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Cruise Control: The Failure of My Success

Cruz, Joseph DO

doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000512465.38299.7a
Cruise Control

Dr. Cruzis an emergency medicine attending at Kennedy University Hospital in Cherry Hill, NJ. He is a 2012 graduate of the University of Medicine and Dentistry School of Osteopathic Medicine and a 2016 graduate of the Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine Emergency Medicine Residency, both in New Jersey. He is currently the emergency medicine clerkship director at Rowan.

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There is something unquestionably transformative about the process of becoming a doctor. Somewhere in the decade of hardship, you become stronger. You learn discipline, knowledge, and skills far beyond anything you could have ever imagined as a young, naive pre-med student. You become a new person, assuming the doctor identity, forged out of fire. You gain much, but you also lose so much of yourself.

I recently happened across a speech by the actor Jim Carrey at Maharishi University's commencement in 2014. He explained that his father gave up on his dreams of becoming a comedian to secure a “safe” career as an accountant. Jim Carrey realized an important life lesson that propelled him to pursue his own successful career after his father was fired and their family became impoverished: “You could fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance at doing what you love.”

I also watched author J.K. Rowling's 2008 speech at Harvard University's commencement, where she explained a similar life lesson. She had abandoned her dream of fiction writing in college to pursue a safer career path. Years later, she was poor, divorced, and depressed. Only then did she pull herself out of rock bottom by following her passion and eventually create the successful Harry Potter franchise. “I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me,” she said.

Obviously, finishing medical school and residency and becoming an EP would never be considered a failure by any stretch of the imagination. I am truly proud of myself for conquering something that tested every facet of my being. Sometimes the only thing that gave me motivation during those years was the promise that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. And now here I am, and the light is beautiful but somehow incomplete.

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The Dream of Writing

My favorite author when I was younger was Michael Crichton, the physician-turned-successful-fiction-writer. I had always known I had a talent for writing, and I dreamed of one day becoming a novelist. I instead found myself in science and medicine. I was perhaps guided by familial and social expectations and pressures, but I was also good at it. Moreover, I was genuinely driven by a desire to help others as a career, and momentum propelled me straight through the furnace of physician training.

I failed many times to pursue my passion for writing while keeping up with school or residency. Several times in the past 12 years, I would have a spark of creativity and begin work on a new novel. Each time, I would begin with paramount excitement and determination. There was something inexplicably rewarding and fulfilling about the process of creating a world and bringing it to life through a story. This feeling was pure and real; it brought forth the inner me, buried under a mountain of medical facts and studies.

Each time, that mountain of obligations would eventually extinguish my beloved endeavors. There was simply not enough time, my body had not enough energy, and my mind's capacity for creativity was replaced with endless medical knowledge. These were all excuses. It was the procrastination of destiny.

But now I sit here writing with utmost joy and optimism. Since finishing residency, I have been able to redirect my time toward what is important to me. I am able to spend time with my family, and I work just enough to live comfortably and no more. The rest of my energy is now spent writing. Scratch that, my energy is generated by my freedom to write.

I look back on my journey and recognize that, in the process, I have failed myself by abandoning a part of who I truly am. I have finally found the determination and balance in life to fix that. The work is already underway. I am ecstatic about the idea of finally finishing my projects, and I cannot wait to share my world with you.

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