BY DR. DAN PETERS
My dad is a man of routine. He has been going to his same office and examining people’s eyes for almost 50 years. I remember him leaving at the same time every day, coming home at the same time every night, changing his clothes and putting on a sports game or the stereo. I don’t ever remember him complaining about work. One day I asked him if he liked his job. I remember him saying he did and found it rewarding helping people to see.
My goal was to open my own private practice and have my own business like my dad. I had been in school for years, interned for little to nothing for too long, had huge student debt, and finally passed my state boards. I enjoyed working in a small non-profit in a small community. However, I had a family now and needed to make more money. I was ready to make my long awaited goal happen – to transition to full private practice.
It was not long after I made the transition I started having trouble sleeping (more than usual). I found myself worrying more and having less energy. I started to dread getting up in the morning. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I wasn’t myself and didn’t know quite why. I was doing what I had always wanted, wasn’t I? I found myself thinking, “Is this what I will be doing every day until I retire?” I knew my dad had done it for so long. He is happy so I should be too.
I will never forget sitting at a stop light with two of my kids in the back. My daughter was asking me questions and I could hear myself answering her in monotone. It wasn’t me. She said, “Dad, why are you talking like that?” I looked at her in the rear view mirror. Her face looked a bit scared, confused, and sad. I looked at myself in the mirror and saw myself, without emotion or energy. I was unhappy.
My daughter’s innocent, yet profound question jolted me awake. I wasn’t happy and needed to know why for me and for my family. I had been feeling this way for too long. I thought my kids were too young to know. They weren’t. I became aware that I greatly missed collaborating with other professionals, building programs, being a part of the community, and having a job with different responsibilities. I realized that although I liked consulting with people and helping them solve their problems and reach their potential, I felt isolated and alone all day long in the same office, every day.
I watched my dad do HIS career and thought that is how it was supposed to be done. He showed me what it was like to enjoy his work and contribute to people, but I needed to figure out what MY career would look like. Once I realized I needed to do it my way, it did not take me long to make the changes I needed to get back to myself.
Are you happy with what you do? What kind of energy do you bring home? How do you feel when you get up in the morning? Are you doing what you are “supposed” to do or what you “want to do?” What are you showing your kids about working? What are they hearing you say about your job, responsibilities, and co-workers?
We often find it hard to make changes and dig deep for ourselves, but most parents will do anything for the betterment of their children. Take a look at your work life. Ask yourself the hard questions. Your kids need you to answer honestly.
The other day I was driving with my youngest and she was asking me about my day at the office which was extra busy with patients, phone calls, and launching my new website. She said, “You like what you do, don’t you?” I said that I did. She said she thought she could do my job and started to mimic me by pretending she was recording a new video for my parent awareness training. She said, “See, I can do your job.” “You’re sure could,” I said. I caught myself in the mirror smiling. I flashed on the image of myself 10 years ago without energy or expression. I was sending a different message this time. And she knew it was telling the truth.
Do you like your job? Your kids know the real answer.
This blog originally appeared on Huffington Post.
Image courtesy of Dr. Dan Peters.