Saturday, February 5, 2011

Standing At A Threshold With Courage

Author: Lisa Chu, M.D.
if you move carefully
through the forest,
you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests,

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,

to stop what you
are becoming while you do it"

David Whyte, "Sometimes"
If you're reading this, you may be standing at a threshold in your life. You may have your feet on the ground, but your heart may be pulling you, inexplicably, toward the open space in front of you.

You may be looking out over a ledge, clinging to your foothold, perhaps trembling with fear as you glance quickly down into the chasm.

If only I knew the answer, you might be thinking to yourself. If only I knew which way to go, how to stay safe, who has gone here before, and who might be a reliable guide.

If you're reading this, you are on a search for something. It may appear to you that you just need to find another job. You may just be focused on finding another way to pay the bills. Or you may be feeling like your whole life is falling apart, since everything you’ve built it upon no longer makes sense.

At times like these, it’s easy to feel that you are surrounded by people who are nothing like you, and who don't understand what you're going through.

I'm joining this conversation, started by Joe Kim, because, ten years after leaving medicine, I am finally beginning to feel like I have something to say. I am finally beginning to value my own story, and to accept myself for exactly who I am.

I have been trying, in various forms, to walk away from the identity of "doctor", to disown the part of me who went to medical school and actually finished, despite knowing that I never chose it out of a true desire or passion to practice medicine. I "ended up" there because I believed I had no other choices at the time. It was easier for me to go to medical school than to fight my parents' firm beliefs that (a) I would never get paid a decent salary (which they never defined) with "only" an undergraduate degree (from Harvard), and (b) they would not be doing their jobs as parents if they didn't see to it that I obtained a graduate degree “on their watch”. It was part of a family pride thing, a duty thing, and a Chinese thing.

I used to think I was alone, having this kind of "guidance" passed on to me by my parents. So I put my head down and just got through, keeping silent about the beliefs that made up the fabric of our family and the culture in which my parents grew up.

I thank Amy Chua, now known by more people as "Tiger Mother" or "Crazy Woman" or "Monster", for giving me the courage to begin to tell my story without shame. After reading the whole book - yes, it's a memoir about a real person, not a "how to" parenting book by a so-called expert - I see that her ability to claim all the parts of herself she calls "Chinese mother", and to do it without shame or apology of any kind, AND to stand up to the criticism she is receiving in public for doing so, is all the inspiration I need. Perhaps writing the book is an important step in her own journey of self-acceptance, learning, growing, and healing. What I know is that reading her book was an important step in claiming my own story.

As I look back on my life since medical school, I see that the real people who have had the courage to tell their stories and say what is true for them - no matter what other people may think – have given me the most courage to move forward and do what my heart told me I wanted to do.

So what, from my perspective now, having been a partner in a venture capital firm, the founder of my own violin school, and now a trained life coach ready to help physicians considering leaving medicine, do I want to tell you?

I’ll be sharing my own stories about what I’ve learned since leaving medicine about standing at the threshold, stepping into life transitions, and waking up to the joy of life’s many possibilities. And reminding you that you already have everything you need to create a life you love. Are you ready?

About the author:

As a life coach, musician, writer, teacher, and speaker, Lisa Chu, M.D., supports and encourages adults who are seeking to live more creatively and passionately. She completed medical school, but left medicine before doing a residency, in order to follow her dream of creating a life of passion, creativity, and authenticity. She has since been a partner-level investment professional in a venture capital firm, the founder of her own violin school, the creator of music improvisation workshops for personal growth, and the co-creator of an acoustic rock band. Learn more about Lisa Chu, M.D. here.

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