Tag Archives: work

Not a Real Doctor (#21)


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.


Family First (#13)


My brother graduated from university last Saturday, so I flew in to Singapore over the weekend to attend his graduation. I arrived home early on Saturday morning at 4am only to fly back out again the following Sunday morning. I have been getting scarcely any sleep over the past few weeks and was feeling particularly exhausted, and I must admit that battling a headache on a red-eye flight made me feel like spending hundreds of dollars and sitting through 10 hours of flight time for a mere 32 hours back in my country was all a bit pointless. I had to actively remind myself that family came first, before everything else.

I think I had been coming close to hitting my limit last week. I want to do nothing else besides veterinary medicine, but I think the constant pressure and sudden burden of very real responsibility was just slowly getting to me. I had been reaching a point where I had trouble sleeping and would always wake up tired. I would go into work and perform consults and treat my patients with gusto but come home feeling absolutely drained. Perhaps it is because we are constantly assessed every minute of the day: there is a constant need to be at your best at all times; there is no room to let your guard down and just breathe. Perhaps it is due to the lack of structure and consistency, every rotations spans only a week or two, so just as you are getting settled into the normal daily routine of say, anaesthesia, you find that the rotation is over and you now need to learn all the ropes of being a GP, or a surgeon or wildlife practitioner. The constant stream of exams doesn’t help either. Last Thursday I came home and felt totally devoid of joy. I just curled up into a ball and cried. Looking forward to a tiring weekend of little sleep and rushing to airports only added to the stress – and I think I forced myself to say yes out of duty – I’d do almost anything to make my family happy.

As it turned out, I needed to see my family a lot more than they needed to see me.

I had always thought that “family first” meant compromising on your own comfort and well-being for the people you love. And whilst it does indeed mean making time and putting in effort to show that you care in a tangible way, I have come to realise that it can’t purely be out of a sense of duty. Prioritising the people in your life doesn’t mean forcing yourself to do things you don’t want to do, but genuinely wanting to do things despite them being inconvenient or tiring because your well-being is connected to that of others. It is not so much a rule to abide by, but a healthy mutual dependence on each other to keep on going. I am happiest when the people I love are safe and happy. I think I had been slowly coming apart, and spending just one day with my family and dog really helped to pull me out of that hole again. Whilst my work brings me a lot of purpose and life meaning, it is ultimately a means to provide for the family I will have in future. And I hope that that will not be something I need to actively remind myself of, or regard as a chore. I think truly putting family first in your heart means that you innately want to do what’s best for them, despite the inconveniences. It doesn’t mean that work isn’t important, but that you derive the most joy out of the people you love. It means loving people over promotions and recognition and material things.

I thought that putting family first meant I needed to go home for the sake of my family. But really, I needed to go home for my own sake because I put family first.


Rotation Rookie (#5)


I am officially in the midst of my final year at vet school. We have done away with the daily monotony of hours upon hours of lectures and labs that made up the past 5 years and have graduated into the hospital as veterinarians in training (we even have badges that say so).

My rotations are on 2 week blocks that may be split up into individual specialities within it. For instance, my first rotation of the year is surgery, which is split up into a week of orthopaedics and a week of soft tissue. After this rotation I will have 2 weeks of anaesthesia followed by 2 weeks of emergency medicine etc.

I am so far greatly enjoying myself. There is always something new to learn everyday and we are starting to actually get a sense of what it means to be a vet. The learning curve is pretty steep and I am still trying to find my bearings around balancing full time work in the hospital and having to study for exams, write papers and prepare for presentations at night. Needless to say it is extremely exhausting. In my surgery rotation we are expected to independently perform consults before reporting our findings to the surgeons whereby we will perform a physical exam before returning to the owner to discuss the plan. We get to scrub into surgeries, but don’t get to do much whilst in surgery. Lastly we have to write up surgical reports, discharge instructions, drug order forms and clinical records. Thus I sometimes find myself working from 7.30am through to 7pm with scarcely a lunch break on busy days. When I get home I am expected to read papers and study for the rotation exams that we have on the friday at the end of every week or two. I am therefore struggling to find time to simply rest, given that we also get rostered on every other weekend and are on call throughout some nights.

On top of this I had signed up for an external dental course that runs for 10 weeks or, so I spend my remaining free time during the weekend studying for that.

It’s only been a week and already I am tired beyond measure.
I met up with a couple of classmates last friday after not seeing them for months; we all went over to a friend’s home and ate KFC and ice cream and talked about how sad and tired we all were. And thus is a summary of my first week back in vet school – so much has changed, but so little, too.


Night Shift (Fickle Friday #34)


Night shift
You are here but never present;
A negative balance of free time.
Practical to a fault-
You are the cold empty bed I climb into every night.

In the wee hours of the morning,
My phone buzzes:
“Full CPR. Patient just died.”
Instead of sweet whispers and lullabies.

And I am reminded
Of the fragility of mere mortality-
And how you are there fighting
To preserve the lives of strangers
Whilst in the fray, forgoing your own

And I am in awe.




Good things have been happening; I am an incredibly blessed person.

1. I got sponsored by The Hangout, which is the local climbing company/gym I’ve been patronizing the past couple of years I’ve been here. So that was exciting news, because I had been pining for team trainings, haven’t I? They’ve been sponsoring my local competition fees, some equipment, free training, and should the opportunity arise, will sponsor my flight and entry fees for international competitions. On two conditions: I attend their weekly training regularly and wear their company singlet to competitions.

Out most recent competition was the Hubathon, which is basically a 3 hour boulder marathon. I hadn’t expected much from that because for the first time in Perth, I was actually faced with a large number of incredibly trained, strong female competitors. I mean, climbing is a fairly underground sport in Perth (As compared to how huge it is in Singapore, which explains the sponsorship even though I am actually a very unworthy athlete atm) and whilst there are few guys who actively climb, there are only a handful of women. And because the last time I had bouldered would have been last November, I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that I placed 3rd. I then spent the rest of the week beating myself up over how I could have done better should I have better managed my time.


2. Last year, my university had offered me a job to run Peer Assisted Study Sessions for the freshmen undertaking Mathematics and Statistics. Which are kinda like tutorials, but not exactly. After a number of interviews, I flew in especially for 2 days of trials and training, only to be informed that due to unforeseen budget cuts, only 4 out of the 20 or so of us that had previously been selected, would indeed be hired. And this was quite terrible news to hear when you have cut your vacation short and flown back early- not to mention the 9am start after having only landed hours ago (and going to bed at 4am). The fact that my ‘competition’ were also academical and social high achievers did not help ease my nerves. But against all odds I got the job, which was terrific news. It was just what I had been praying for- short hours, convenient times and locations (i.e staying in uni) and fantastic pay to allow me to cover my rent whilst still having time to juggle my studies and other job as a high school tutor (and now climbing training, church volunteer work and the vet club committee meetings).


And I am incredibly thankful for all the wonderful opportunities offered to me, I mean, I do realise the extent of favour that has been poured upon me. But I find myself disdainfully disinterested in life here. I guess that’s the word. Amidst all the wonderful things that have been happening, I find myself disinterested in a life that is away from my family and friends, and filled with the stresses of having to pass vet school, pay my bills and maintain a healthy social life (though to be fair, this was never really a priority for me here). It is day 2 of school and already I am pulling all-nighters to catch up on the lectures I have missed because of work, and the work that I have yet to complete because I am fretting about my own studies. Whilst I love vet school- it is rather depressing to be back. I guess it helps a bit that all my international friends feel this way too. Misery appreciates company.

I am homesick.



As Before



I’ve been working since I’ve gotten back to Singapore, again. How uneventful, I got back from Perth and was again off to Malaysia and then upon reaching Singapore, spent my next few days in hospital and then I started work. 9am – 6pm Monday to Friday. And what I do is basically stare at a choice of the computer screen or the screen separating me from all the other cubicles of people. I sit and type and call. Somedays I meet friends for dinner after work, but somedays I clock Overtime and stay from 9 to 9. I have very friendly colleagues, yesterday I received a subway cookie, some seaweed, a subway cookie and even a Starbucks frappe from my specialest friend there. The bulk of this is very mindless. It gives me alot of space and time to (over) think. And I torture myself.

I think I’ve been very critical of people. And an absolute master at severing relationships. It was almost innate, to distance myself from people whether it did me good or not, whenever I was at risk of getting hurt too badly. And while it’s helped me through quite a number or difficult people and the bullying in primary and high school, it’s also led me to snuff out people whom I know really loved me, and to whom I had reciprocated feelings. And it’s thrown me into a hopeless stupor of emptiness and half-heartedness.

Discipline coupled with determination can revoke amazing feats. It’s easy to remove yourself from people. You summon a breath of courage (or cowardice?) and annihilate every possible means of communication: Facebook, Numbers, Pictures, Presents, Letters. A few weeks down the line you’ll feel a little lost and out of the sheer need to re-establish familiarity, you’d try to make contact. But if you disallow yourself that and sit it out, it starves and it simmers and you’ve done it.

But something alway lingers. You wrestle with sleepless nights. And your subconscious haunts you in dreams and catch you off guard and remind you of all you had. You only remember how special people were to you but you can’t bring up the feeling that made you decide to cut it off. And that’s the sad truth of it, after the frustration dies out you are left with the lonely nostalgia. You wonder about the alternatives you could’ve taken. And I’d like to believe we all carry about this sadness that pounces at us in our deepest slumber: an unconscious awakening of everything you’ve tried to suppress.

Today I feel sad. You were very special to me and I know you’re doing just fine. We were meant to face the world together but I suppose a few years will suffice. To all the people I’ve loved and lost: I think of you much and frequent- I hope all goes well in your life.