It’s been four months since I returned my iphone to Sprint and my wife and I switched over to Project Fi, the no-contract cellular service operated by Google. Calls are routed preferentially via wi-fi when available, and on the Sprint or T-mobile networks when you’re away from wi-fi. We put Fi to the test by traveling out of country (Mexico City, then San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico). Our verdict: Victory for the forces of democratic freedom!*
Eventually, the ability to enjoy myself seeped back into my life, one area at a time. My kids sucked me back into their world that didn’t care about my troubles so long as I could splash them in the bath or read them a bedtime story. My wife was simply extraordinary. I didn’t feel deserving of my family’s love, but they shared it all the same, and it rescued me.
I was tired - it had been a busy winter shift and my head was spinning, but I was slowly winding down after a nice family dinner and some reading time with my daughter. My wife and I had put our toddler to bed and were catching up when the doorbell rang. Taking a perverse pleasure in the humiliation he strove to inflict, the stranger who asked for me announced loudly enough for the neighbors to hear that I’d been served papers in my first lawsuit.
I’d heard California called many things before. The Golden State. A nature lover’s paradise. A youth and beauty parade. But the White Coat Investor (WCI) was the first to call it out as a Financial Toxic Wasteland. I describe myself as an unrepentant Californian, owning up to my idiosyncrasies and accepting the faults (and more reluctantly, the fault lines) that come with being a native. I live within a two hour drive of my parents, take surface streets to an international airport, and have largely lucked into a life with a 20 minute non-freeway commute to work.
So why live in a place where state tax rates approach 9% for physician level income brackets? Where housing is expensive, cost of living is high, and physicians are more likely to be regarded as middle class due to their relatively poor purchasing power vis a vis peers in the tech and finance industries?
My wife runs a side hustle that has been in full swing all summer, and which despite being mostly a word of mouth endeavor has evolved over a decade into a full-time job. On top of this, she works one clinical day shift per week in the ED to maintain her skills. My 10 hour shift yesterday turned into a 12 hour shift because the ED was buzzing, and my friends on the overnight could use my help in flushing the proverbial toilet that our waiting room had become. I felt good about the work - the folks I saw in our fast track would have waited hours longer given the night’s high acuity patients.
Once upon a time, a strapping young buck dove into the field of Emergency Medicine with ne’er a thought of night shift fatigue. He loved his work, headed into each shift bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and relished the butterflies in his stomach that multiplied commensurate with the number of ambulance rigs in the emergency lot. He loved the social justice aspect of caring for the patient without caring if they were insured. He loved sewing lacs on alcoholics who shared their life stories (and occasionally their gastric contents) as if he were their personal bartender. He even tried to learn something new about the delusional homeless patient who visited the department almost daily in the belief that the air in the ED was somehow salubrious (it was mostly noxious). He felt lucky - someone paid him to do this!
As a JV blogger looking up to my varsity role models, I’ve noticed that lots of folks seem to post photos of their children on their blog. I’ve always suspected their motives transcended vanity. As an evolving finance geek, this trend naturally piqued my interest: Could I pay my kids as child models on my blog and invest their earned income in Roth IRAs?
Since this blog is in many ways a time capsule from the current version of me to the person I was 15 years ago, there are concepts that occasionally resonate with the unencumbered new attending far more than they do with the married father of two with a mortgage and a bum shoulder. One such idea is the concept underlying the classic independent travel book Vagabonding by Rolf Potts.
In the book, Potts lays out an ethos of working long enough to cobble together funds for extended budget travel. Akin to adopting a dirtbag millionaire lifestyle, his suggestion offers the possibility of leveraging the relatively high physician income to work just enough to enjoy yourself. Granted, the typical new attending will have a decent debt burden to repay before she can consider this route, but the fantasy is worth exploring.
As part of a fellowship in International Emergency Medicine, I spent six months (multiple trips over a two year period) in northern Ethiopia. One of the most otherworldly experiences I had during that time was exploring Lalibela, a town which occupies a revered place in Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity. A walk through town revealed temples hewn from single enormous slabs of rock and pilgrims gathered by the dozens in white robes atop cliffside churches. Religion pervades rural areas (where 80% of Ethiopians live), and many subsistence farming families send male children to live and study in monasteries. Extremes of poverty and piety are everywhere.
Closet-sized caves containing barely more than simple cots surround the perimeter of many of the churches, in whose entrances religious zealots dressed in saffron robes finger amber rosary beads and read verses from bibles made of parchment as they beg for alms from pilgrims. These men are known as hermits, and they spend lives of devotion to the faith in these caves.
Ethiopian hermits come to mind because the FIRE universe is a bit of a cult, and we even have our own modern-day hermits.
I was introduced to the concept of “insensible losses” in medical school. Briefly, excess fluids lost from the human body are difficult to measure via the lungs, skin and GI tract, but can take a significant toll on the state of hydration. Conditions that stress the body and increase metabolic rate (burns, fever, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s in the lactose intolerant) result in increased insensible losses. Reading an endearing blog post on Marriage in Retirement by Darrow Kirkpatrick led me to believe that relationships, too, have their version of insensible losses. From his post:
Long ago, somebody told me that each member of a successful partnership has to give more than 50%. That’s because of losses due to “friction.”