I am 48 years old and have been a practice owner for 13 years, and a veterinarian and/or
veterinary team member for over 20 years. I was disheartened by my profession, unexcited by
my daily work, and frustrated with the public’s perception of veterinarians and veterinary
As a budding college graduate in the Spring of 2010 I had one goal in mind, to join the US Military and serve my country for 20 years. After being accepted by the Army Officer Candidate program, I flew down to Ft. Benning, GA for three months of basic training followed by six more months of Officer Candidate School to earn commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. My dream was to be an infantry officer and serve on the front lines. After graduating Basic Training, I watched my dream die in one fell swoop. During a 5 mile run my knee locked up, I fell and tore my MCL.
At our house, a perfect Sunday evening ritual includes a tasty grilled dinner, enjoyed together on the back porch, while listening to the Pinecone Bluegrass Show. It’s a relaxing cap to an active weekend, and a great way for our family to connect in advance of the busy week ahead. As a family, we love the bluegrass sound, and also the rich stories the music tells.
One dreary winter in North America during some of the most frigid temperatures the Polar Vortex blew our way, we chose to maintain our constantly running toilet as a (likely misguided) attempt at keeping our pipes from freezing. A constantly running toilet = a faucet on drip?! SURE!?
Once we were defrosted and on the more sunny side of the seasons, and in a fit of active procrastination (I most certainly should be studying for boards), I decided it’s high time to fix our toilet.
I have mixed emotions when I think about attending Veterinary Leadership Experience (VLE), hosted by the Veterinary Leadership Institute, again.
As a first-year DVM student at the University of Sydney, I was lucky enough to be selected to attend VLE 2016. I had no idea what to expect from this week-long camp, which helps people “learn the skills necessary to be healthy and resilient so they can become people of positive influence”, but I do know that it was life changing, in the ‘how do I even put that into words’ kind of way. There are some things in life that we don’t know how much we need them until we find them – that’s exactly how I felt about VLE 2016.
I’ve always been told that I am an extrovert. Because talking to any number of people comes with relative ease to me, I decided my friends and family were right and so adopted that label as I began to decide who I was. Until attending VLE in June of 2016, I had never doubted that “extrovert” described me in a word. However, a unique opportunity arises when you are put into a situation that pushes you to become very honest with yourself and a group of people you’ve never met before. I suppose it’s a blessing for some and a curse for others; you can be who you really are or invent a completely different person because these people come together not knowing what type of person you are.
By the time puberty hits, everyone knows which kids at school are “outgoing,” “bossy,” and/or “confident.” These are assumed to be the extroverts. I was one of those. The introverts were the “shy” and “quiet” ones. The thing is, regardless of how much time I could spend talking and how many friendships I believed I had, I didn’t realize that this constant buzz of activity was really draining me. I didn’t realize it until some glorious human being at VLE described introverts and extroverts in terms of how they re-energize. All of a sudden, things came together. I knew that I still enjoyed sharing time with people and hearing their stories, but at the end of the day, I wanted to be alone. Whereas throughout college I would feel obligated to go out with my friends for fear of being the “hermit,” at VLE I felt immediately free to decide who I wanted to be. The comfort of being around people who truly care about you but at first don’t know who you are at all was an invitation to reassess myself. The first night there, I went to my cabin and did a puzzle with a roommate. The me in college would have gone to Capone’s to meet everyone else.
Why do I feel guilty about wanting to stay in? Do others feel the same pressure to always be “on”? Is it because I decided to adopt who the people I trust and love think I am without considering whether it truly reflected how I prefer to function? I tell myself it’s indulgent to watch the TV show I like while my good friends are getting together for wine. Sometimes I find myself making excuses relating to work or family obligations when social plans come up because telling someone “I need some time for myself” feels selfish. I think many of us feel the same guilt as professionals or students when we need “me” time but know that others are looking to us as the group motivators, leaders, and organizers. It’s not something that’s easily navigated, but a little self-assessment every day will help me embrace the introvert I really am. With anything, though, balance is key.
Let’s all just take a little breather for a second.
We’re in a rat-race. There’s no doubt about that. And if you’re reading this, chances are you know that some self-management is pretty critical to maintaining that work-life balance we all covet so much.
Part of the reason that striking that balance is difficult is that we are all, quite literally, trying to do everything at once. We’re marketing. We are strategizing. We’re making decisions. We’re beating our competitors. We’re caring for our client
our colleague’s, and our family’s emotions. And on top of that…medical decisions at the drop of a hat.
We are literally trying to do it all. And it has to stop.
Remember the Budweiser commercial where the young Clydesdale tries to pull the cart and because it’s not strong enough to do so, two adults push it? Suddenly the cart starts to move and, without being too anthropomorphic, you can feel the satisfaction of the young colt when it achieves its goal. It’s a heartwarming commercial that makes me tear up every time. InBev, the owner of Budweiser, produced that commercial purely to market its product. At VLE the commercial is shown not because it’s cute, contains some incredible animals or an attempt to sell beer. The commercial depicts a perfect message of Servant Leadership.
Although we had already made plans to attend the Health and Wellness Summit held at Ohio State University in early October, the recent deaths by suicide of Robin Williams and Dr. Sophia Yin brought a sense of even greater urgency to the conference.
Nearly every Saturday morning, I grab a newspaper, settle into my favorite eating venue and order a big breakfast. While consuming pancakes and pouring over the news, I usually speak to no one, avoid eye contact with patrons but always give the wait staff a courteous smile. Continue Reading