What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

I have been struggling with this question for years now. At 49 years of age you would think that I would know. While I mostly loved my job as a Physician Assistant for almost 20 years working in the ER this question increasingly haunted me. There was this uncanny feeling that there must be more to life. I should have been satisfied with my professional life. I made a good salary, was well respected among my peers and coworkers. My patients appreciated me and the time and compassion that I tried to give each of them. I cared for people in their moments of vulnerability and made a difference in many people’s lives and yet I felt unfulfilled. Sure the hours were long and often stressful, but that wasn’t the problem.

At first I felt guilty. Why wasn’t I grateful for all that I have? Many people hate their jobs and work many more hours than I, for much less money. It has taken me a long time to separate my mind and my soul from the identity that was so ingrained in me. Mother, Physician Assistant, wife. Now I realize that I got so caught up in the daily routines and expectations that I set for myself that I lost sight of who I am and what I really want in life. I was so busy trying to be the best I could in my field and as a mother of two wonderful boys, that I lost me. I forgot my dreams of travel, photography, natural adventures and philanthropy. I gave away all of me in pursuit of a career that I thought was noble, that fed my ego and fulfilled what society tells us is important: safety and security.

Somehow during my pregnancy in 2012 I stumbled across yoga. It was something for me to stay active and it was easy despite my growing belly, but it was so much more. Yoga was “me time”. My practice gave me permission to take just a little time out for myself for the first time in years. It is amazing how just slowing down allows the mind to process and see. My reflection slowly lifted the veil that had shrouded reality. At first the insight was nice as if everything was more significant and had meaning. Sometimes however, when you can see more clearly you might not like what you see. I saw that working in the ER was less about caring for people in their time of need and more about making money and producing desirable statistics. I had been deluding myself and feeding my own ego. I began to see my situation for what it really was without the rose colored glasses and felt betrayed by my own ignorance. And then I examined myself. Was it noble to sacrifice my personal needs and those of my family for the glory of being “better” and “leading by example” when nobody really cares? Was I just deluding myself? I suppose some of my patients cared, but the institution of medicine did not. As this new reality settled in I understood why this unsettled feeling was ever present.

Although I still do not know what I want to be when I grow up, I know what I do NOT want and going back is not an option. I am at a place in my life where I don’t necessarily need to know what the destination is, as long as I continue to look with open eyes and follow my heart. In Yoga this is called following your Dharma or life’s purpose. I am confident that the path will become apparent as it unfolds and this confidence is both liberating and empowering.