Monday, September 9, 2013

Career Day Killed the Veterinary Star

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a veterinarian. It's likely this imagined career is popular amongst little girls and boys alike. I liked animals; I liked the prospect of working with them every day. I read the Animal Inn series about a girl who helps in a vet's clinic, and though #2 featured the dread putting down of a beloved pet, I loved the books.

But I did not grow up to be a veterinarian. And I remember the moment that dream died a quick and shameful death.

It happened at our 6th grade career day. I don't remember any presentations from that day, other than the one I was most excited to attend--the talk by our family's vet. I felt like this was the moment I would learn all about the glories of becoming a vet.

And maybe he did talk about the good stuff and the rough stuff, but what I heard and grabbed on to was the HARD stuff. Dr. D said in his talk how difficult veterinary school was--to get into and to complete. It would take years, FOREVER, to my young mind. He talked about how few vet schools there were, how competition was fierce, and the best of the best only got in and made it.

I can still feel the deflation as I remember sitting in the folding chairs and listened. It was a sort of crushing heartbreak. This would not be my future after all. I knew it for a certainty, beyond a doubt.

Because, I was sure, I was not the best of the best. I couldn't do it, so there was no use in even going down that road. It would be too hard and I was sure to fail.

The irony here is, at least in my small pond of a small school in a small Michigan town, I was the best of the best, or damn near close to it. I was straight As almost entirely through K-12, and I graduated salutatorian. I excelled at AP courses. I was smart. I was bright.

But I wasn't confident.

And my greatest fear then, as now, was failure.

This streak runs through me, the absolute certainty that I am about to fail, falter, fall short in some fundamental way. Over the years, I've learned to push these voices aside, but it's an active process, and it's exhausting. I've learned that if you don't try ANYTHING, you will not live any sort of life. But it's hard for me, even now.

I've learned to close my eyes and and go, in some cases, enter a sort of free fall--like motherhood, the largest, scariest, most rewarding, most terrifying endeavor of my life. I'm learning to see things not as absolutes, so much. Some things I will fail at--like when I gave my 2 year old a love nip on his shoulder during bedtime routine and he flipped out. But that doesn't mean I'm a failure.

And I've learned to live with failing, learned to see the glory in the trying--like when I wrote my novel and failed to get an agent. There's still time, yes, but there's pride just in having completed those 150,000 words.

I don't know why Dr. D hammered into his young audience how challenging it was to become a vet. Maybe he was sick of having rose-eyed kids imagine his job was simply giving adoring pups a few pats on the head. Maybe he needed to validate himself that day, all his accomplishments and hard work.

And, it's likely with time I would have reached the conclusion that being a vet wasn't for me after all, once I stopped to imagine myself putting a family pet to sleep. I like science, but I'm not precise enough. I don't think I could perform surgery on anything, as I can't even cut a straight line.

But those aren't the reasons I didn't pursue it. Those are mature reasons, the reasons of a woman who knows her strengths and understands that medicine isn't one of them, and that it's okay.

My reason was fear. And that's sometimes hard to live with.

This post was inspired by the writing prompt, 1.) Something you wanted to be when you grew up.

Mama’s Losin’ It

No comments:

Post a Comment