This is what a friend of mine said as we were talking about his running schedule as of late. He is training for a marathon that means a lot to him, so he has been running 70+ miles per week. I have been training for a 50-mile race, and I have been running about 50 miles per week, so 70 miles per week seemed like overdoing it to me! How bad did he want to win this thing? I asked him why the heck he was running so much and he said, “Honestly, man, it’s existential at this point.”
I responded quite positively to that response. It is existential. What a beautiful statement. I smiled, laughed, and slapped him on the back with a look of joy on my face. What a great response. There was no response about getting the best time in the race, making a personal record, or beating a certain person. The response was centered around what running meant to him, and how it made his existence feel complete.
I thought about how our experience in the veterinary field quickly becomes existential for many of us, and the role of this in our personal identities. The job that we have is not one that serves itself to inattentiveness or clocking out early. The job of a veterinary student and veterinarian requires us to be ingrained in our profession and commit to a life of animal health education. This is not a commitment that strips us of our identities, requires us to commit 100% of our time to our jobs, or lose ourselves in the education process. This life as a veterinary professional is best lived when we find balance, become engaged in life outside of veterinary medicine, and couple that with a zeal for medical science that results in excellent practice.
Having a job or hobby that is existential does not imply dependence, addiction, or obsession with whatever you are doing. It can lead to those if unchecked, but it does not come automatically. Aspects of life that are existential give purpose. They allow us to connect to our community and provide services to others. We can find our place within society and form a network of friendships based off of similar interests and goals.