A year to the day, and the world didn’t end.

The moment is now and right here

It’s something precious and dear

     I journeyed because

     Of a non-compete clause

Now, to the day, it’s a year. 

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  On sabbatical while my non-compete clause expires and I dance back from the brink of burnout, I’m having adventures and working in out-of-the-way places. Right now I’m living in Amberley and working in Waikari, less than an hour from quake stricken Christchurch in New Zealand’s North Island.

Contrary to predictions, the world didn’t end today.  The earth’s destruction was supposed to start with earthquakes in New Zealand.

Christchurch suffered a large earthquake in September 2010.  The following February, a less powerful, closer temblor ripped the heart out of the city.

Geologists say that buildings near a fault line should anchor on bedrock, but Christchurch’s founders built on swampland, and the city rose on saturated soil.  If you shake dirt enough it acts less like a solid and more like a liquid, in proportion to its water content, and Cantabrians still talk about the stink of liquefaction.

Over tea at the clinic the nurses casually mention shattered heirloom china and crystal; they smile when they recount seeing cupboard doors open after the first quake and nothing broke

Yesterday two of my patients announced plans to return to Christchurch, asking for medication enough till they re-establish with a new doctor.

Nobody mentions the half-dozen GPs who died when the TV building collapsed around them; most have forgotten.


Three hundred and sixty-five days ago I walked out of The Clinic Formerly Known as Mine.  I worked there twenty-three years.

The decision to leave did not come lightly.  You don’t work for a couple of decades in one place without putting down roots. 

I was dancing on the edge of burnout.  I didn’t realize how close I’d come till I went back and read my posts from the spring of 2010.  But Bethany knew, and she supported me completely throughout this odyssey.

When I signed on with my old outfit my contract specified that I couldn’t work as a family practitioner within 30 miles of Sioux City’s city limits for one year.  That paragraph, enforceable when I signed it, would not hold up in twenty-first century Iowa court.

Still, I am a man of my word.  And if the desire to slow down provided my motivation for my career change, it made no sense to move straight across town and have my patients follow me.

I picked the best time in history to go walkabout.  The world has never been safer nor more prosperous; information, transportation, goods, and food have never had such quality and accessibility.

None of my original plans worked out, and I have learned that I have more fun with my second choice than my first, and to enjoy the moment that I have.

Today we walked around Amberley in perfect weather, with gloriously clear blue skies and bright sun.  Our dessert out reminded us of our wedding cake.  We have reveled in our second honeymoon.  We didn’t plan it that way.


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One Response to “A year to the day, and the world didn’t end.”


    Congratulations on your one year anniversary to escape from burn-out!

    The birds are gloriously “spring singing” even though it’s been raining very consistently here for the past week. If you decide to come home you will find the many colors of early green in full bloom!

    Thank you for entertaining me with your descriptive words this past year, I’ve sort of been on a retreat from burn-out and bad health this last year myself as you know. My last A1c was 6.5!!

    Your descriptions of life decompressing and adventures have been inspiring and causes me to think that even though I’ve been acquainted with you for nearly 20 years, I’m compelled to say, Steve I’ve hardly known ye!

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