| About | Facebook | Instagram | Toss a coin to your
witcher blogger | LinkedIn |
Chasing Dreams is a multi-part series chronicling my thoughts, dreams & changing ideals over the years (since 2018), including burnout, quitting the rat race, migration and trying to find my path in life
When I first started the Chasing Dreams series on 6th April 2018, my first post was titled ‘on life & regrets’. It’s been exactly 5 years, and much has changed since then – as it rightly should have – so I reckoned it was high time for a do-over of that post (or in musical terms, the reprise).
While recording for my good friend Ann-Hui’s podcast, Third Spacing, in early March, she dug up a previous comment that an anonymous reader had left on a post in my Great Resignation series:
She asked me if I currently had any regrets about my decision to quit, and my instinctive response was ‘no’.
After returning home that night and doing further soul-searching, my answer was still no. In this story, there’s no plot twist, no sudden change of heart, no sudden flood of regrets, because for the first time in a long while, I feel contented.
the multiverse of regrets
Of course it’s still too premature to say that the commenter above was entirely wrong, and maybe that was indeed my future time-travelling self *gasp*. But hey, that’s what the multiverse is for!
I sometimes engage in thought experiments, concocting possible futures in which I continued down the beaten path, none of them particularly appealing:
- Maybe I’d have been an Emergency Medicine doctor, juggling shift work with some sporty/cool/vaguely adventurous hobby like rock-climbing (as per the stereotype), married to another doctor who let me have the last packet of Hanjuku eggs in the hospital’s 7-11 at 2am (fun fact: half my non-single doctor friends have doctor partners…)
- Or maybe I’d have been a completely career-driven surgeon, working 72h straight and still excited for the next morning’s M&M (Morbidity and Mortality, not the candy) session. Okay scratch that, I doubt any multiversal version of me would have wanted to be married to the scalpel.
At any rate, there’s been one too many shows featuring multiverses recently, but at the heart of these plot lines, it’s about how (1) a single decision could dramatically alter the course of your life and (2) if given the chance to see alternate versions of yourself, there might be feelings of regret/jealously/resentment.
I began thinking about how differently this reality could have turned out if I hadn’t made this specific combination of pivotal choices:
- Going to a local medical school – I’d have studied Med abroad and ended up working/settling down elsewhere. I wouldn’t have met my university friends and would have lost years of precious time with my family.
- Starting this blog/my passion project – I would never have met so many new people/friends, nor had this platform to share & create content that I feel so strongly about,
nor been able to dump my thoughts on unsuspecting internet strangers so openly (love y’all :P)
- Finishing Housemanship – if I had quit (which I nearly did), I’d still be serving out my 5-year bond in an administrative role, never to treat patients again. I’d have regretted every day if I had made that decision, because I enjoy my current freelance/locum GP work and the freedom & work-life balance it affords me.
- Taking time to restructure my life – if I had continued on as a burnt-out, overworked & jaded self in the public healthcare sector (light-years away from the best version of myself), I wouldn’t have been in the right headspace or phase of life to meet the right person, or even remotely consider settling down/starting a family.
In retrospect, I’m extremely relieved that I made this precise permutation of choices that led my life to turn out how it currently is, and have zero major regrets (and hope to keep it that way). :’)
I digress, but I was suddenly reminded me of this interview, and how different people have their own definitions or thresholds of calling something a ‘regret’.
To quote from The Midnight Library, a novel I recently read:
Every second of every day we are entering a new universe. And we spend so much time wishing our lives were different, comparing ourselves to other people and to other versions of ourselves, when really most lives contain degrees of good and degrees of bad.Matt Haig, The Midnight Library
So even if the multiverse did exist and I could pick a different life on a whim, I’d always choose to do laundry and taxes with my loved ones in this universe, and make a lifetime full of memories with them. ❤
If you could go back in time and change precisely one moment of your life or undo a decision you made, what would it be?
5 years on/goodbye to the migration dream
In my old post, I listed these as my 4 biggest dreams:
- Migrating (living and working in another country)
- Publishing a book
- Travelling the world
- Finding love/settling down
Looking back on this list, I was overcome by the feeling that God (or fate, if you don’t believe in a god) has a great sense of humour. Turns out, despite having the freedom and ability to achieve my former biggest dream, I’ve lost the desire to – shocker innit? #2-4 are doing alright, mercifully.
All my close friends growing up would have attested to how unyielding and vocal I was about wanting to leave Singapore behind, move to a place with lakes & mountains, and seek out a quieter part of the world to raise my future kids & cats in.
But recently, after overdosing on travel (~12 weeks over the past 9 months), I realised two things: firstly, that I couldn’t live without Singaporean food & creature comforts, and secondly, that my dream had never been about migration itself.
My younger self had just felt burnt-out and trapped after spending nearly 2 decades* hurtling down one rigid life path to another, without ever having time to smell the roses or live a life free of exams/schedules/ticking off ‘success’ milestones.
*12 years of schooling, another 5 in med school, and 1+ year of working in the system
I would probably have enjoyed the novelty of living alone in a new country for the first year or two, but in the grand scheme of things, I can’t imagine spending cold winters away from my parents, being absent when my friends celebrate life milestones, or paying eye-watering income tax rates abroad (sorry for killing the vibe with this unsentimental point, but taxes were my tipping point).
It’s ironic that when I finally had the chance to pursue everything I thought I wanted, I realised I never really needed anything more than freedom and a contented life here, surrounded by the people who feel like home.
In a strange way, the publicness of everything I’ve written (and will write) has
forced enabled me to distill my values and thought processes a lot more clearly and confidently. Additionally, being able to look back on old posts has helped me feel more confident in making major decisions this past year (most of all, quitting the rat race to be self-employed).
So, here are my revised life goals:
- Maintaining good health and balance
- Settling down
- Travelling with or spending quality time with loved ones
- Growing this blog & my other side-gigs
While these aren’t set in stone – after all, priorities should be constantly re-evaluated – I’m definitely a lot more certain of my values and life goals at almost-26 than I was at 21.
In a way, I’m no longer who I was back then because of all these new experiences I’ve had and thoughts I’ve been exposed to, and yet I’m still the same person at my core, holding onto the same values and dreams. I’m excited to see what the next 5 years will hold.
It’s been 1827 days since 6 April 2018, and I’m proud of all of us for making it this far; through the dull months where nothing much happened, through some weeks that were downright painful & stressful, and through the daily pockets of joy that reminded us why life was worth fighting for.
I’m glad that I committed to running this blog over the years, because sharing about my life, dreams & struggles so candidly has allowed me to connect meaningfully with so many readers/fellow doctors (I appreciate when y’all send me sweet messages + am very grateful for the outpouring of love & support), and opened up new doors that I couldn’t even envision when I first started down this path.
I’d like to think that my younger self would be proud of where we are right now. I finally feel like I’m at a place in life where I’m thriving, glowing and growing.
I’ve become stronger and more self-assured ever since gaining the power/freedom to chart my own course in life, and the rest of the pieces are slowly but surely falling into place (even the pieces I never believed would <3).
It’s been a whirlwind of unexpected joys and I’m getting whiplash from the amount of positive change in my life. I’ve never been more excited for the future, so I’m going to turn this post into a personal time capsule. I’ll check back on it in another 5 years (I’ve sent my future self a letter on futureme.org), write a new update on 6 April 2028, and we’ll see where life has taken all of us by then.
To end off this post, here’s a particularly apt soundtrack of my life recently, NIKI’s Plot Twist:
Where have you been all of my life?
It’s all growin’ dim, now
That you’ve come to light
And who could’ve known
Who would’ve thought
Between the wishbones and dot-dot-dots
There was always gonna be you and I
Anyway, if you’d like to stay in touch, be sure to follow me on Instagram or Facebook! If you ever want to reach out or just talk, feel free to drop me a DM on Insta; I’m more than happy to lend a listening ear. 🙂
P.S. This blog is my passion project and self-funded, so if you enjoy my writing and want to contribute some spare change towards my annual WordPress Premium plan, why not make a little donation here? 🙂
| About | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn | Spotify |
If you’re interested in exploring my blog, click here for an index of all the posts I’ve ever written (travel, doctoring, psychology, random musings), or check out my most read series below:
- the Chasing Dreams series: a series chronicling my thoughts, dreams & changing ideals over the years (since 2018), including burnout, quitting the rat race, migration and trying to find my path in life
- the (not-so-definitive) guide to doctoring: Getting into Med School & FAQs | Surviving your Clinical Years | MBBS Tips | Life as a M1 // M2 // M3 // M4 // M5 during COVID // Life as a Doctor (monthly series) | Chasing Careers series
Leave a Reply