A Doctor’s Dilemma

“I am writing because I’d like to make a change in my life. I currently work full time to put myself through night school. I’m going to be a physician… in many, many, many years. I feel like my life is surrounded by things for the future and nothing for ‘now’. I work at a doctor’s office (which I enjoy), but I was thinking about doing something that may not be totally conducive for my future but would give me a sense of control that I desperately need. I want to (are you ready?) go to esthetician school. It will take about six months and leave me 5K-8K in debt. I think I’ll be able to work and still attend night school once I’ve graduated. I just want something in my life that I feel is mine, NOW, fully. I’m always working for tomorrow & I’ve forgotten to live for today. I’ve become very reclusive and have developed severe anxiety. I need something. I’m taking fiddle lessons, but I feel like I need more. I’m only 23 and I feel like I’ve wasted so much of my life. That’s crazy right? I mean, I’m young and can make my life anything…right? No rules? No specific paths I need to follow? I dunno.”

If you want my opinion — & I’m assuming you do! — you shouldn’t go to esthetician school. You are already doing so much; you are a super-over-achiever, girl! I think the reason you feel like you have no control is because, well, you don’t. All the corners of your life have been pushed into neat little boxes, leaving nothing spare. Adding night classes to that — as well as more debt — will make you feel even crazier. You will have even less time. It sounds like a recipe for disaster.

No, what you need to do is take a break from everything. A week, if you can wrangle it. You need to pack a suitcase with beautiful & impractical clothes, grab your best friend(s) & start driving. Cross-country, up the coast, south, wherever. Pick a direction & go. Don’t plan too much. Roll down the windows & suck in the fresh air. Take photos & talk & sing. Tell secrets; think about the future; keep your foot down.

When you arrive at a destination of some sort, take deep breaths before you open your car door. Remember who you are. Rediscover your true essence. You are not just a physician-in-training. You are a wide-eyed treasure, a girl with messy handwriting who loves dogs & animal crackers. You are a tempest of love, a force to be reckoned with, a girl who once rode a bicycle without using her hands, a girl who wears bells in her hair & kisses strangers on New Year’s Eve. Then, with your mind drunk on imagery & vision, act accordingly.

So many of us feel like we need to impose more rules on ourselves in order to discover who we are. Really, all that does is stifle us & create resentment. We really discover who we are when we have as few rules as possible. Are we introverted or extroverted? Full of love or laden with anger? Curious? Brave? Na├»ve? Tolerant? Talkative? It is hard to learn these things about ourselves when we are punted from occasion to occasion. Our parents expect us to be one way, our friends another. We have to be professional at work, & diligent in school. But who are we, really? It’s only from taking time out, breathing, allowing ourselves to be & throwing off the shackles of a timetable that we find out.

The adventures you have now will be entirely yours, now & forever. They will remind you that you are entirely in control of your own destiny (which, of course, you are). They will allow you to live for today.

Open your heart, invite adventure in, embrace freedom.

One day in the not-so-distant future, when you’re rushed off your feet & working as one of the country’s top physicians, you can think back to your wild youth full of tousled hair & joy, & smile.