Contemplating Retirement

          Physicians, more than any other profession, take ‘retirement’ as a sensitive, almost sentimental commitment. Practicing medicine, to most of us, is not just a vocation; it is a spiritual philosophy, a devotional observance, a sacrosanct ritual bestowing enormous gratification. The passion with which we sought admission to medical college, the elation of being accepted, the excitement of the new life, the ragging, the cadavers, the biochemistry, the clinical rounds, the surgery, getting involved with patients and the whole experience remain indelible in our memory. The pride of being earmarked as future physicians far surpassed the hardship facing the rigorous curriculum; the tormenting tests and the anguish of the examinations were just a small price to pay for the rich dividends of a noble profession.
          Most of us have been amply rewarded with the contentment of our profession and the comforts of a convenient lifestyle. We have numerous anecdotes to savor from significant impacts that we made in the lives of many of our patients and their loved ones. We are remembered with gratitude, even reverence in many families that we have made a difference. That reality makes us privileged and blessed to have been chosen to our sacredly unique profession.
          To retire, to call it a day and walk away from that distinction has to be deliberate; it is emotional, poignant, painful. Many of us have been used to shuffling our personal and professional lives, blending the two in a complementary fashion. On one side, I still feel attached and motivated to continue practicing medicine, while there is a twinge of guilt to walk away from all I have learned and earned as a noble art. Equally compelling is my desire to explore a variety of interests I have been craving and saving for my twilight days if I remain physically and emotionally capable and fortunate to pursue them. If we walk away from one, we may jeopardize both, exploring to discover the meaningful application of the vacuum in the time at our possession and the trade we have mastered.
          As I stand at the threshold, contemplating retirement and evaluating my options, I feel bewildered, somewhat even frightened. My inner conscience finds it hard to come to a clear conclusion. It will be desirable if I can come to terms with 113 myself, analyzing my priorities and available options as I accept reality, always being very mindful that Something far beyond my meager abilities has Its plans already charted out for me. In that context, I am totally complacent. (February 7, 2007)

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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