I’ve been struggling with this idea this year, and I’m glad you decided to write about it. Throughout my early and mid-twenties, I went on a warpath to get accepted into medical school, in spite of my poor GPA in college. I ended up burning myself out, ignoring all the advice along the way that I should have considered becoming a nurse or a PA. I immersed myself in my work as an EMT, signed myself up for a full-time paramedic program (and $7k of additional student loan debt), ignoring the advice of my senior colleagues who urged me to get out of Emergency Medical Services as fast as possible.
I woke up one day and realized I wanted nothing to do with any of it anymore. My life was slowly falling apart, and had been for some time. Suddenly, I couldn’t separate my bitterness over my failures from my feelings about becoming a doctor. I had been determined not to have a change of heart, and in the end, it happened anyways.
I spent the last year and a half of my life trying to leave my job in healthcare and distance myself as much as possible. I tried to replace bad work and health habits with even worse habits, I was interested in exploring a polar-opposite lifestyle from the one I’d been striving towards. I started reading again, aspired to write (without any idea how to go about becoming a writer), got a passport for the first time in my life and went off to Brazil in search of a new adventure.
No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t explain to my friends or family why it wasn’t that simple to just apply to those nursing and PA programs that they’d always recommended; the ones that I admit I would’ve been better off aiming for in the first place. Your post captures the general spirit of it; my heart was no longer in it. My escalating student debt, bachelor’s degree, hundreds of hours of hospital experience and five years of professional healthcare experience, and all the knowledge I’d acquired over that time should’ve dictated my next step — logically, that made sense to me, but none of it brought back the hunger I used to feel. I didn’t know how to be anything other than a healthcare provider and a student, but I wanted to be something else. That was terrifying.
I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of stories like this one, so I’m not sure why I decided to share that, other than to say “I get you.” This isn’t the first time in my 28 short years that I’ve found myself feeling like an orange, squeezed dry of all the juice. Your post leaves me with all the same questions I’ve been asking myself this year: “How do we prevent burning out/having a change of heart? Should I want to prevent it? If not, how can I at least anticipate a change of heart/burnout, so I’m not left scrambling for the next branch to grab onto?” I’m looking forward to your future articles on this subject, and I’m curious to know how many of your clients share the same fear as I have: the fear that tomorrow, I’ll wake up an entirely different person with an entirely new set of interests and passions.