How I Got There
So how did I come to the realization that I wanted to quit residency? That could be a book on its own, but I’ll share the main points.
First, I followed everything in Part Two of the guide. That includes the meditating, reading, conversations, and walks. I used journaling to keep track of my progress. I drew flowcharts similar to this one to help keep it all organized in my head. I saw this situation as an opportunity to take an introspective journey deep into my mind. I acknowledged any distractions like my ego, my financial expectations, people judging me, etc. Then I let them go.
In the midst of navigating this wild situation, one image continued to pop into my head, which boiled down all 1,000 questions into one simple decision. This image was a scale. On the left side was how badly I wanted to become an attending, on the right side was the price I would have to pay to get there. In my case, the price was large. This acute situation was just the tip of the iceberg of all the other chronic crap that came with residency. But I like to think I would have pushed through if I REALLY wanted to become an attending. The thing is, I didn’t. After diving super deep into that brain of mine and reflecting on why I chose medicine in the first place, what practicing medicine looks like now, and what I want from life, I realized that practicing medicine would be “okay” at best and “dreadful” at worst. Clearly not worth the price.
The beauty of the scale is that it can work for anyone. The left side can range from “there is nothing in this world I would rather do than be a clinician” to “I actually think I’d hate it.” And the right side can vary depending on how residency affects you as an individual.
Of course, finances were always in the back of my head, nagging me relentlessly. But I wanted to answer The Question without considering money. In other words, the two questions “do I want I quit?” and “can I afford to quit?” were more valuable to me if they were answered independently of one another. I came to this conclusion by imagining two scenarios:
Scenario 1: I first answer “can I afford to quit?” and find that the answer is “no.” I don’t properly explore whether I want to quit or not. I just continue residency, possibly sentencing myself to decades of misery.
Scenario 2: I first answer “do I want to quit?” and find the answer is “yes.” THEN I find that I can’t afford to financially. The two upsides here are that I’ve learned something really valuable about myself (that I want to quit) AND with that knowledge I can start planning how to overcome the financial obstacles.
Finances can be a touchy subject, but I’d like to be forthcoming here because I don’t want to speak to something that I don’t have experience in. I was lucky in that I did not have student loans to worry about. So my financial concerns were limited to paying expenses like rent, utilities, food, etc. I spent basically no money during residency other than the aforementioned expenses, so I had a decent emergency fund saved up. Lastly, I was lucky to have a fiance with whom I made short-term and medium-term financial plans that required her income. Regarding long-term financial plans, my extensive reading made me confident that I’d be making money by then.
Last chapter: Post-Residency Life