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  • Writer's pictureValerie Brooke, MD

The Big Leap

“When we get quiet enough, for long enough, we can hear the whispers, of what is right, of what is true, and most importantly, which way is home.” Alexa Torontow

Several years ago, I read a book called You Are Not Stuck by Becky Vollmer. In her opening chapter she talks of a time when she had a rare day off from her stressful job in marketing and was walking in Golden Gate Park with a good friend. It was a Friday and she looked around at people relaxing in the park, playing with their kids, and having picnics. She wondered how they were able to do that, and why they weren’t working. She coveted what they had: time off to spend with family, and enjoying the community they lived in.

Her friend at the time advised her that if she really wanted what they had, she could find another job or even another career. She could change course. And if it didn’t work out, then she could change course again, and again if needed. She reminded Becky how resourceful and smart she was, remarking, “You’ll figure it out.” She basically gave Becky permission to quit her job. It took her several more years before she was able to take the big leap and leave her job. But she did it and created the life she really wanted.

When I read that chapter there was this little voice in the back of my head, whispering, I too want what those hang-out-in-the-park-on-Friday people have: less stress, more work/life balance, more flexibility, and more time spent in nature. But I pushed the thoughts away, knowing that I was in the prime time of my career, had lots of student loan debt to repay, and needed to work as hard as possible to save for retirement.

Fast forward several years, the stressful pandemic overwork, and a constantly short-staffed work environment, and the voice got louder, no longer a whisper. I picked up another book recommended by a good friend, The Big Leap, Conquer Your Hidden Fear, by Gay Hendricks. In his book he talks of clients that would have stayed in their comfort zone, not brave enough to push themselves into their genius zone, a place where a person’s talents can bring them prosperity, happiness, and love.

Becky and Gay’s vision of what is possible seems utopian right? We can’t all do what we love and make a million bucks. We can’t all work the hours we want to work and still make ends meet. There is such a thing as the good enough job, as Simone Stolzoff writes about in his book, The Good Enough Job, Reclaiming Life from Work. Unlike the United States, where we search for the dream job and believe our work is our worth, most humans on the planet work to make ends meet, to put food on the table and a roof over the head of their family. Maybe there is a middle road, I wondered. A good enough job that also allowed for financial stability and a balanced life, having time to do all things I love both at work and at home. Is that possible?

In the past eight years I have been working hard to provide for my family, and I have loved my job. I love practicing medicine, I really do. I love the patient contact, the collaboration with staff, and the constant learning. Sure, there's lots I don't love, but the pros outweigh the cons for sure. But I also don’t want work to be the only thing in my life that brings me meaning and a sense of self-worth. I have a zillion other things that bring me meaning in my life: my relationships with family and friends, nature and being out in it as much as possible, writing and reading anything I can get my hands on, painting and making art, photography and bird watching. That’s the short list. I also love cooking, experimenting with new recipes, gardening, riding my bike, yoga, meditation, and traveling. So many things to experience in life and I want it all.

I have been thinking about taking other paths and/or jobs in the last year, trying to find something that fits better with my values: meaning, integrity, compassion, and truth. I still believe I can find that place within medicine. And so, I finally took the big leap two weeks ago and resigned from my current place of employment. I’m looking into several possible paths forward: An academic position where I can continue to learn and teach; a part time traveling position to explore other parts of the country; and learning about medical writing and other non-clinical options available to me as a physician. The options are endless, and I have faith in myself, as well as the universe, that I will land on my feet. I am not stuck. I took the big leap. I will find the good enough job. And all will be well.

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