As I was reviewing the consult service list with my resident earlier this week, I started to feel strangely unwell. Cold, clammy, nauseated, and dizzy to the point of almost passing out*. The feeling passed quickly, so I did what any "good" physician would do and soldiered on through my day. Unfortunately, the feeling came back twice while I was talking to a patient and his family, and I felt so sick that I thought I might black out in the middle of the hospital, so I finally conceded that I couldn't stay at work any longer. Thankfully the service was slow, and I was otherwise just catching up on paperwork, so it was possible for me to make a quick exit and drive my sick self home.
My sick self was pretty darn sick, so I spent the rest of the day lying on the couch with two cats applied to my abdomen. After exhausting my blogroll and all of the interesting television that I'm allowed to watch (I mostly watch shows on Netflix with M, who would not tolerate me getting ahead of her), I started reading through some of the old comments on my blog. One of them in particular, from Zed at Mind the Medic, stuck out:
"I hope you don't mind me asking but why are you thinking about retiring so early?"
I was apparently too lazy to respond to the question at the time, but I feel like it deserves to be revisited, as it's something I think about often. And the answer is pretty simple:
"Because I'm often happier when I'm not working than when I'm working."
This isn't something that physicians talk about all that often, because our careers are supposed to be our callings. We're supposed to be happy to make all the sacrifices of time, energy, and stress that we do because they are more than made up for by The Great Privilege of Saving Lives. And yes. Some days my job is a great privilege, and some days I even get to save lives. But a lot of days my job is exhausting and tedious and almost unbearably stressful. And on those days, I sometimes dream of being retired, even though I'm only 40 and two years into my career.
Over the past 14 months, since I achieved the much coveted net worth of zero, I've managed to save up enough money to live off of for about 3 1/2 years. At my current rate, I expect that I could retire in as little as seven years, although that would definitely be more a state of Financial Independence than Financial Freedom. It gives me great comfort and a feeling of security to know that, if I want to or need to, I could walk away from working at that time.
Although, the reality is that I may choose not to walk away. The more financially secure I become, the more freedom I have to do things that make me happy at work, like take time off. Financial security also makes me feel much less stressed about work and and how much I'm earning, which in turn makes it easier to like my job. My dream is to hit the point of being Financially Independent but to enjoy work enough that I have no desire to retire yet.
But if that isn't the case? Then it will be really nice to have the option of retiring early.
*The eventual diagnosis: possible early anaphylaxis to a medication that I've been taking for 18 years, complete with really spectacular urticaria. I may need an Epi pen.
*Edited to add: Thanks to Physician on Fire for including me in his Sunday Best list. If you've just discovered this blog through PoF, then welcome! Please leave me a comment to let me know who you are.*