Gone are the days of the obligatory 2 week and 2 month vacations we all had during spring/winter and summer. Unless you are fortunate enough to work in education, you stopped having those built-in vacays way back in college. During my tenure as a medical student, I did have breaks after each “System Block” and we had something like an extended block break during the summer months. But even those days are over. Now I am in practice and no one cares if I get a mental health day. At least that’s how I feel. And when I negotiated my first employment contract I became completely disenchanted with medicine once they offered me 19 days of paid time off inclusive of sick days! Umm, is it just me or does that seem like not enough time to regain sanity within 365 days of crazy. Not that I was planning illness, but what if I did get sick? Am I to be penalized for taking care of contagious flu-ridden children by losing my hard-earned days that I planned to use for my 10 year college reunion? So not fair.
I digress. My point is, spring breaks and summer vacations are important. America must be the only country that discourages time off from work. I love what I do – most days, but I love other things too. And having the time to explore other passions is what makes me feel satisfied, whole, and organically happy. That in turn makes me a better doctor.
So until I come up with a way to control my schedule, I will create my own breaks. My friends often joke that for me to be a doctor, I sure do travel a lot. This of course is factually evidenced by my life in pictures on Facebook. On the contrary, dear friends; you can rest assured that my life sucks just as much as yours. I selectively post the pics of me having the time of my life and, in my opinion, looking incredible. However, I do put in effort to create the lifestyle I have using my current means and opportunities. Besides, who wants to see pictures of me at work anyway?
So you’re still wondering if I travel a lot? I wouldn’t say so. But I seize every opportunity. The best one being my CMEs. CMEs, or continuing medical education, are obligatory educational opportunities that all doctor’s must take part in. It keeps us up to date on ever-changing health guidelines and refreshes our medical knowledge. Each opportunity awards you hours which we use toward the required amount needed to keep our licenses active. My contract allows 5 days for CME. (How else will a doctor accept a job with only 19 days PTO?) Boy do I make them count. I plan my CME courses at beautiful resorts and hot spots.
Although I cannot attend a tropical CME getaway for a week, I usually leave on a Thursday after work, take Friday off and make it a 4 day getaway. Nothing like a weekend in ClearWater, Florida or most recently, Las Vegas to make you forget about that good ‘ol Measles epidemic. Oh, wait, that’s one of my lecture topics? :/
I am there for educational purposes, therefore, my days are spent in lectures. So as awesome as it may sound I still crave more free-to-be “-me” time. And that is why I sacrifice a huge chunk of my PTO to leave the country every Spring and Fall. If you are searching for meaning in your life, 10 days in the temples of Bangkok will do the trick! If you need time to decompress, a week in the tropics of Belize will bring you back to yourself. And if you’re unhappy with yourself for any reason at all, time in Mykonos and Santorini will wash that all away revealing your inner goddess.
Bottom line is I need my breaks. And you need them too. We all do. Make it happen.