Years ago, soon after I had started medical school, a friend of mine who is a physician came in from out of town for a visit. During his stay, I inundated him with questions about medicine and work life balance and time off for physicians. When the subject of vacation came up, I was quite surprised to hear that he could take almost as much time off as he wanted to, but he didn't. It was, he said, too hard to give up the money.
At the time, I didn't understand. I viewed vacation as a wonderful time of happiness and freedom, and I couldn't imagine passing it up for more money when doctors already make lots of money.
Fast forward eight or nine years, and I understand completely. When the amount you earn is directly proportional to the amount you work, and especially when you still have 5-10 years of debt repayment ahead of you, it's really hard to justify time off from work. Every day off is a calculation:
One half day of clinic x X patients/half day x $Y/patient = I think I'll go to work.
It's so easy to look at that calculation and think that I don't need a vacation and that it's okay for me to miss out on the things that make me happy. Except that I do. And it isn't.
So I'm learning to value my time more than my income. It started today, with cancelling a half day clinic so that I can go to a really interesting conference on work life balance. And then, emboldened by that decision, I decided to take an entire week off during our local theatre festival. A week! It took me hours to commit to the decision, but now that I've made it, it feels right. It feels entirely right for me to make time for something that I love that gives me joy.
After all, why else am I here?