I haven’t been on a real vacation, with nothing to do and by myself, in my life. I travel the world, but speaking at a conference or meeting with clients is always the reason. I just want some time to do nothing. So, in a few hours, I’m getting on a plane and heading to Rio de Janeiro. I’ll be there for 8 days, but only have four nights booked. I’m waiting to get down there to figure out what to do for the last 4 days. It may be another region of the city, or it may be somewhere out in the middle of the jungle.

I made up my mind to be a doctor when I was in my second semester of college. I studied my ass off in college just to get into medical school. I started med school in 1998, supposedly the year with the highest number of applications on record. In order to get in, I knew I had to sacrifice some freedom– especially at Wash U, since it was such a cut-throat pre-med environment. Many people say the hardest thing about medical school is getting in. For me, that was absolutely true. Medical school was a breeze compared to my undergrad. 

But I went straight through– undergrad, med school, pediatrics, preventive medicine, masters in public health, turned 30, real world. My undergrad and my 20’s were gone spent in the library and in the hospital. I did my pediatric residency in the West Village because I don’t think I would have survived doing it in Pennsyltucky. I took up photography while forcing myself to walk the streets of NYC just to stay awake having been up for the previous 24 hours in the hospital.

And now, I’m 35. The past four years have been the best years of my life. My 30’s are absolutely wonderful and I can only see things getting better. My 30’s are the first time I’ve tasted the freedom to do what I want, when I want it. Prior to this, I’ve always been beholden to a goal without knowing exactly what attaining that goal actually felt like. Being a doctor isn’t what you think it is on the first day of medical school.

It’s a bit like happiness. Many people think that “when I land this new job, I’m going to be so happy.” But a few weeks after landing that new job or this new husband, you realize that you’re no happier than before. We humans are amazingly adaptive creatures and our “new” quickly becomes our “normal.” Happiness to most people is some sort of goal associated with big life events. But that leaves you in a state of always wanting something you don’t have.

In reality, happiness is a process, not a goal. It’s chasing your curiosity, all over your city, your neighborhood, and all over the world. It’s truly knowing your favorite people in the world, having them over in the backyard for 4th of July, BBQing some sausages from The Meat Hook, and baking your mom’s peach pie. 

I stayed for 4th of July because it’s one of my favorite holidays. And now I’m off to Rio. I’m going analog for a while, only taking my film camera and ignoring the internet for the next 9 days. You all be well…