Article Date: 3/1/2004

A Dream Deferred
How one optometric couple made up for lost time by discovering their own little paradise.
By Peter Shaw-McMinn, O.D.,
Fullerton, Calif.

Your search for an ideal place to practice includes not only such business concerns as the area's saturation of eye doctors, but also personal matters that will determine whether you actually enjoy living there.

Imagine settling into a fast-growing community in which your practice thrives only to realize 15 years down the road that the setting just isn't for you. You've been fooling yourself, shrouding a deep-seated discontent with the outward trappings of a successful career and active civic involvement.

This is precisely what happened with a classmate of mine. With each passing year, his rut seemingly grew ever more immutable. In a major shift, he uprooted himself and his family in time to enjoy the fruits of a different way of life.


My classmate -- let's call him Ray -- launched a practice in a Southern California town reputed to be among the nation's fastest-growing. It was just the type of area he had in mind, with a perfect climate in which to pursue his dual passions of golf and tennis. His fiancée -- call her Debbie -- likewise embraced the town's promise as she adapted to the office manager's role.

The town's population exploded from 10,000 to more than 100,000 in just a couple of years. Ray's practice flourished. He and Debbie worked hard building the practice. Ray did all that a young optometrist is supposed to do, joining all the right organizations and clubs. Ray and Debbie appeared to be the stereotypical perfect optometrist family.


Then something happened. It didn't happen overnight, but at some point Ray and Debbie, both approaching 40, looked around and didn't much like what they saw. Seemingly everywhere they looked, people were in a hurry to get somewhere. Lines everywhere -- at the movies, the supermarket, the post office, the freeway. The landscape, meanwhile, had been transformed into vast expanses of asphalt and cement.

The town had everything -- except a family feel. Ray and Debbie both had dreamed of living in a small town out in the countryside. A place with lakes and streams, trees, birds, wild flowers. A place where neighbors could stop by anytime.


Escaping their asphalt dystopia, my friends relocated to a small town in Northern California where they purchased a practice and settled into a new way of life. Now they're happy as can be. They have everything they ever wanted.

I recently called Ray. Even today, he looks back on his Southern California days as lost time. "I would not have wasted 15 years of my life, working my tail off to live somewhere where I could not meet my goals," he said. "I would have planned better to start living the life I wanted as soon as I could."

Maybe so, but his regrets are overshadowed by the pleasures of his present way of life. His income may be a fraction of what it once was, but the improvement in his and his family's quality of life is beyond measure.


Optometric Management, Issue: March 2004