Turning crisis into opportunity….
There is a host of personal and professional reasons as to why we uprooted ourselves from our idyllic, suburban, American fairytale life to live in a developing country. Not only that, we moved from one of the top 10 largest cities in the United States, San Antonio, to a small town of approximately 6-7,000 people. Basically, one of the main reasons we moved is because life handed me lemons, and I made lemonade.
I was climbing the ladder and had no plans to turn back….
Back in San Antonio, TX, USA, I had a promising career as an academic pediatric hospitalist. Within the last 2 years before we moved, I was promoted to Associate Professor and was selected to be on the faculty leadership tasked with the formidable endeavor of redesigning the curriculum for our pre-clinical medical students. I was a co-investigator in a huge grant and the lead PI in a small quality improvement grant. I was presenting my work through posters, oral presentations, and workshops at national conferences. Even though I was less than 10 years out of my pediatrics residency (essentially an academic adolescent), I knew I was on the way up. I had a job that I loved, that made me feel important and valuable, and made me proud to be whom I was. Nothing was going to stop me from advancing to the upper echelons of a high-profile career in pediatric medicine and undergraduate medical education.
Until something did…
I don’t want to go into all the dirty details. Essentially, in the spring of 2012 the medical school I worked for and the main hospital where I practiced publicly parted ways. I felt loyalty to both places and did not want to choose between my medical school and my hospital. I felt like a child caught in the middle of a divorce. For a multitude of professional reasons related to the split, I started looking at other job opportunities. It was a painful decision because I truly loved my job and my colleagues at the medical school and the hospital. I had contacts at some of the top children’s hospitals in the nation, and I was ready to start making use of the networking I had done over the last few years. I informed Chris that I was ready to move on professionally.
Wanderlust attacks again…..
And that was when Chris’ wanderlust pounced. He made the case that my time “in between jobs” would be the ideal opportunity for us to move abroad. Asking for a year or two of leave is not easy in any circumstance, and certainly impossible when you are the new kid on the professional block. If I took a new job somewhere else, our move would be delayed further as usually academic institutions don’t grant professional leave or “sabbaticals” until you have worked for them for at least 7 years. Also, if I took 1 or 2 years off, I could re-evaluate the situation in San Antonio at the end and potentially return when the wounds were not so raw. Though I had started to send out feelers and one of my dear friends had given my CV to her boss, I committed to Chris that I was willing to move once the children finished the 2012-2013 school year.
Was I really ready?…..
Once we made the commitment to move after the school year ended in June 2013, I went into panic mode. Being a doctor comprised a huge part of my identity. I derived my sense of self-worth and value as a person from my career. Most importantly I had worked so hard to get to where I was, that part of me doubted whether I was ready to put my career aside even temporarily. I worried that I was committing career suicide by taking such a long time off in a rapidly-changing, fast-paced, skills-driven field.
And then a little girl taught me an important lesson….