Photo by sunnymaysphotography.com
How giving up on my veterinary dream helped me discover my true self.
My dream as a five-year-old child was to be an equine veterinarian and I did it. I was the “horse girl” in vet school. I tracked equine, was the SCAAEP President, and completed an equine internship after graduation. Immediately I joined a four vet equine ambulatory practice. My badge of honor was earned by working alone all day, busting 60-80 hours a week, and dominating a 50% on call schedule. I was the only female in the practice and had no problem keeping up with the “boys.” Clients loved me and I knew my stuff.
Then life stopped me in my tracks. It is the all too familiar story of a driven career woman who has a baby and something shifts inside. The pieces no longer fit when I would get home late or spend Thanksgiving treating colics. Instead of feeling fulfilled, I felt unsettled. I developed an ulcer and lost a lot of weight. My phone would ring and trigger a physical response resulting in an increased heart rate and sense of anxiety. I lost sleep at night and began to lose myself.
After one particularly stressful weekend I was lamenting to my husband about how I was feeling. He looked straight at me and said, “something has to change… you cannot continue like this.” Being someone who was not afraid to speak up, I first approached my boss. My proposal was that instead of only two of us splitting call 50/50 he would step in and take a third of it. He declined my request and I declined to work for him anymore.
I was not completely unprepared for the change. One of my clients was a small animal practice owner and he had consistently offered me the opportunity to do relief for him. I called him and started working right away. He mentored me and helped me become comfortable with dog and cat medicine again. Word spread that I was doing relief and would do surgery. Quickly I had more offers to work then I needed. I was working less and making more than I had as an equine practitioner, but still something was missing.
The internal struggle from me quitting on my dream lasted for 2 years. Even family members commented on the fact that I did not work on horses anymore and ONLY did dogs and cats. My soul questioned the decision each time I drove by one of the old barns I use to frequent. I was still so drawn to horses but found I finally had time to ride again and slowly my soul began to heal. Every day I would look into my daughters face and find the reassurance that I had made the right decision.
Relief work gave me the chance to see many practices and eventually I was ready to commit to one. I joined my current hospital and found comradery in a professional and fun atmosphere. I was no longer isolated with everything depending just on me and I began to build a new clientele. Over the last 3 years I have poured into the practice when I was there and then focused on my family when I am home. My body healed and I was finally able to really rest at night.
Now ten years out of vet school, I have found my hospital home. I have time to support both my kids in school and their activities. My husband I have precious family time and couple time in abundance. I have found a new passion in mentoring and engaging with new veterinarians in our field. My five-year-old self could not have envisioned that by giving up on our dream I would find myself and finally inner peace as a veterinarian.