying but most importantly I wanted to serve this group of people. I wanted to do everything that I could to help these individuals because I empathised with their pain. Regarding pathology, while I never worked directly in this specialty as a doctor, I always found myself drawn to books written by pathologists and their lifestyle (lab work based, autopsies and more time for a life outside of medicine). Somehow, however, I did not end up following either of these paths.
After internship, I found myself finally with time of my own again. Time that I could explore my interests and create again. I can’t describe to you the excitement that I felt at this point as there were so many possibilities. While my friends and colleagues applied for new positions at hospitals or began studying to do exams that would allow them to pursue post-graduate specialties abroad, I spent my time reading, cooking, crafting, exploring and eventually discovering the world of digital productivity applications like Notion online. Finding Notion and their community was a turning point for me. I was intrigued and ecstatic while learning, building and creating using this platform and was blown away by the work of other creators and professionals in this niche.
This period of exploration was short lived, however, as the COVID-19 pandemic was about to begin the journey to its highest peak. The virus began to spread like wildfire and hospitals needed medical professionals like never before. Prior to this surge in the pandemic, I was seriously considering leaving medicine. I was brainstorming fields that I could transition into and was just trying to find a job that I looked forward to on most days. Life had other plans though.
One day, I received a call from the hospital at which I had completed my internship, asking if I was currently employed. They needed doctors as COVID-19 was about to wreak havoc; they asked if I would submit my resume to their HR department. This was not a small decision for me and I remember discussing it with family and friends but at the end of the day, I felt that I had a duty to fulfil. I submitted my resume, completed the interview process and in September 2020, I began working.
Maybe it was luck or maybe I just followed my intuition, but I was placed in a department that was 100% perfectly suited to me. I do know that I have to immensely thank the doctor who was in charge of the department to which I was assigned as she took the time to speak with each new doctor and placed us in environments that we wanted to be in. Senior doctors rarely do this and I really can’t adequately express my gratitude to her.
Two years and seven months have now passed and I face another transitory period of life. As it stands, I have approximately one more month left in my current contract and after much intense deliberation, I’ve decided not to renew it. While I remain grateful for the experience that I’ve gained and the lessons that I’ve learnt over the past 2 years, my intuition tells me that it’s time to explore again. I feel the weight of this decision significantly as I don’t have the same securities as I did after my internship year. I now live on my own with my partner and therefore have financial responsibilities. Even though I have prepared for this transition by saving enough that will carry me through this period, the what-ifs and the lure of a dependable salary are like flashing lights at the end of a dark tunnel.
Yet, I have to find solace in the fact that I have decided to listen to my intuition and to follow my dreams. I recently came across a quote by Seneca, “The whole future lies in uncertainty. Live immediately.” This is what I feel that I’m doing by taking the unconventional route at this point in my life. I’m living immediately because when else will I? I have contemplated time and time again the comfortable and easy path: stay in medicine, continue making a secure income, bask in material possessions and the “success” of progressing in a field that is sort after by many. But this contemplation has made me ask myself questions like, “What really matters to me in life? What is success for me? What do I value above all else?”
The last thing that I want is to arrive at the final moments of my life with regrets of not pursuing a life of fulfilment due to fear and uncertainty.
You may ask, “So Renée, after all of this, what’s ahead? What’s the plan?”
Right now, the plan is to complete the last month of my contract. Will it be the last time that I work as a doctor? Maybe. Or maybe I return to study psychiatry or pathology later on in life. Only time will tell.
Once my contract is over, I will have the time and energy to work fully towards building a successful business in the field of digital operations and Notion consulting. More on this in another writing but I can’t tell you how excited I am. There’s fear and doubt as well but they are outweighed by wonder, curiosity and an innate pull towards creative exploration.