I am a self-proclaimed shoe addict. For many years, I have justified my shoe purchases in many ways - “I don’t have that EXACT color, or THAT style, or that HEEL or that BRAND”. My recent downsize in space for an upgrade in lifestyle, led me to carefully evaluate which shoes I would keep and which ones I would give away. After all, there were only so many shoes that would fit into a small closet.
Looking at each pair of shoes led to some significant introspection. I bought shoes when I was happy, and I bought them when I was sad. Some were on sale, others were unique. Some were purchased in other countries and were great souvenirs. Some made me feel stylish, others were professional. There were some that were so uncomfortable that I could only walk into a restaurant and sit. Others were so comfortable that they weren’t really presentable in public! I think you get the point.
I decided that for me to keep a pair of shoes, they had to fit all aspects of my life and my personality. They needed to feel good, and I needed to feel good wearing them.
As I was sorting out the shoes in my life, I realized this process of prioritizing and eliminating was similar to the evaluation of my career when I knew it was time to make a change.
Have you ever spent so much on a pair of shoes that you couldn’t part with them? I had one pair that I kept for over 10 years because they were so beautiful and yet had to force myself to wear them two times because they were so uncomfortable. I spent a lot of money on my education and my career and it often felt as uncomfortable as those shoes. I am incredibly grateful for the years I practiced medicine but in many ways it was not a perfect fit. I had to disown parts of me to practice medicine. It wasn’t a big deal in the beginning, but with each passing year, it became more difficult to put on a “mask” to go to work.
I am a critical thinker, but I love being creative. I am serious, but I can be incredibly playful and silly. I like routines and regimens, but I also like to have some freedom in my schedule. I love people, but I needed more quiet than I realized. I loved my career, but I wanted time to experience life in other ways.
Perhaps if I had led a more synergistic life, I would have learned to integrate aspects of my personality into the professional part of my life, rather than forcing my foot into the wrong shoe. Maybe I could even have stayed in medicine longer. I was so focused on the “shoe” I had, I didn’t know there were other options available. I truly wish that discussions about burnout were more prevalent two decades ago. I would have liked to hear from another female physician about what her life as a medical practitioner was really like- her challenges, triumphs and her deepest fears. How did she juggle the demands of her professional life while making sure her kids got fed and didn’t wind up in jail? How did she keep her patients healthy while managing all her employees and a business ? How did she manage her finances? Did she ever sleep? I mean really sleep without waking up every 3 hours to worry about something or to answer her pager? In short, how did she keep her shoes scuff free and orderly? Where was this woman that I could have asked? I could have really used her help.
Without the experience and guidance of an older medical “shoe maven,” I was left to deal with all of the above scenarios myself. Now, with my carefully selected footwear mostly in order, I want to use my experience to help women in medicine deal with the challenges they face. I want to inspire change in women so that they take better care of themselves and all the “shoes” in their closet. . A good prioritizing and elimination of shoes - both literal and figurative - is a first step towards life synergy. Life synergy brings a greater appreciation for all parts of life, from the thread-bare cozy stay-home slippers to the 12-hours-on-my-feet work shoes to the knock-’em-dead stilettos. Each part combines to form an effect that is greater than the sum of its parts and makes for a healthier, happier life. When women are healthier and happier, it’s better than a Buy-One-Get-One sale at your favorite shoe store!