Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Life in a Fish Bowl

For my entire married life I feel like I've been living in a fish bowl. Everyone knows what my husband is doing (oh, ah...), and they continue to congratulate me as if I somehow strategically caught the biggest fish in the sea.  It is really annoying. I like to remind anyone who will listen that I liked him before I knew what he was going to do with the rest of his (our) life. And for that matter it wouldn't have mattered, I loved him.

The fish bowl feeling has continued everywhere we have lived. People are amazed. They look at us differently. I must be one lucky girl! What is it exactly that makes me so lucky?

Am I lucky because we left friends and family to move to another part of the country we had never seen?

Am I lucky because we have spent every holiday, birthday, special occasion without family and often without friends?

Am I lucky because we celebrate holidays when we can, never according to the calendar?

Am I lucky because we haven't had a family vacation that wasn't visiting family ever?

Am I lucky because we have missed social gatherings and opportunities to be with friends because the hospital doesn't stop at 5:00.

Am I lucky because my kids ask where daddy is when they have a concert at school and I have to tell them that he can't make it, again.

Am I lucky because my husband works the equivalent of two full time jobs, but only gets paid for one?

Am I lucky because I usually eat dinner alone, or have Mac N' Cheese with the kids?

Am I lucky because date nights happen maybe once every few months?

Am I lucky because my friends don't understand what irritates them about their husbands working late occasionally is my everyday, every week, every month?

Am I lucky because I get to stay at home with my kids all day, every day, with no breaks?

Am I lucky because the student loan payments we will get to make will be more than the average mortgage payment?

Am I lucky because one day this will all be worth it, and somehow that makes everything trivial?

What exactly is it that makes me lucky? Oh, you mean the money! Luck has nothing to do with it. There was plenty of hard work, shared sacrifice, austerity measures, doing without, going without, being without. There were plenty of tears and a whole lot of sweat. Moments of self-doubt, depression, anxiety. Days when I thought this is it! I can't live like this another minute.

How can you put a price on that? Where is the break even point where your sacrifices no longer matter because the payout is $$$? For years friends and family have discounted our struggles (emotional and financially) based on the opinion that one day this will all be worth it. After a while, you can't even vent to the people you love because they can't see past the $$ signs that are years away. Every situation is framed in that respect.

I remember a conversation I had with a family member while in the middle of residency about being worn out and that I could really use a babysitter for a few hours every week but couldn't afford one. The response that one day you can afford a babysitter did little to console me. By the time I can afford a babysitter there will be no baby to sit.

Whatever our future holds it will because we fought long and hard for it, it didn't happen over night. It didn't fall into our laps.

I am thankful my husband loves what he does. He doesn't complain about work - thank heavens!

I am thankful for the hard and ugly things I have learned about myself that I never would have discovered.

I am thankful that even without all the vacations, holidays, gifts, and dates I know that I am loved.

I am thankful that residency was hard, long, full of struggles and heartache - I hope it makes me a more compassionate and patient person.

I am thankful that the life we have made goes beyond medicine. It may take up all of our resources, but it doesn't define who we are, what our family is, or what we can do.

Maybe that does make me lucky. But how can it be luck when I know how much it took to achieve?

I am afraid the fish bowl isn't going away any time soon. I already feel the peering eyes, and taps on the glass. Let's watch and see - what will they do next?


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17 comments:

  1. Ugh, I agree with everything here. We're also putting off starting a family & buying a house because of everything that goes along with residency/fellowship. I'm told constantly that it'll be worth it. Soooo annoying.

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    1. Even though we chose to have kids during residency (partly because we were already in the 30's group and didn't want to wait until 40) maybe I should amend my list to include: Am I lucky because I watch our friends and family have children while we wait. I snapped at my mother one day when she was trying to provide comfort "saying the future will be better doesn't make it better now". Imagine I said that in a really nasty tone:-) I try to remember people are generally nice and well intentioned, and really what else can they say to make it better?

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  2. Many of these things are why I was afraid to continue dating a doctor. I did not believe I had the strength in me to weather all these years ahead of us. When confronted with things I believe are serious issues and I contemplated ending the relationship my friends advise "Don't do it, he's a doctor and you won't find better."

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    1. I think the personal journey of a spouse through residency is every bit as important as that of the doctor him/herself. I wouldn't trade the things I have learned about myself for any amount of money. It is a spectacular journey and I wish you the best. It isn't easy, but it isn't something I have regretted. Your friends advice remind me that when it comes to making marriage matches not all that much has changed over three hundred years. What they meant to say is you won't find anyone with the potential to earn more money than him. You can overcome anything with LOVE, not always so with money.

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  3. So well put! It's so discouraging that people always frame things with a future (and not even guaranteed!) high salary, as if somehow money trumps the time and sweat now. It is a blessing that GOOD things, GREAT things even (money not included), do result from all of the years and work put into this profession.

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    1. It is discouraging! I have been guilty of framing my problems in terms of the future and I never should. Regardless of what our present circumstances are, that is the moment we should be enjoying. I wish I had made the effort to find more happiness in the difficult things, especially in the beginning. Putting off happiness for a latter date when there is more time (maybe), or money (certainly), isn't really living. We have only a few months left and I am sad to see it passing as quickly as it is. I never thought I would feel that way, but I will miss the residency/fellowship years.

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  4. Oh, man. I hear you. Every word! If I have to hear one more time how it will all be worth it and how much better it's going to be one day I might scream! Delayed gratification now isn't easier and my load isn't lightened by THAT carrot anymore! Also, if I was going to marry someone for money I would pick an investment banker who is *already doing well*. I certainly wouldn't have slogged through the past 14 years of training with the promise of a payout later. Finally, we had kids during residency too. I'll be 40 in a few days and just gave birth to our second child - there wasn't time to wait.

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    1. Either we are the most patient group of gold-digging women on the planet or we aren't very good gold-diggers:-) Congratulations on baby #2 and your upcoming birthday!

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  5. You definitely know the inside world of medicine. It is really, really hard and I hate when people talk about the money too. Spoiler: There are much easier, faster ways to make money than going into medicine! Hang in there! If anything, we all feel your pain and you can vent to the internet b/c we definitely understand.

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    1. I'd love to see a poll: how many doctors went into medicine to make the big bucks? I get the feeling those outside of medicine would estimate the percentage to be much higher than reality. Can the same be said of other highly compensated professions? I don't know.

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  6. Ugh I feel ya!! I'm just SO lucky that my husband will have lived in a different city as me for 9 out of 12 months this year! I especially hate that all our vacations are spent visiting family too :( I seriously considered skipping Christmas this year and booking a trip for 2 to Hawaii instead...

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    1. Did you see the movie Four Christmases with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn? Depending on how your Christmases with family are, I'd say go to Hawaii! Send me a postcard:-)

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  7. Yes, it's definitely annoying when people get so wrapped up in themselves and their jealousy that they can't see that while other people have some things they want, they may NOT have other things that they also want.

    My friends who are not in medicine make comments about how "rich" we will be when I finish med school, and I absolutely hate it too. Yes, OBVIOUSLY my life is soooooo easy because one day, after I've spent a decade and a half in training, I will make 100K per year (if I'm lucky) in academic medicine. For 60-80 hours per week of work. Woo.

    I AM lucky though, because I get to do the kind of work I want to do. That's something entirely different though.

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    1. "rich" doctors is a stereotype I wouldn't mind seeing debunked. Very few are exceptionally wealthy, the majority (but not all) land in the upper-middle class along with other highly educated professionals in all sorts of fields. Although you could argue that our net-worth is negative for a much longer period. Thank heavens you like what you do and didn't do it for the money! Although I hope you do get to enjoy some of it:-)

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  8. I could have written this exact post. Go ahead and add things like baby showers you miss (bc you live so far away and nobody can throw them for you and if a few good hearted souls did would anyone really show up bc you have everything you need bc you are so lucky) for yourself; noises on your decade old cars you have to ignore (my car is making a clicking noise every time i slow down, turn or stop; I told my husband it was worrying me and he said: honey, don't start letting those noises bother you...you will NEVER get any sleep. So true!) and anything that ever comes up isn't just something you can "pay off" with the next paycheck but more of a well let's see who do we beg for money THIS time: my parents, your parents, the CC companies, etc? And the compounded interest really makes you wonder if being an investment broker would have been a better choice---at least until you made that first million for a cushion for "adult life in residency". I could go on and on. Just remember being a resident spouse is like being an military spouse; people respect you and try to empathize but at the end of the day THEY JUST DONT GET IT...and bless their heart for even trying!:)

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    1. The noise from the car... we have it too. We have taken to including the cars in our prayers! Maybe we should start a business selling license plate covers for our beat up cars... they could say "Don't laugh, this is a doctors car". We just moved to a fairly affluent area (or at least is feels that way to us) and it seems like everyone has a new car - it makes our old cars look even that much older! I love the bless their heart comment - it reminds me of my grandmother:-)

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