Summer vacation as a retired physician

Like all children, I looked forward to July and August. It was a magical time I daydreamed about through the winter months.

Summer was a time of endless possibilities. No school, no deadlines, no stress.  The dreaded alarm clock was banished to the night table drawer. With no homework due, no papers to be written, and no tests looming, all that lay ahead was fun and relaxation. The hardest decision each morning was how to spend the day. Swimming? Reading? Visiting friends? I reveled in it.

As an adult, vacations became shorter, restricted by my medical career. Still, summer plans were made each year. Even if only three weeks, it was still precious time not to be wasted. Bucket list dreams needed to be fulfilled.

Soon, priorities changed. Now It was about bonding time and memory making for my daughter. The beach. Camping. Educational trips. My personal dreams were put on hold.

The rude shock of being invited to join the AARP signaled the beginning of a new phase of my life. Retirement loomed in the not too distant future.

As a kid, summer vacation didn’t loom. It beckoned. Now, the thought of having nothing but free time for the rest of my life, was, in some ways, more stressful than continuing to work. Aside from the economic issues, the loss of structure left me with a vacuum to fill. And anxiety.

I remember my mixed feelings when I closed my exam room door behind me for the last time. Unreality. This is it. End of an era. Sad. Empty. I made it! I’m free! My retirement suddenly stretched out in front of me like an endless summer. No more night call. No more weekends No more responsibility.

I embraced it joyfully for two years. No alarm clock. No deadlines. No hurry. I shopped ‘til I dropped.

Then I woke one morning and looked in the mirror.

Now what?

I wasn’t finished yet. I had more work to do.

Judy Salz is an internal medicine physician.

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