Updated: Jan 7, 2020
One day in clinic, I was casually conversing with the on-site pharmacist. Let’s call him Bob. Bob recounted the story of how he got to where he is today. When I asked him why he decided to be a pharmacist, he said that he initially thought about med school but changed his mind after encountering a few less-than-stellar docs and having more pleasant interactions with pharmacists. So, he pursued the latter. Despite getting through pharmacy school and working a steady job for the past 10 years, Bob admitted that he wished he hadn’t made such a rash decision. As I sat there listening, I so badly wished that he could rewind his life to do what he truly wanted. But hey, that’s not how life works. We can’t go back and change what we wish we could have done. Bob convinced himself that he had already committed to this path and that there was no going back. He expressed hesitation about going back to school as an older student, not being able to fit in with his peers, and lacking the study habits he had when he was younger. Sure, if he switched career paths, he would be giving up several years of paychecks and a comfortable work-life balance, which don’t get me wrong, are very nice things to have. But what he would receive in return - doing something he was truly passionate about for the rest of his life - would be well worth the investment. Imagine in another 10 years, he’s sitting in clinic conversing with a resident just like me who’s asking him the same question, and he’s answering with the same regret he had 10 years earlier.
There are countless reasons why people don’t do something. Some use logic, while others rely on emotions to justify their inactivity. I think it ultimately boils down to fear and the perceived notion of not having enough time. Time is incredibly precious and it always seems like there’s not enough of it. We beg for more of it when we are behind on our tasks or when we need a little more time to figure things out. Whether it’s completing another homework assignment, choosing a career, finding the “right” significant other, or taking care of patients, it always seems like we're running out of time. But think about this: if you were doing exactly what you were supposed to do, would you need to ask for more time? Discovering your passion will free you from the constraints of time and allow you to fully live with the purpose it was meant to have. Identifying that passion is one thing; having the courage to chase after it is another. Jesus tells us time and time again, “Be not afraid.” This phrase, or some variation of it, is one of the most common lines found throughout the bible, yet is it is probably the hardest one for us to practice. When you encounter doubt or uncertainty on your journey, just imagine Jesus saying this phrase directly to you. He is right there by your side.
“Well, easy for you to say, Peter. You’ve always wanted to be a doctor so you already know your purpose.” I would refute this because I believe finding purpose isn't necessarily about landing the right job or career. It’s about finding meaning in what you are doing. It’s an evolving process that fluctuates with our life experiences. This is something that I still struggle with even if it appears like I have my whole life figured out. How are we supposed to find that purpose, you ask? Center your life on Christ. It’s not merely a matter of praying for some magical epiphany, but rather, it is an intentional act of discernment that requires persistence, patience, and trust. Distractions make it difficult to stay focused or know what you’re supposed to do. So when life becomes chaotic and you find yourself surrounded by things that beg for your attention, there is always a place you can go to that is insulated from the noise. I think you know where that special place is.
The other day at the gym, I heard a song that I've heard a million times before. But for some reason this time, one line stood out above the rest: “Don’t let fear decide your fate.” God speaks to us all the time, often in the most inconspicuous ways like lyrics in a song; it's your job to hear His voice through the noise. When I ask elderly patients what they regret most during their lifetime, it usually isn’t the things they did, but rather, it's the things they did NOT do because they were afraid. So if you find yourself in Bob's shoes, know that you have my complete endorsement to take that risk and swing for the fences. I guarantee you won’t be asking yourself “what if?” ever again.