I often say “I should have gone to med school instead”, but last weekend for the first time in my life I meant it. I’ve wanted to be a vet since I was 9 years old, and I gave up everything to chase that dream. It was the only thing I have ever wanted to do, despite the low wage, lack of recognition and high suicide rates. But final year has broken me.
I am absolutely drained, not simply of energy but also of passion and conviction. Hard as I try I cannot will myself to pick up my books and study for yet another exam. I’ve recently been contemplating the idea that it simply isn’t worth it. All that effort put in and abuse taken, and almost half a million dollars in university fees, for a lifetime of shitty pay and a lack of recognition. To get told you aren’t a real doctor; that you don’t save real lives. No one becomes a vet for the money. But given the work and effort we put into it all, the massive discrepancies with regards to income and social recongition for the human and veterinary medical profession does get to me.
I’ve calculated that I have been made to work 130 hours over the past 2 weeks on my equine rotation. I know that to register as a vet you need to know about all the different species, regardless of whether you intend to ever work with them in the future. But it is an unrealistic expectation for students to remember every bit of information they had learnt over the past 6 years – especially when they are worked to the bone during the day and have little time outside of work to revise the material. I struggle with equine medicine, having never grown up around horses and having little interest in the subject area, and I got put down everyday for it: told I wasn’t good enough; and that I would make a shitty doctor. On a rainy saturday night I was involved in a minor car accident. I was ok, but my tyre had blown out. I hadn’t a tyre iron with me, and after getting some help from a friend, realised that my spare wheel was flat too. I emailed my supervisors saying that I wasn’t able to make it in time for morning treatments on sunday due to my circumstances, and was met with the cold reply that I should have ubered into work regardless. I think that was the breaking point for me. I called my mom sobbing and spent the next week endlessly worrying that I would be failed because of circumstances that were beyond my control.
I promised myself that regardless of my position in the future – if I ever make it as a specialist surgeon – that I would remember what is was like to be me right at this moment, that I would always treat my peers with respect and compassion. That I wouldn’t allow the stress and pressure get to me in such a way that I became destructive to the dreams of others.
When people meet me they say “Wow you must really love animals to choose veterinary medicine”. But in truth it is because I don’t like people. A dog bites because it is fearful and a lion kills because it is hungry. But we have an ability to be unkind despite intelligent reasoning. It is unkindness without a cause.
Come to think of it, the things that have been getting to me lately have been due to the words and actions of people, rather than my work with the animals. My faith in people (and myself) is broken, but my yearning to help animals remains unchanged. So maybe I don’t actually mean it when I say I should have gone to med school instead. And maybe this isn’t a dream I should give up on just yet.
On Friday I sat in my last official vet-school lecture, this was really exciting because it has been 5 years of countless lectures, and this marks our transition into our final year of rotations within the hospital. I am both equally stoked and terrified to actually leave the desk and start having to interact with clients/ do actual doctor things (because now I could really mess up in a tangible way- there are risks involved!). Whenever I look back at all my old notes, I always marvel at how much knowledge I have tried to cram into my brain- and subsequently failed to retain (what even is microbiology, immunology and pharmacology now?!). But mostly, I can’t believe how many hours upon hours I have invested in trying to memorise everything about everything. It’s all passed so quickly. I can still remember my first year in uni as a wide-eyed girl solemnly lamenting the fact that 6 years is a long time (like repeating primary school), and shaking my head in disbelief when the seniors told me that it’d fly be in a blink of an eye. Here I am posing with the lecture notes I have collected (and trees I have killed) over the years (sans textbooks because my pile would topple over my head and make me dumber than I already am).
It is a fairly large pile because we have on average about 15hours of lectures a week – and 5 years of so. Here is what my timetable for this semester mostly looks like.
My class celebrated with snacks and champagne at 9am in the morning, and the celebrations continued well into the night. I think many very close friendships are formed within vet school because it is such a specialised degree- you see the same few faces in all the same class, every day over very many years. You suffer together through the poop and the blood, and also the mental breakdowns and anxiety attacks. I really am thankful for all the friends I have made, I know that I wouldn’t have made it this far without their help and support.
Now I just have to sit my final exams before I can.. immediately commence 6 weeks of clinical placement (what even are holidays?? What is rest? What is sleep?) But I am looking forward to finishing the exams none-the-less. Here’s to hoping that I will stop being a complacent embarrassment to my family and actually study harder than I do right now. Here’s to hoping I will pass, so I don’t have to go through another last-lecture-ever.
Yesterday was a very birdy day. I was in UWA and got to feed the on-campus ducks and peacocks. I thought these were quite good pictures of them- I like especially the one of the ducks approaching me.
It’s been hectic at school and I have produced my first less-than-average result in university. I worry about it, but honestly though, I was just extremely glad I had even passed. My school anxiety has gotten worse- I spent 3 nights crying because I though I had failed my physiology exam. I do feel like I am drowning, I cannot memorize fully everything that is expected of me and the assignments are piling up. It is difficult having groups allocated to us; trying to find a balance between standing up for my opinion and giving in to silent intimidation. I know what I have to say is relevant and should be considered, but it is so hard trying to meander around extremely dominant group mates who will hear naught but their own voices. More and more I find myself sinking into this state of quiet despair: it’s been awhile since I’ve felt happy. I don’t feel excited for classes, dissections or learning. I yearn for the next few years (an eternity!) to pass so I can graduate and stop worrying about flunking out of school. Even when I sit down to face what I know should be 6 hours of preparing for the exams, I find my concentration broken and determination replaced instead by restlessness.
Liam and I have had a pet quail whom we call Lime for about half a year now. I like to think of him as Lonesome Little Lime because Lime had a brother, Kiwi, whom Liam’s beagle (Jack, a dog I despise) ate. That’s right, knocked it’s enclosure over and ripped it’s heart’s out, leaving a very unsightly mess for us to clean up. I feel sorry we had ever gotten Lime, not because I dislike him, but because I feel sad for his existence in his little enclousure- he’s ceased to chirp even. We put him out on the grass in the sun yesterday and he just sat in a corner, indifferent to everything around him. The last time we did that he was excited by the grass.
Sometimes I feel like Lime. I feel like perhaps I have grown so accepting of my preconcieved idea of existence as a super-stressed student that I fail to feel joy anymore. I feel like a machine, I know what I have to do, and embark on it with a heavy heart. I no longer feel the need to put my best into it, I just want to Get By.
I used to see the joy in learning. I hope I find it soon.