Dinner for TwoDec 29, 2021
What keeps you in a job you don’t like?
How many years of your life would you dedicate your life to a wrong career?
What goal at the end of the road would make it worthwhile for you to keep barking at the wrong tree?
Recently, I saw an 86 year old patient in the hospital. She is near the end of her life and is soon decided to be discharged home with Hospice.
We were doing a life review as we often do with our patients near the end just to appreciate and celebrate what their lives were like leading up to this very moment.
They talk about their experiences as a little child, the neighborhood they grew up with, and the schools they attended. They like to reminisce about their friends and family during those times.
You know what’s fascinating? We do so much to hold on to the job we don’t even love, yet when it is at the end of our lives, we never even think about our job as part of our stories to tell.
Literally, I have to interrupt the patient:
Would you mind sharing what type of work you did?
I don’t like to ask “what did you do for a living?”, as I find that question odd and interrogative.
Then, they go into a little or a lot of detail to talk about what they did as a job to pay their bills. Sometimes they light up talking about it, but sometimes they are almost sheepish: like it was not the best part of their life.
Think about it.
Most people live to be 78 years old (this number depends on what part of the world you are from). If most people retire around 67, this means they have worked about 49 years of their lives (assuming they started some type of work/school at 18). If they took 4 weeks off a year (average US numbers), the numbers are mind-boggling: They have worked 2352 weeks of their lives.
They now have 11 years to enjoy their retirement.
This time can be spent with illness, alone (as spouses sometimes die before us), or hospitalized with chronic illnesses.
Why do we work so hard?
This patient shared with me that she worked as a housekeeping staff at a 5 star hotel in Waikiki. She officially retired at 75. She had worked 50 years at that hotel.
Her son wanted her to share.
“Tell her what they gave you at your 50 year anniversary?”
I had no idea. Patient closed her eyes, then took a deep breath and said:
“A dinner for two at the hotel’s restaurant.”
My jaw dropped. I was thinking, “A card would have been more meaningful”.
I work in a hospital system that rewards physicians with a pension plan. It is a big deal and a lot of people are drawn to this model of employed system for the pension.
I turned in my resignation from my job last week.
The pension is nice, I am sure. But so is spending intentional time doing things that matter to me the most. I want to practice medicine in a palliative care setting, so that I can "listen" to people, not so that I can "talk" to people. There's a world of difference between these two roles. I know which one moves me more. I also know that I love nothing more than having spring break, thanksgiving, and Christmases off with my girls. Time is short, indeed.
I can practice medicine without the holy grail of a pension at the end. Who knows if I will even be around to collect it? To live your life day in and day out, doing what does not feel like a meaningful career to get you to a remote goal as opposed to something that sets your soul on fire, will kill you inside a little every single day.
So, if you are stuck in a situation in life that does not serve you well, what is that “Dinner for Two” that keeps you going?
Whatever that is for you, put it down on a piece of paper: Is it worth you going through your life thinking there is a bigger and better purpose to your life?
In a perfect world, what kind of life would you be living? Who would you be sharing your life with? What kind of work would you be doing?
I hope for you to pause and reflect. Whatever that “Dinner for Two” is for you that’s been dangling in front of your eyes to get you to act like a “little train that could” in your life…
...I am here to tell you. You deserve so much better than that.
My “pension” did not keep me at a place that does not feed my soul.
Life's too short. At any age.
As the famous line in Shawshank Redemption goes:
“Get busy living. Or get busy dying.”
With love and Aloha,
(Oh, and in case you were wondering, she never cashed that “Dinner for Two” award)
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