One Year From International Fame To Unemployment (Part I)

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What was I thinking a few weeks ago when I quit my job?

I have responsibilities and bills. I have a beautiful wife and daughter, and a not so beautiful mortgage, car payment, and unpaid medical school loans. Oh, and a dog – can’t forget Disco.

It wasn’t to take the long-awaited dream job. I was living the dream and had the bills, responsibilities, and dog to prove it. I was an associate professor at a major medical school. I was a trauma surgeon at one of the premier hospitals in the country. I was well paid. And, I trained for 13 years to earn my position after my former career as an aeronautical engineer in the US Air Force.

Would you advise me to quit? Wait – before you answer there is more.

You see, back in July 2016, I found myself at the center of a national discussion about race. This happened after a sniper shot 12 Dallas police officers at an anti-police brutality protest. It was the deadliest day for US law enforcement since 9/11.

As the presiding trauma surgeon that night I helped care for the seven injured officers transported to our hospital. A few days later at a press conference, visibly distressed, I pleaded for an end to the violence.

To say this tragedy changed me minimizes its impact. It unmasked long dormant parts of my identity. And that unfamiliar reflection staring back at me demanded “what are you going to do now?”

One year later I finally answered – I resigned.

I chose to stop doing what I trained nearly half of my adult life to do. In doing so we went from a one-income family to a no-income family.

Throughout my last few weeks walking the halls of the hospital I encountered a ceaseless train of interrogations. Some of my colleagues understood, but you can imagine many more were perplexed by my seemingly sudden departure. It raised a few eyebrows and a few voices about my giving up on a promising career, negating all of my achievements, etc. Just fill in the blank. You name it and I probably heard it.

The reasons for my departure were multilayered and I respectfully kept most of them to myself. In doing so I sensed that many were dissatisfied with my explanation during these brief encounters.

So I learned to tell my concerned inquisitors I was merely taking a sabbatical. And I believed I was – that was until someone enlightened me by clarifying that folks on sabbatical actually get paid. Technically, I am unemployed.

Now it is barely six weeks since I went from Dr. Williams to Mr. Mom. Regrets? Not one.

So now what? Part 2 next week.

Brian H. Williams, MD