“Life is not a dress rehearsal.” ~ Rose Tremain
The concept of delayed gratification is one we are all too familiar with in medicine. We are always striving toward the 'goal' - medical student to resident, resident to fellow, fellow to practicing physician, practicing physician to leadership position...you get the idea. Although we may not all follow this exact path, it's a similar one for many.
Like it or not, many of us live life chasing these goals or 'carrots' - admittedly, we ourselves have been guilty of this practice. However, reaching one carrot only begets another carrot, and in some cases, these carrots don't end up being as satisfying as we thought they would be.
The reality is that many people only realize that life is not a dress rehearsal when something unforeseen happens - illness, death, separation, etc. We need to remember, that everyday life is 'life', right here and right now.
In the article, Taking Time for the Self on the Path to Becoming a Doctor, Dr. Ratanawongsa describes it as a coping mechanism that begins in medical training - “We tell ourselves that we can do everything but not at the same time, so we are going to put off the thing that defines us as a person - time with children, running a marathon, painting, playing music - in order to get trained because being a doctor is also rewarding.”
No matter what phase of life we are in, we must always remember that we are at the main event, and in fact, we don’t get a dress rehearsal. We have to stay connected to our 'self', the person, not just the doctor. We only get this one shot at what will be our only performance.