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You Can’t Quit Your Calling

You Can’t Quit Your Calling

Those of you who know my story know the on-again-off-again love affair I have had with medicine (as I wrote about here). Time and time again, I have tried to stray, quit my job, turned my back on the white coat. But again and again, it boils down to one thing. This is my calling, and you can quit your job, but you canít quit your calling. It beckons like a siren song until you finally surrender to it.

So I was deeply moved when I read this passage from Dr. Dick Selzerís†Mortal Lessons:

A surgeon does not slip from his motherís womb with compassion smeared upon him like the drippings of his birth. It is much later that it comes. No easy shaft of grace this, but the cumulative murmuring of the numberless wounds he has dressed, the incisions he has made, all the sores and ulcers and cavities he has touched in order to heal. In the beginning it is barely audible, a whisper, as from many mouths. Slowly it gathers, rising from the streaming flesh until, at last, it is a pure calling – an exclusive sound, like the cry of certain solitary birds – telling that out of the resonance between the sick man and the one who tends him there may spring that profound courtesy that the religious call LOVE.

As I wrote in†this post about practicing love, with a little medicine on the side, exceptional doctors are not born that way, but as Dr. Selzer says, they allow themselves to be not just teachers, but students of the art of medicine, and in doing so, with sprinklings of Divine intervention and a true desire to tend the wounds and needs of other human beings, they morph through the birth canal of their profession and arise, reborn – as the kind of doctors they never knew they would one day become.

This is what has happened to me over the 16 years since I graduated from medical school. An ambition has morphed into a calling, something spiritual and profound, something capable of dropping me to my knees and causing me to dance.

Callings Wax & Wane But Donít Go Away Until You Fulfill Them

In April 2010, I wrote this about my relationship with medicine:

Whatís calling me is screaming so loud that I can no longer ignore it. Iím in the throes of surrender, dropping to my knees before my calling and finally relinquishing the resistance Iíve been feeling for four years as Iíve watched the still-small voice of the Universe grow from a whisper to a rebel yell. I HEAR YOU!

Whatís calling me is that Iím supposed to lead the way for people – health care practitioners and patients alike – to redefine what we consider ďhealth.Ē In the process, Iím supposed to empower other leaders to redefine other key parts of our wholeness, such as success, spirituality, and creativity. I am supposed to lead a movement – a†Pink Medicine revolution, if you will, through what weíre creating at Owning Pink.

And it scares the hell out of me.

I first heard the call five years ago during a shamanic journey on my wedding day in Big Sur, California, but the message I received had no clear meaning to me at the time. I knew only that something was shifting and that my life was going to change forever. The Signs from the Universe came calling, and it took three years before the message became more clear. When I realized what I was being called to do, I recoiled. I had quit my job as a doctor completely, with the intention that I would never go back. I was so disillusioned by how we practice medicine today that I decided Iíd rather quit, after 12 years of education, than continue as part of a system that is so broken. I thought I would paint and write books and pursue a purely creative life.

But I discovered that you can quit your job, but you canít quit your calling. I resisted in every way possible. I denied the call. I rejected the call. I bargained with the Universe. I pleaded that someone else be chosen to do this work. I cried on my knees. I didnít want to be a trailblazer. I wanted to live this quiet life in the country with my family, rather than put myself in the spotlight and become a missionary for the purpose. I wanted to retreat, and yet I was being called to be the Universeís spokesperson.

Fast forward two years, and here I am, face to face with the call, and Iím in. Both feet. Taking one Pink leap of faith (Pleap) after another. I am Ė finally Ė obeying my call. Iím still terrified, but Iím no longer letting fear make my decisions for me.

And Then I Bailed

Things got hard. I got distracted. I ran from the call. I faced resistance. I turned and ran the other way.

But callings donít work that way. The Universe erects road blocks. You donít get your way. You keep getting rerouted until you canít ignore it any more. If youíre wise, you give in and fulfill your calling.

So here I am again, humbled, resigned, and actually excited to finally do what Iíve known Iím meant to do for years. So wish me luck as I finish my next book and embark upon the journey of a lifetime, one Iíve been called to for as long as I can rememberÖ

Whatís Calling You?

What about you? Do you hear the whispers of a calling? Or is your calling screaming, but youíre hightailing it in the other direction?

Tell us whatís calling you – or if you canít hear your calling yet, tell us that too. Weíre here to listen to the whispers of your heart.

Heeding the call,


Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of†,†Pink Medicine Revolutionary,†motivational speaker, and author of†Whatís Up Down There? Questions Youíd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.

Learn more about†Lissa Rankin here.

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the†Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of†Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.† She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.† Lissa blogs at† and also created two online communities -† and† She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


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5:54PM PST on Mar 6, 2012

Follow your feelings....

8:09PM PST on Feb 16, 2012

this really gives me food for thought. Thank you for your perspective.

9:53AM PST on Feb 16, 2012

Best of luck to you!

3:57AM PST on Feb 15, 2012

When you resist your calling, it only gets louder. Don't wait for God to hit you on the head with a two by four if you are not making the difference you were created for!

11:02PM PST on Feb 14, 2012

Thanks for very interesting article

9:36PM PST on Feb 14, 2012


8:07PM PST on Feb 14, 2012

Great article thanks for sharing!

5:43PM PST on Feb 14, 2012

Yes I beleive we all have callings and its frustrating when you just want to have a quiet life and spirit is calling you to do something other than relaxing with a book. I guess you've just got to go along because resisting becomes so tiring

4:30PM PST on Feb 14, 2012

Thank You!

3:22PM PST on Feb 14, 2012

I am the Birdman of long beach. I found my calling 8 years ago and can relate to many things in this story. I have rescued and doctored over 3,000 pigeons and I have stories published on Divine Interventions. This has been such a interesting journey saving so many lives. I have had so many pigeons come right to me for help and that is very spiritual. To find your calling and recognise it is a true blessing. To give a animal its life back pain free is almost beyond words. I thank God everyday for giving me this opportunity and honor to do this work and I hope I never let him down.

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