I quit my job in 2015. Then, I quit another one in 2016. Actions I previously perceived as unreliable or unsuccessful, have proved the most liberating and life-changing.
Growing up in an uneducated and broken home, I was the first generation in my family to attend college. The work was hard, I held multiple menial jobs, I took longer than most, but I graduated. Setting my sights on medical school, it took several more years of missing out, studying constantly, and $200,000 in debt to finish medical school, intern year, residency, and fellowship. With luck, I landed a job at a prominent university.
A dream job, it was the career I chased through years of preparation. Landing way beyond where my formative self could have imagined, and with my modest upbringing, I felt like an imposter on this prestigious team. Working beside my mentors with gratitude and reverence, I found myself climbing the academic ladder, winning teaching awards, nominated for leadership courses, developing my own area of expertise, and successful by all definitions.
I was also exhausted, unhealthy, and unsatisfied. I gained weight, I lost sleep, I struggled with anxiety, and my personal relationships suffered. Fueled by accolades and endless opportunities, I ran full sprint for seven years. Surrounded by the like-minded, I paid hours each week to keep up and crank out projects in addition to my clinical work. Career success nurtured my ego but led to an erroneous self-worth. Feeling valued by the label of my employer, I attributed my accomplishments to the vast resources of the academic environment. With golden handcuffs and self-doubt, the decision to leave did not come easily.
Then I jumped. Quickly, my fear morphed into relief. The competition was off and the sprinting could stop. I was liberated. The more time passed, the more I recognized my accomplishments stemmed from my intelligence, work ethic, and hard-earned skillset. I have had two jobs since leaving, but realized more quickly when the first was not the right fit. When unemployed, I still found work within my areas of interest. Now I consult, volunteer, teach, and lead international projects. The fear of unemployment has given way to creating my own opportunities. The imposter was legitimate after all.
Ironically, leaving a highly respected job has given me more confidence than being hired. Professional development yielded to self-development, yet I have never put out better work than now. Improved life balance allows greater capacity for creativity, curiosity, and indulging a greater sense of purpose. A more humane schedule allows for reading, music lessons, exercise, writing, and travel.
Reassuring to know I can always return to the platform from which I jumped, it is now more enticing to explore the options that lie ahead. I am healthy and happy. I am fit and well rested. I am closer to my family and friends yet more productive. Most importantly, I own my success. For all the positive changes, I think jumping was the hardest part.