When I first got the taste of moonlighting, the extra income, the many people I met and the way people treat you when you tell them that you are working nearly 100 hours a week, I was hooked. We live in a society where hard work is more valued than intelligent work. Go big, or go home.
I assumed I was tough, courageous, and strong for working like a maniac. I recently visited a very dear friend who has always been wiser than myself. We were walking and she said in an inquisitive manner “I’m working my ass off, I’m really paying down my debt but I wonder if I sold myself out to my work”. I thought it was such a pensive way of phrasing it. I’m glad she’s working hard with the goal of paying off her debt… and man, that woman has done an impressive, absolutely mind-boggling job of paying back nearly $500k of debt.
So what is courage? It’s going against the flow, venturing out into uncharted territory, exposing yourself to increased calculated risk, opposing the norm and standing up for your core beliefs whether others buy into them or not.
My passion was always to work with an undeserved patient population. I didn’t have the courage to pursue that, instead the allure of a high salary swayed me away from my true goals. I recall interviewing with 2 medical groups, both community clinics in San Diego, one offering a $93k and the other a $102k salary along with $70k of loan repayment if I worked with them for 7 years.
Courage is to leave medicine if you no longer find it fulfilling. No, you don’t need to walk into your medical director’s office today and slam your badge on her desk and storm out yelling “Humans are not meant to suffer this level of indignation!! I quit! And I’m taking my plant with me!” Well fuck it, you could do that, but it might be wiser to develop an exit strategy.
You’re courageous for taking that lower paying job even if only because it suits you better. You may be left with a longer time horizon to pay back your debt but you will do something you appreciate and hopefully do work you believe in, which makes you feel satisfied.
Courage is to be the late-forties doctor with a family and kids who has put off buying a house because it didn’t fit their financial plan. While all the other professionals around them are buying homes, settling in and adding more debt to their portfolio, you are staying true to your beliefs and your plans.
It isn’t just your friends who are eyeing our financial decisions, our parents too are looking at us cross-armed wondering why the fuck we don’t just buy a house and “settle” down.
Living in a working-class neighborhood because you enjoy that community is courageous even though you could afford to live in an upper middle class neighborhood. Buying the car which makes the most sense in your life is harder than dropping cash on a rig which will be approved by your peers. Living a frugal but content lifestyle which you believe in takes a shit-ton of courage.
It takes courage to stand up to your significant other. Whether s/he wants to just spend more money or live recklessly, being the strong voice for your family is not easy. It may be something that the other person resents you for in the short-term but most rational individuals come around after the big plan starts coming together.
Sometimes it takes courage to be the bad person, to have to justify what you’re doing even if you aren’t 100% sure of it but know it’s the right thing deep down inside.
Why does it take courage to live the life we want to live? Because our lives were designed for us. We didn’t go to school because our parents came up with this genius system called structured education. They looked at the schooling options around them, picked the ‘safest’ option, sent our asses there and guided us along the way.
We didn’t get to practice the kind of medicine we wanted out of residency because medicine is regulated by very strict laws, lobbied for by powerful medical device and pharmaceutical companies.
Not only are we practicing and prescribing exactly what they want us to but we are investing money, saving and buying things that were predesignated for us. Most of us retire when the IRS says we can retire, we buy homes with mortgages because that’s what the FHFA wants us to do.
I need to remind myself what does and what doesn’t constitute courage as I’m about to drop down to part-time work. I’ll write more about this when the time comes.