The Wisdom of Walking Away… from the Opportunity Buffet

I didn’t think I’d be here today.

Obviously, I always assumed I’d be somewhere else.

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If I were not in my dorm room now, distilling my thoughts into an entry for this blog, I’d be miles away and a few hours behind.

Right at this very moment, I’d thought I would be on a nice, plush hotel room right in the city center of Brisbane.

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It would have been the perfect opportunity to see Australia, a country I’d never been to. I could have been swapping travel stories over Skype with my partner-in-crime who, at this very moment, is enjoying his last night in Berlin.

I could have told him how Brisbane was so much different from Perth, a city he’d been to on one of those work trips.

But no, I am right here, at the heart of Manila, a few meters away from the hospital I spend so much time in that I practically live there.

You see, I realized, after quite some struggle with practical thinking, that Brisbane was not such a good idea, after all.

I’d been so psyched when I got the acceptance letter. I’d found a new purpose for an old research paper on medical informatics – a way to escape the chaos of the hospital for a few days and an excuse to travel again. Being able to present it was just the cherry on top – the vacation and the whole sensory assault that comes with exploring new places was REALLY what I was after.

But unfortunately, funding was hard to come by. At the last minute, my family backed out, saying it was not really of the essence and I was better off focusing on my internship. Efforts to reach out to former professors did not come up with better alternatives.

So, in air of resignation, I threw in the towel. But not without tantrums, sulking, and a major drop in self-esteem (as I was then still collecting those darned brownie points).

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I was crushed, I was mad, I was actually LIVID. It was unbelievable how I gave that opportunity the power to define who I was and determine my feelings. When my partner-in-crime pointed it out, I was in shock.

What had just been an extra opportunity escalated into a life-and-death and a do-or-die matter, in my distorted point of view.

I admit, I have trouble walking away, especially since I’m a huge fan of OPPORTUNITY BUFFETS.

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I liked to binge, to gorge myself with these CV boosters, to be swayed here and there with every little thing that seemed, well, promising. (You have to remember, this was all way before I recognized my brownie point addiction.)

You see, my philosophy in such matters had always been:

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Then, little by little, as I weaned myself gradually from the glorified idea of Brisbane and what would have been a classy travel album I would have loved posting on Facebook (checking every few hours how many “Like”’s it garnered), I felt better.

I shifted my focus to my day-to-day hospital responsibilities (trying to be a cool, calm, and collected doctor when you haven’t slept in 36 hours is THE REAL TEST OF CHARACTER). Then, when I’d get lucky enough to have free time (which is GOLD in a medical intern’s life, I tell you ), I gave myself a Media Browsing Treat Day. I’d buy magazines on my favorite topics (women’s health and fitness, style and fashion, entrepreneurship), read inspiring blogs, and scour Fully Booked for self-help books that challenged me or appealed to me.

Before I knew it, I was enjoying and absorbing all of it.

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My perspective was growing, I felt stimulated and renewed. I’d have regular phone calls with one of my closest friends (who was transitioning into entrepreneurship at the time from a corporate job)   and our conversations would literally last FOR HOURS INTO THE NIGHT.

I suppose this was the start of MY AWAKENING.

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One day, I saw a call for contributors for this blog I really, really liked (www.wanderrgirl.com) and I just thought, “What the hell. WHY NOT?”

THAT WAS THE POINT OF NO RETURN.

Soon after that, I signed up for a blogging convention that would take place this weekend. I might as well learn about it from experts in the industry if I was going to get serious with writing.

I’d always wanted to be a writer in high school, but I ignored that calling in college because I was too busy trying to be an overachiever. I got the cum laude, all right, and I got into the most notorious medical school ever (well, here in the Philippines, anyway), but somehow, there was always the bothersome feeling that SOMETHING WAS AMISS.

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My creative spirit was not fulfilled and I was this tired, overworked soul, obsessing about things like that conference in Brisbane, for example.

Now, though, I realize the wisdom in walking away from that opportunity. Yes, Brisbane would have been yet another stamp in my passport, an exposure that would further expand what I hoped was a globalized mindset.

But right now, other things are more important.

In trying to sample everything in the buffet, sometimes, we barely even taste the food. I would rather enjoy the morsels one by one, savouring them in their entirety, than letting all the courses blend into one frantic blur of chomping and swallowing.

I don’t think the pleasure I get from writing these insights now would be the same I would get from presenting a research paper I was not really passionate about.

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And maybe, this is the reason why a lot of things did not fall in favor when it came to looking for funding. I could have desperately pushed for it and exhausted myself whoring my abstract to all potential investors. But I chose to walk away.

And now I have no regrets.

Because as much as we would like to think our plans are perfect, we get into a state of shock when we see that the unexpected twists turn out to be SO MUCH BETTER.

Like this:

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About the Author

Maetrix Ocon is a physician-in-training, slaving away at one of the most rigorous medical internship programs in the country. When not running around the hospital in 24-to-36-hour shifts, she can be seen in quaint little cafes, indulging her love for business books and self-help books. She likes to swim, eat healthy food, and have striking conversations with interesting people.

Image Sources (cited in order of appearance, except for my own pictures):

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