Just like your financial portfolio, once a year it’s worth sitting down with your priorities to ensure that those areas where you’ve made satisfying gains have not inadvertently created blind spots of neglected priorities. This was underscored by a funeral a couple of days ago - a family member I loved died after a long hospitalization. Weirdly enough, his eulogy served as inspiration for a checklist I’ll share below.
I once heard that Poland’s national anthem translates roughly to “Poland Has Not Yet Perished,” a song to channel tepid revenge on all the nations that have occupied and invaded Poland over the years. I am similarly surprised that Crispy Doc has not yet perished. I’ve stuck with the blog beyond the novelty period, and I’m trying to avoid a sophomore slump. Since working in the ED means I’m accustomed to working holidays, and I’m low key by nature, I didn’t make a fuss over my one year blogiversary - but like the Poles, I’ll admit to a mixture of surprise and pleasure at the fact of survival.
My father told me early on that when your kids are young, you give of your money; when they grow older, you give of your time. Jim Dahle at the White Coat Investor has written that reaching FI makes you yourself, only moreso - if you are greedy, that will be amplified; if you live to help others, you will do still more good. The pursuit of my FI number can unwittingly foster a self-absorption that makes me uncomfortable - modeling my drawdown and maximizing tax deductible contributions creates a myopic focus on me and my issues to the exclusion of others with greater needs. I give money, but I’d like to give more of my time to lessen the burdens that others face.
The family member who died was a physician, and was known for routinely sitting with community members after attending religious services to help them understand their health better, what came to be known as his “weekend rounds.” His passing has offered me the chance to draw on an untapped reservoir of patience to assist his widow in getting her affairs in order. We have grown closer than ever at exactly the time when she requires the support and I have found the patience.
I hope to do better with patience as a husband. My wife has noted that I can be distracted by the computer at moments when she could have used attention and empathy. I tend to write whenever the muse demands it, and while inspiration can’t be scheduled, jotting the idea that occurs to me at midnight to expand on later might be an option. Physically departing the house to protect time for writing would serve us both better than my staying at home when I’m unable to fully be present for her.
As for the kids, I can be an impatient father, and at times I try to exert banana republic dictator levels of control over what are basically sweet and well-behaved kids. I get irritated when my daughter spills oil over every surface of the kitchen when I should instead laud her independence in learning to fry an egg on her own. The short-term hassle gets in the way of the long-term learning, and I’m disappointed in myself on those days I can’t summon the patience to support the kids in sprouting their wings. I need to prioritize their test flights.
Other than this week of eating unhealthy sweets at events for mourners, I try to observe a healthy diet. I’ve been better at hiking, riding my bike, lifting weights, bodyboarding and kayaking on a regular basis. I’m eating more plants and less meat than in past years. Working less equates to more time to be active. My 45 year old body aches in new and different ways after each activity, but it reminds me I’m alive.
Unexpectedly, improving fitness has deepened friendships. I went on my first ever backcountry camping trip with a close friend from out of town, where we enjoyed remarkable conversation in an extraordinary setting. I’ve grown close to another local friend whose intellect and perspective makes our day hikes something I eagerly look forward to. I was a guest on another friend’s podcast, and had a chance to see him enjoying a talent that he’s taken great pleasure in developing over time.
Reducing my clinical load has allowed more time for passion projects. Blogging, reading contemporary fiction, creating art with the kids, family reading nights by the fire have all been increased to happiness-producing levels. My son and I now tool around the garden pulling weeds at least once a week, and he relishes our time together - hands in dirt, no competition for dad’s attention, progress quantified by the growing pile of green invaders on the lawn - what’s not to love?
I’ve made the opportunity to assist friends with their finances. I met with a newbie in my group and we modeled his income and expenses to develop a compelling plan that he could present to his wife extolling the advantages of living like a resident for another 5-7 years. This was a wonderful experience, one I hope to get better at offering other newbie docs over time. This is in many ways test driving the entire point of this blog - helping a young doc reach his financial potential and put his family in a position of strength to go forward. I left that meeting on a high that still hasn’t worn off.
Never Stop Learning
My goals for this year are to handle expand my limited technical skills with the blog. I’d like to learn basic wordpress so I can post new articles to a redesigned website in that format. I’d like to figure out some basic SEO tricks, and incorporate a handful of strategies from blogging tip articles I’ve read by generous and successful bloggers like Go Curry Cracker, Retire By 40 and Physician on Fire. I’d like to look under the hood at Making Sense of Cents to see how a master has monetized her blog entirely, and see which of her techniques I’d feel comfortable adopting, cultivating my inner entrepreneur while avoiding the feel of a snake oil salesman.
Losing someone you love inevitably leads you to take stock of your own life. It can also allow you to recognize those life assets that are under-weighted and demand greater investment of your time to restore balance.
What do you plan to invest your time in the coming year?
Financial Literacy for The Newly Minted Physician