Case Study: 3
A Day In The Life of a Client
Part 1: Why choose coaching? And why Jules?
I’m a physician and a researcher, but I don’t fit the mold of what people expect in those roles. I’m half creative, half scientist. I feel like I’ve always been that way--as concerned about the color palette of my graphs as the validity of the data used to create them.
As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve fallen into a role where only the scientist part of me is rewarded, even though the creative part is essential. Research needs creativity to live and thrive, but I’m constantly pushing down the wild parts of my brain, trying to force them into a dull gray box. It has led me to moments of despondency, where I feel like I want to quit. But on other days, I’m amazed someone pays me to do this work. I need to find a resting point, to either stay in my job and be rewarded for both my creative and scientific prowess, or find a new path that would better suit me.
As I’ve sat in this place, I’ve tried reaching out to find a guide. I’ve ventured beyond the tree line, and my previous mentor (a senior researcher) doesn’t know how to navigate here. The areas I’m researching, the methods I’m using, are foreign to him and I need to make my own tracks. I explored finding a new mentor, but have found there is no one who fits a model that would work for me. I sought out feedback from work friends, but found it was both overly burdensome for them and not enough support for me. I needed more time to sit with these thoughts.
It was one of these colleagues who suggested Julie, a mutual friend. My colleague is as critical as I am and has even more things on her plate. When she said working with Julie was worthwhile, I listened. In the first 20 minutes of our meeting, we targeted exactly what about my job was unsatisfying, something I hadn’t been able to unearth in all of my discussions over the past 10 years. I felt like someone had lifted a weight off of my chest.
Julie’s approach as a coach is perfect---she lets you lead. I look forward to seeing where we end up.
Part II: Here’s what happened.
The first session with Julie we met at a hipster alcove called the Collective, tucked into a booth sipping an espresso. I talked for 45 minutes, not noticing the time slipping by. The words started slow and then unwound, taking me down path after path with Julie pulling me along. I walked out feeling lighter, walking on air. It wasn’t at all what I expected. I have been in therapy before, but this wasn’t therapy. After a therapy session I would feel battered and bruised, instead I felt powerful. I was trapped in my job as a physician, trudging through to do lists while missing a whole part of me. The artist in me had no voice. I signed up that day.
We started to meet every other week, mostly at the Collective. It calmed me to meet there. We would start with a meditation session, and I would let Julie’s voice and the avocado toast lull me to a better state. Her technique fascinated me but I could never quite capture it. She would ask me questions, and then drift here and there, seemingly randomly. And suddenly I would remember something amazing about myself that I had forgotten. I loved to write, had always meant to write and went to medical school promising that I could write and be a doctor. I remembered falling in love with the books of Rachel Naomi Remen, a physician wo wrote about mental health and caring for patients. I started to take steps to add in writing, to make time for me. I wanted to write a book about Belonging and adolescence, I wanted to forge a new path as a doctor and writer. Working with Julie was like breaking open after years of being frozen. After a session I would walk down the street with this lightness, like my feet weren’t touching the ground.
About half-way in we started on the grunt work. What was the path to this new life? I needed to build my future, and the only way through it was visioning. Visioning sounds relaxed and pleasant, but it’s actually terrifying. You try to imagine yourself in the future and build the action around you, and it’s like stepping off the edge of the earth. I would come out of those sessions filled with a haunting openness, a fear of the unknown. The only way to imagine the future was to erase the present. So scary, yet so powerful. Through those sessions I started to see how much fear I’d been living with. I also realized that I could choose, that I could create my future. The only thing stopping me was the fear. When I started to work with Julie I thought I just wanted to write a book, but as we started visioning I realized everything needed to be different. My work needed to shift so that this book could arise out of it. I also realized that the center of that shift was diving deeper into clinical work, reconnecting with my passion for medicine. I wanted to write about belonging because I didn’t feel like I belonged. I needed to find where I fit.
Endings are never easy, and it was hard to stop meeting with Julie. We had followed the crazy path of my thoughts and ended up on some distant shore. But after 6 months of this journey, I found myself refreshed and open. I could feel my compass leading me. I could choose my path. Things are still happening for me, slowly. My clinical work is deepening and I’m creating a clinic that fits with my passions. It feels like the direction I had been looking for. And I’m still writing. The book about belonging will come, in time. It all feels good. But I couldn’t have done any of it without Julie. She is coach, cruise director and cheerleader all in one--the perfect travel companion.