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Wanting Out

I was honored to have been invited to write a guest post over on EarlyRetirementExtreme where I talked more about my desires of “Wanting Out” of Medicine.   If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you check out Jacob’s blog and read more about his story of how he was able to retire at the age of 30.  It is also a great place to read comments from others who share a similar philosophy on living.   For my regular viewers here, I will repost my piece below:

“When I was first asked by Jacob to write a guest post, I was excited yet also a bit overwhelmed as to how to approach the task. After some thought, I’ve decided to focus more on what led me to where I am now rather than vent on and on about what is wrong with our broken American health care system. Anyhow, one blog entry would simply not be enough to do that topic any justice. I figured if anyone was interested in hearing about the crap I put up with on a daily basis they could always read more over on my blog, medicinesux.

With that said, to deny that any of these outside forces did not play a role in my growing disenchantment would be naive. Yet at the same time, a growing realization that built up from within me collided head on with what was happening to me on the outside. It is these internal feelings and how I came to learn of them that I would like to write more about here.

It is hard to say whether I would’ve found out about the concept of voluntary simplicity if it weren’t for the fact that my career in medicine came to tax my soul to no end. I’ve always compared my journey in medicine up until now to that of a marriage gone terribly wrong. So bad in fact, that I am about to file for a divorce. I thought I had found a diamond, but instead I picked up a rock. I had the best of intentions going in and in the beginning everything was going quite well, but with the passage of time things started to slowly come apart. For as long as I can remember, I always vowed to myself that I would choose a career where I could help people and make a difference in the lives of others. I also had a knack for science and did all the prerequisite health care volunteer work from working in a nursing home to joining the university EMS squad. So, I was quite excited to apply to med school. The first two years of med school where one learns the meat and potatoes of medicine in the classroom were interesting (the honeymoon phase). I always loved learning new things especially when it involved the human body. However, upon entering the clinical rotations in third year, I began to get a taste of the ugly side of medicine. And in residency I was getting fed it with a shovel. And as an attending, it is the same BS but now you bear all the responsibility when the shit hits the fan. (Here is where I would start going on an explosive tirade but I will refrain.) I began to realize that 30 more years in medicine was simply not going to happen. I needed an out, but how to go about it???

For starters, I started my blog about halfway through my residency. It was a way for me to get out my frustrations and stay sane. After working 12 or gasp…24-30 hr shifts at the hospital, I would also come home and spend my evenings online diligently seeking out more information to plan my escape from medicine. It is around this time that I learned the concept of “Early retirement” for the first time. It was like a lightening bolt went off in my head. I remember thinking to myself that this was it! This was my answer to finding my freedom. Hearing of stories of how others were able to do this on early retirement forums and blogs such as Jacob’s opened my eyes like never before. Only if I had known about this pathway a decade earlier, I could’ve spared myself so much grief! Yet I don’t think I would’ve ever found it if it wasn’t for the fork that I took in the woods when I decided to go to med school.

I had always been a frugal person but like everyone else I had my splurges. I knew in order to make this early retirement thing work out, I had to put the plan in ultra drive. I immediately called up the building management the following week to tell them that I would not be renewing my lease which was soon to be up. Two months later, I moved two blocks over to a tiny walk up studio which effectively cut my rent in half for the remaining two years of my residency. I hired some guy with a van on craigslist to move my belongings for 150 bucks. Well worth it since I had no car living in the city (I walked to the hospital) and didn’t have much time either since I was a busy resident. After moving in, I felt so much “lighter” living in a smaller place which completely fit my needs. After seeing how quickly I could save money, even given my meager resident salary, I became hooked. Every dollar saved meant I was that much closer to getting out for good. I went as far as sitting in my underwear when it was 90F degrees out so I didn’t have to turn on the A/C! Yes, I wanted out that bad. LOL

So here I am, about nine months out from finishing residency. The days are as painful as ever and I am exceedingly close to pulling the plug for good. The fancy car, McMansion, and latest toys and gadgets no longer mean anything to me like they once did. Money is like a drug. If you let it consume you, it can really take over your life. Sacrificing my time and freedom to become enslaved to a career that has sucked me dry is simply not worth it. I have found an inner peace that I would never have achieved if I were somehow able to remain in medicine. I believe that knowing when you have enough and appreciating what you have without killing yourself for it is the key to finding this serenity.

Some people outside of medicine may think I am insane for walking away at this point. My response is F them. Until one walks a day in my shoes they cannot really judge. Interestingly, many fellow physicians would leave in a heartbeat but have bogged themselves down with mortgages and other debts and are trapped. The golden handcuffs of being a doctor can be a terrible thing. I’d rather have my hand amputated than have those things put on me. I wish I had the tolerance to stay longer but I simply don’t have it in me much longer. I am long past my expiration date as it is. During this whole process, I learned that I need to live for myself first. I really don’t give a damn anymore what society esteems, from how much money we make to what jobs we hold. I just want to be free.”

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Ralphael Pacheco
    May 5, 2010 at 10:31 am

    I don’t know, medicine does suck, but unless you’re an established billionaire (Warren Buffet type), entertainer, or professional athlete (and even they’d bitch about their lives too), I don’t know of any profession that doesn’t suck balls either.
    To each his own, I suppose, but I’d gladly continue eating the bullshit medicine spoon feeds me everyday than endure one more second of the type of misery I experienced growing up in the projects in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
    350K student loans, ungrateful patients, egomaniacal residents, nurses, and other ancillary staff, slave hours, bullshit insurance forms, etc. is NOTHING (for me, at least) compared to getting your door busted in the middle of the night by cops and other assholes, having to turn a blind eye to hallway gang beat downs and rapes (yes, I said rapes), crackheads giving head to cops to avoid arrest, regular beat downs while making my way to school, murders, racial profile shake downs by the cops (even while I was a goddamn undergrad!) and all sorts of other fun shit that you could only find in some of the worst neighborhoods in this country. I’m pretty grateful that I get to go home to a quiet, boring, suburban apartment every other night/morning where I don’t have to worry about these things nearly as much.
    Anyway, keep up the good work. I really enjoy your blog, and although we disagree fundamentally on lots of things, I totally respect the decision you’ve made and can never criticize you for it. Good luck, man.

    • asada
      December 1, 2010 at 5:07 pm

      Please,

      All that glitters is not gold.
      You know that, so dont let your past dictate what is “gold”. You can get your boring suburban home doning almost anything, not just medicine. This person sees that.

  2. May 18, 2010 at 12:26 am

    Great post – you write eloquently about how difficult it is to be a doctor, and based upon those pieces, I completely understand the reasons why you wish to walk away. If it makes you that miserable, it isn’t worth it. That’s not about failing, that’s about realizing that there’s something better for you out there.

    • medicinesux
      May 18, 2010 at 2:56 am

      Thanks Cryn for stopping by and leaving a comment. That last sentence you wrote REALLY struck a chord with me. Just a couple of words can really mean a lot. Thank you for that.

  3. June 6, 2010 at 5:04 am

    Hi medicinesux
    You’re so right nothing is ever that worth it if it makes you feel like that.
    Good luck!

  4. Gotit
    June 19, 2010 at 8:55 am

    I finally got to where you are, medicinesux. Up till this point, I’d been able to maintain some shred of hope that somehow I was doing some good, that it would be worth it. This is the off service rotation that has extinguished that. I no longer care – about my patients, about finishing residency, or even about working as a physician.

  5. EmptyInside
    July 7, 2010 at 1:10 am

    I enjoyed hearing about your path. I am starting to understand that I may not be actually considering “giving up” medicine but instead “reclaiming” what I have allowed medicine (and our consumer lifestyle & society) to take away from me. I’m an older PGY2 and pretty damn disillusioned. Look forward to reading more of your blog.

    • medicinesux
      July 11, 2010 at 9:31 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment. In the physician culture, we are programmed to push onwards despite all the hardships along the way. We are taught to prod forward since it is all worth it in the end. Is it really though? “Giving up” on medicine makes it sound so easy. Rather, it takes tremendous courage to break away from the golden handcuffs that shackle us to this profession.

  6. July 21, 2010 at 8:35 am

    I wanted to be a doctor so badly in undergraduate, and my parents instilled that dream in me. I felt that anything less than that would disappoint them.

    • medicinesux
      July 21, 2010 at 5:36 pm

      I would love to see parents who force or prod their own kids to become doctors to strap on an ankle beeper for just one week to get just some sense about what they are preaching. It is not the parents who have to seclude themselves away from the world pouring over books for four years in medical school and then undergoing a beat down during a grueling residency. Parents who push their children into medicine should be locked up for child abuse.

  7. folsom
    August 24, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Hi medicinesux,

    I came across your post by accident and I really admire your courage. If you’re really serious about taking a plunge in this wonderful opportunity called “life”, then come away with me to Fiji and let’s have some fun when your residency ends. Because you’re likely in some debt, my treat. We’re all a tidbit superficial, and I can assure you I look normal. I know this proposition is crazy, but maybe in the grand scheme of life/the universe,etc. it isn’t SO crazy. Message me, I’ll send you my deets 🙂

  8. Big_Heart
    September 18, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Just wanted to add that I truly believe people should go into medicine for two reasons and two reasons only: Helping People or Loving the Medicine!!

    It can’t be about money, it can’t be about status, and it can’t be about Power! I know plenty of happy MD’s many are bleeding liberals, but they enjoy working. None of the happy ones driver 100k BMW 760’s, live in 5000 sq/ft marble mansions, or live very affluent lifestyles maybe that’s the difference.

    My best friend in highschool finished his residency after being a RN then a Phys. Therapist. He has been practicing for 1yr 4 months and loves it and is 39!!

    Good luck and I hope you find your out! The system is terribly broken, but if you go in medicine for the right reasons I believe it can be not just tolerable it can be enjoyable.

    • Reader
      July 2, 2011 at 12:18 pm

      You’ve misread a lot of her blog article. The writer DID go into medicine to help people. She wrote: “For as long as I can remember, I always vowed to myself that I would choose a career where I could help people and make a difference in the lives of others.”

      Considering you’re not an MD yourself, you may not be aware of how the idealism that people have going into medicine often disappears. There are too many doctors who become desensitized and lose compassion. They see their position as just a *job* and not a heroic joy.

      I know an MD who is more motivated by the thrill of near-death cases than he is by compassion.

  9. asada
    December 1, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Yikes,
    I hate to imagine the doctors in your position who decided to stay. I am glad you decided to leave when you had the chance. It isnt worth it if it makes you unhappy.

  10. Dexter McFilthly
    June 14, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Reminds me of a good book i just read called “Your Money or your Life” – which i know you would enjoy.
    Congrats on doing what you want to do – or not doing what you don”t want to do for the sake of money and status. I truly believe student loans are creating debt slaves for life and corporations/hospitals like it that way.

    • medicinesux
      June 14, 2011 at 5:51 pm

      I did indeed read “Your Money or Your Life” and I couldn’t put the book down! I read it over the course of two or three nights while everyone else in my residency program was cramming for their in service exams:) I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone trying to figure out how to escape the rat race.

  11. Anonymous
    August 13, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Hi. Great post. I was in an internal medicine residency, but left for various reasons. I’m now evaluating pathology and hoping I’ll like it better. If I don’t I’m not sure what I will do.

    I was curious about what you plan to do after you finish residency.

  12. happy
    September 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Hello,
    Great post! I just graduated medical school with an MD MPH and decided to put off residency because I am tired and residency did not look any easier. My goal is to find something with more manageable work hours. Most people think I am crazy. I say I’m just trying to find happiness. Please do share what you plan to do once you are done with residency. Good luck.

  13. Happy2
    October 23, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    I’m a 4th year med student and I just read this. I too am planning on getting out – not sure when. I need more info. Will it be after residency? Will I go the counsulting route? I dont know yet. All I know is that already knowing that I’m going to get out makes me so happy. 🙂

    I would love it if you would put up a follow-up as to what you got into or how you found another job. I know I’ll have to live frugally, but even the idea of that excites me as opposed to this. 🙂

  1. May 31, 2013 at 4:49 pm

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