This isn’t a dress rehearsal.

I’m talking about life. I have heard this saying before, that the life we have isn’t a dress rehearsal. I was struck by this notion again last evening. I was writing a short letter to someone concerning the way I have felt about my career(s) over the years.

I am a family physician and I LOVE what I do. Before that I worked several jobs in graduate school, in the Department of Biology as a student teacher, in the field collecting bio samples, and in an aquaculture facility raising American eels and striped bass-white bass hybrids. I loved all of those jobs.

As an undergraduate I worked in various labs at the college I attended. Also, I worked at a local hospital on the weekends. First, I worked as an orderly on the floor, then in the EKG department, and finally in respiratory therapy. I loved all of those jobs too.

Before I attended college, I worked for Radio Shack. I opened and ran new stores in several different cities. I loved that job. At one point, I had my own painting and decorating company. I loved that one. I also worked in the various fields of construction including plumbing, electrical, masonry, and framing work. I loved all those.

I always had some sort of job growing up, beginning with cutting grass for money at the age of nine. Before that, I collected and returned drink bottles for the refundable deposit money on them at age six. I loved all of those jobs.

But, here is the thing. In all of those jobs, no matter how proficient I was doing them or how successful I may have been at some of them, I have never felt completely satisfied that I am doing exactly what I was made to do. I am 59 years old.

That thought, not knowing exactly what I should be doing or in what direction I should be traveling,  used to frighten me and cause a great deal of anxiety. Not any more. Not sense I got sober. Life has become a lot more manageable since then.

The first thing I did when I got sober was to stop trying to manage other people’s lives. Ultimately, it is a futile task. I did not realize how much time and energy I wasted trying to control the behavior of others. When I couldn’t, of course I blamed the other individual and used it as an excuse to drink. There is really only one person’s life that I can manage if I earnestly try and that is my own. Some days it is still a difficult task, to be sure.

I have had many successes since I became sober and thankfully, fewer spectacular failures. I have had to reinvent myself several times. My career as a physician is just the last iteration. But, I feel there is more I want to do. It is not that I am unhappy. It’s just that I feel I’m supposed to be doing something else, pursuing a different purpose. Do you ever feel that way?

There is a certain unrest or disquiet inside of me that keeps me looking, keeps me searching and never seems to leave me. It feels as though something is missing for which I was destined that remains undiscovered. The best example I can give you of how this feels to me is by way of my experience, oddly enough, with exam gloves.

I have been in medicine for 25 years and I have tried countless brands and types of exam gloves. They come in half-sizes. No matter the type, the manufacturer, the color or the size they have never felt just right on one or both of my hands. Either they are too difficult to put on, too loose, too snug, lack sufficient sensitivity or some other issue.

Oh, I can still do my job well in spite of this. It is just some thing I have noticed that seems emblematic of how I have felt in my current career(s). It is not that I am unsatisfied with my job. As I said, I LOVE my job in medicine. It just doesn’t seem to fit me completely or quite right. Nothing ever has.

I used to think this was a bad thing. I no longer do. Most people feel this way. There is a reason for that. Life is full of possibilities. We should never completely feel satisfied with where we are in life. We are supposed to be searching, so that we can explore, find, learn, and do. We must strive to continuously improve ourselves, to discover and use our talents. Time is precious and fleeting and life isn’t a dress rehearsal.

Are you still searching?