I’ve got to be honest. When I was 19 years old, working my first job as a veterinary technician, practicing using my first stethoscope on my docile golden retriever in my brand new scrubs with the bright, burning dream to be a veterinarian, I did not picture myself in veterinary school as the sleep-deprived, coffee dependent, and some days bitter girl writing this blog post (hours before the deadline, I might add). I am in the dreaded second year of veterinary school. It is impossible to get ahead. Every class requires a drastic amount of memorizing intricacies of pathology or diseases or suture patterns. I’ve spent hours staring at plates of agar with different colored bacteria on them, wondering how this equates to the surgeon performing the life-saving GDV surgery at 2 in the morning for a beloved family pet that I dreamt of being. I haven’t touched a live animal all semester (besides my own). I’ve had to turn down invites to weddings, dinner with friends, end phone calls short with family members to go lock myself away to study.
Vet school is hard. Yes, the academics are indescribably challenging, but I surprise myself every week with the boundaries I push with grit that I did not know I had in me to master 100’s of species of parasites or the signalment of kidney disease in 6 different species. The bridges are coming together- as I learn things in my classes, I am reminded of cases I’ve seen as a vet tech that finally make sense to me now that I know the pathology of the disease process. My professors demand a lot from me and my peers because they are preparing us to be the best for our patients one day. This is so easy to fall away from when buried in studying the details of the art of medicine.
If I could pick a song to summarize how I am feeling in vet school right now, it would be Dancing in the Dark by Bruce Springsteen. The song talks about how life can feel monotonous sometimes, and we forget what our purpose is, but all it takes is that spark- that reminder of why we are here- to remember why the schooling is so worth the work. In the first verse, when he says “I ain’t nothing but tired…” I think I speak for all vet students, particularly second years, when I say I FELT that. But in a very relatable note, the lyrics of the chorus state, “you can’t start a fire… without a spark.” To me, I see this as all of us veterinary students are here for a dream that many children share but only a few fully work to achieve. Rigorous school for 8 years is not easy, or everyone would do it- who wouldn’t want to work with animals as a career? There are days where it is tough, but our spark for what we love will make the school worth it one day for a career that isn’t just a job but a passion. Those days where it all feels like it’s coming together, where you feel like you’re really thinking like a Doctor in Veterinary Medicine and not just a student of facts, I encourage my fellow vet students to relish those moments and take a moment to acknowledge all the work you have done to be where you are now.
Now, it may seem odd in this post connecting mental health and music that I would write about how tough school is right now, but I think part of mental health is acknowledging that there are tough days, really, really tough days, but that those feelings are valid. I think taking a moment in the tough days to recognize the feeling of being overwhelmed is important. It’s these days I will remember with gratitude, when I am in a career that I love, as being worth the academic efforts and personal sacrifices. So for now, back to pathology, but I will take a moment to celebrate that I am halfway done with this tough semester, even if I’m just dancing in the dark.