A little over a year ago, unforeseen circumstances led me to walk away from the security of a full-time job and all the benefits that came with it such as employer-based health insurance and retirement contributions.
At the time, I had applied for another position without even realizing that I would be leaving my job. The position seemed to be an ideal next step, being a senior leadership position in academic medicine and would not have involved moving to another location. All things considered, it seemed like things were falling into place and I was optimistic. I eagerly anticipated a second interview, but weeks went by and there was no such invitation. On reaching out to someone on the team who had conducted the initial interview, I was informed that the position had been offered to someone else.
One thing I have learned in life is not to hold on to things that aren’t mine. After initially being disappointed that I didn’t get a second interview, much less the job that had seemed ideal at the time, I got on with my life. In the past, my next move would likely have been to start aggressively searching for the next full-time job. And perhaps that would have been appropriate at a different phase of my life and career. However, this time I took a different approach.
I had self-published my writing and photography in two books previously but had done very little marketing and the books were not available on Amazon. I was working on a third book at the time I left my job, a devotional book with daily readings and reflections based on the book of Proverbs. Like my other books, it included my photographs and this time, I was determined to take things to the next level and make it available on Amazon. I signed up with a coach who works with physicians in the area of wellness and balance but also does some coaching in the area of publishing. I spoke with her and told her about my previous experience with self-publishing and hybrid publishing – where I had paid a company a few thousand dollars to re-publish my book. My coach rightfully pointed out that the money I paid her would be an investment – as I would be able to use the skills and knowledge acquired to publish more books on my own in the future. This turned out to be so true!
Less than two months after leaving my job, my book was published on Amazon, just in time for the holidays, which certainly helped to boost sales. Over the next several months, with the encouragement of my coach, I decided to revise my previously published books and make the second editions available for purchase on Amazon.
In addition to my general interest books, I published a workbook for use in the behavioral health setting. Several years ago, I read an essay in which the stages of change in behavioral health were compared with the stages of the butterfly’s life cycle. I found the comparisons to be intriguing and prepared a PowerPoint presentation on this theme, using photographs from my personal collection. I had been thinking about putting this information into a book and now it seemed like the time was right, so I went ahead and published the workbook titled Transformation and Recovery, Lessons from the Butterfly.
I enjoyed wildlife photography and had been thinking about using my photographs to illustrate an educational book since I was learning so many interesting facts about animals that I wanted to share with the world. In the process of preparing to write my “animal book,” I learned so much about giraffes and decided they deserved a book of their own! I ended up publishing Giraffes Are Amazing! and decided that this could be the first in a series of educational books on wild animals.
I am currently working on a book on women in medicine, featuring many of the amazing women physicians I have met over the course of my career while highlighting various opportunities that are available to physicians both within and outside of traditional career paths.
In addition to publishing the five books mentioned above and working on the sixth, I spent a significant amount of time in a studio fulfilling my dream of recording music. I was the vocalist for all thirteen songs, and while most of the accompaniments were played by my producer, I contributed to the background music, playing keyboards, flute, ukulele, steel drums, and saxophone on various songs.
In the midst of everything, I stayed active within professional circles and became a fellow of the American Medical Women’s Association and a distinguished fellow of the American Society for Addiction Medicine.
Leaving full-time employment was indeed a blessing in disguise. It freed me to express myself fully without losing my identity as a physician. After a 5-month hiatus, I started working as a physician again, on a part-time basis, which allowed me to continue pursuing my nonclinical interests. Whether I am seeing patients in the clinic or sharing my writing, music, or photography, I believe I am contributing to society in my own unique way, and that is what matters most.
Olapeju Simoyan is an addiction medicine specialist.