(And that, my friends, is probably the first and last time you will ever see a country song referenced in this blog.)
Last weekend, I had the honor of going to a fundraiser dinner for a local rehabilitation center at the invitation of my father-in-law, an active Rotarian and an example of the kind of person I want to grow up to be like someday.
Anyway, there was another Rotarian there whose daughter wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up, and he asked if I would mind talking to them for a few minutes about the job. Sure, I said, and walked over to the mom and her adorable, wide eyed high school daughter.
They asked me the usual questions: Where did you go to school, what do you like about the job, what tips do you have, etc, etc. I am prepared to answer these questions. I can do it in my sleep. (Davis-puppies-volunteer, it just rolls off the tongue at this point.)
Then the mom dropped the bomb: “If you had to do it all over again,” she asked earnestly, “Would you have chosen the same career?”
I looked at her, smiling. Then at her daughter, wide eyed and hopeful. For the record, I have to say that the previous day was one of if not perhaps the worst in my entire professional career, and I had spent the vast majority of the prior night red eyed and awake, staring at the ceiling wishing desperately for a time machine to whisk me back to 1997 so I could shake myself by the shoulders and scream “NOOOO! Don’t do it, you IDIOT! This career has nothing but HEARTACHE and PAIN and you will NEVER EVER GET TO WEAR NICE SHOES EVER AGAIN!!!!!”
In short, it was probably not the best time to ask me this question.
I think I gave an anemic “I guess so” as my response, which is probably not what they were expecting but was the most enthusiasm I could muster up at that point.
Now, I’ve never been the most gung-ho about this career choice to begin with, as I’ve alluded to before, so I don’t know that I would ever be the best choice of motivational speakers when it comes to advancing the cause of careers in veterinary medicine. I have one of those desperate-for-a-time-machine nights about twice a year on average, though admittedly this last one was the worst of the doozies to date.
Had that time machine materialized, I’m not sure what I would have told young me. “Go to medical school,” maybe. But one of the main reasons I never did was the conversation I had where I was the 14 year old with my mom, talking to a respected local pediatrician, who said to me, “Don’t do it. What a mess.”
It influenced me greatly, which is one of the reasons I realized I was in no way emotionally capable of being objective on that particular day with that young family. So I gave the most honest answer I could: “Spend a ton of time working in a clinic before you make that commitment.” After all, she isn’t me. The things that bother me might be entirely fine by her, right?
I imagine unless you are either really lucky or really motivated, most people out there have those moments of doubt with regards to their career choices from time to time. Some personalities are probably more prone to those moments no matter where they are and what they are doing. I would probably freak out here and there as an MD, a cake decorator, an art gallery manager, or a writer in equal measures.
In this day and age, having a life of harmonic fulfillment often seems an indulgence when so many are holding on to make ends meet in whatever way they can, so at the end of the day yes, I am grateful to have a job at all.
And when I spent all those hours staring at dust motes on the ceiling, thinking about what I would most love to do if I could throw it all away and start over, well, I’m kind of doing it now- writing about animals and connecting with others who feel the same way.
It’s not as if I missed the mark entirely with this career- animals are my passion. They are. Being a vet who has to deal with certain aspects of the business, well, not so much. But it’s not as if I committed a horrific blunder that left me perpetually stuck in a field whose topic I neither understand nor enjoy. Being one of those crab boat fishermen, for example, or god forbid, a children’s sports coach. Shudder.
So I’m torn. If I had that time machine, I’d fly back to 1993, a nice vintage year, and I would tell myself lots of things:
1. Dump that Matt kid immediately.
2. Stop being so damn serious all the time.
3. Invest in Google.
4. Travel after you graduate.
5. Go to vet school if you must, but start a blog in 2000 before Dooce hits big.
There’s lots of other stuff I would tell myself, stuff about the overalls craze of 95 and the “Rachel” and that unfortunate trip to Vegas in 97, but that is between me and me.
Then I’d sit back and wait for 50 year old me to arrive and tell us both what I’m about to screw up next decade. Hopefully I will be rocking some Manolos.