Great day for freedom

Yes, it’s a reference to the Pink Floyd song.  Really.

So anyway, today was our first day as doctors, as graduates-in-limbo (as we’re not yet fully licensed, nor do we have our hard-copy diplomas yet).

Whatever we are, however, we are no longer students.  For the first time since January 2002 (for me) and September 2001 (for Jay), we’re not enrolled anywhere, or having to plan a class schedule at any particular school.  Yep, that’s right.  After 8 years (they’re not lying–it does take that long), we finally don’t have anyone to answer to, any assignment to complete, any book to crack, or any exam to cram for.

I felt the difference in weight as I left the tally office yesterday after checking out of clinic.  I had not realized how immediate the feeling would be.  I had walked in there with that perpetual weight, after all.  The difference was so profound that I wonder if I really am any lighter.  Maybe I got lucky and it came right off my abs and butt. I can only hope.

In my life, wherever there’s sweet, there’s at least a hint of bitterness lurking somewhere (and to be fair, vice versa).  Nobody told me about the grief process, the loss I would feel over having transferred my patients off of my roster and onto someone else’s.  The end approached so fast that for some of my patients, it hadn’t dawned on me that I was treating them for the last time, and so I never really did get to say a proper goodbye.

For others, though, I knew it was the last time and that made it harder, emotionally.  I have my sweet elderly couple on Medicare in mind when I say this.  We were all almost tearful when we said our final goodbyes.  When I thanked everyone for coming in and allowing me the opportunity to treat and care for them, I meant it.  Each of them found a little place under my skin where they will live forever, never letting me forget, not that I would want to.

Last night and pretty much all day today was a mixture of elation and uselessness.  To be fair and accurate, today was indeed a very productive day; we placed the order for our single most important tools: our chiropractic tables.  We also have in our possession two new members of the family: a diathermy machine and an Erchonia percussor.  But other than that, we’ve done jack shit.  OK, I downloaded a ton of rock en espanol (the commute from south Austin to central San Antonio will be long, after all), we diathermied and percussed my chest to finish breaking up the gunk from last week’s bug, and we did, after all, watch a History International documentary on snow.  Now I know how my Medicare couple felt when I said, “Happy Friday!” to them; they said that they lost track of which day it was because they all were pretty much the same.  Now I understand.

There’s the pure glee that comes from a combination of finishing school, the prospect of leaving Dallas, the joy in moving to south Texas and being in San Antonio, the dream of starting our own practice, and the fun it’ll be to make contacts with friendly people for once (my Dallas friends and family aside, of course).  I also look forward to the end of the massage days of simply rubbing on people, using oil, asking how the pressure is, and providing services in silence for an hour or two on end.

There’s the excitement of picking out our equipment, browsing commercial real estate listings online and dreaming that one day one of them will be ours, of imagining life in a different place.

There’s the sadness of leaving our Dallas friends and hangouts (not that we had many of either, but what we had was quality over quantity), of leaving our house (it was such a perfect fit), of leaving our way of life as we know it.  There’s the grief in saying goodbye to my patients and knowing that the next time they come to the clinic, they’ll sign in for another intern and that I’m no longer a part of their care.

There’s a sense of urgency as well. The self-applied pressure of studying, learning material, and getting through school is no longer there.  We no longer have test dates and deadlines to worry about.  Those have been replaced instead by a need to REALLY buckle down now, in a way I hadn’t (been able to) before.  It’s time now to work out, to really learn Spanish, to learn and perfect our mentor’s protocol, to research tools and equipment for the practice, to get quickly acquainted with San Antonio and its people and local businesses and its events, to study up for real on subjects like physiology, neurology, endocrinology, immunology, active care, muscle physiology, pathology, adjusting techniques and protocols, and a lot more.

And there’s the apprehension. We’re considering selling the house, except that property values are seriously low right now and we’d lose out on a lot if we sold now.  We’re considering renting it out first, but there’s a lot of hassle with that from a lot of different angles, compounded by the fact that we’ve never owned any rental property before, so we’d be shooting in the dark.  We’re moving into a house that isn’t ours, that is owned by someone else, and what it all comes down to it, they call the shots.  They have their way of life, and there are customs they share with their neighbors like coming over unannounced, that we don’t share and wouldn’t approve of.  Having lived on my own for 14 years (and Jay a bit longer), we’ve formed our own patterns and culture and we’re fairly set in it.  How do we reconcile that?

There is also the uncertainty that comes from starting your own business.  Here we are, already six figures in debt, and we’re looking at going further into debt by trying to buy a small building.

In the long run it’s a good lot better than leasing, but still…that much debt scares a lot of people, including me.

And then, there’s the optimism.  I’m confident that eventually, everything will work out, and if history repeats itself, our future will be better and brighter than I ever imagined.  I’m positive that we’ll be steered into the right thing at the right time, and led away from anything less.  I’m sure that in years to come, we’ll have a comfortable, fun, fulfilling practice with fun, pleasant, common-sense, reliable patients.  I have the feeling that no matter what curve balls the Universe throws at us, we’ll come out ahead, having dodged the bullets and emerging as stronger people.  I’m sure we’ll have a blast and help a lot of people.  The path is steeply elevated; let’s face it–two chiropractors, deeply in debt, opening their own practice from scratch, in a city we’ve never visited very long, let alone lived in.

But it’s been my experience that with us, that doesn’t seem to matter.  I’m reminded of a time 9 years ago when we were buying our house (jobless) in a city we’d never even been to, we found ourselves running across the parking lot of the realtor’s office, hurrying to get in before closing to sign the purchase agreement.  It was then that the realization of the fact that we were about to quit our good jobs, move 930 miles away and drop a lot of money (for us) on a house we’d seen one whole time in a city we knew precious little about hit my partner.  He started to chuckle and said, “my God, what are we doing?”  And in all seriousness I grinned and said, “I don’t know but we better hurry up and do it!”

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