I had an epiphany today. I am more than a veterinarian. I have read that when you ask a veterinarian who they are, they answer, I am a veterinarian. And I’ve thought, well of course they do. Because in our culture who you are is what you do, right? Sure, I’m a mom and a wife and a gardener and the caretaker of a menagerie of animals. Recently I’ve decided to be a runner and am training for a marathon. I’m a cheese maker, a daughter, a homeschooler, a sister, and when I have time, a damned fine cook. But if you ask me what I am, I will tell you I am a veterinarian.
And that is a logical answer. I am the owner
of, and the only veterinarian of a small, rural practice. I get up 6
days/week and go to work. I spend my entire day there, usually not
leaving the building nor taking a break from the time I arrive until the
time I go home. I often get home at bedtime, or sometimes even after
the bedtime of my kids. Some days I don’t see my kids at all while they
are awake. Because I am a veterinarian. My days are full of caring
for my patients. I try to keep the healthy ones healthy. I try to make
the sick ones well. I spend hours every week holding the hands of my
clients (literally and figuratively) while they try to work through
their own issues. Sometimes the issues we work through have little to
do with their pets, but that’s OK, because I am a sounding board, a
psychologist, a shoulder to lean on, a hander of tissues, a cheerleader,
a veterinarian. I care deeply about my patients and the people who
bring them to see me. I care about them so much so that I put my own
life on hold, regularly, to be there for them.
But I am not there
all the time. Sometimes I have obligations outside the four walls of
my office. Sometimes I need to be a parent, a wife, a patient myself.
Sometimes I need to get my hair cut. Sometimes my own pets need me to
drive them to a vet across the state. Sometimes I try to squeeze in a
run or an exercise class. Sometimes I try to weed my garden, or visit
my elderly parents, catch up with a loved, but rarely seen friend.
These things get put in the small hours, squeezed in between the big
picture. I miss my run 8/10 times. The weeds will win the war this
summer as they have every summer before. My husband is a single parent
most days and nights. I have not been involved in my children’s
homeschooling this year. I don’t get to stay home with a sick, feverish
child who cries for me to stay. I have a nine year old who cried,
asking me if I could please work less because I am never home. I pay
this price because I am a veterinarian.
I was heartbroken today
to talk to a client who was angry with me for not being available to
her when she had an emergency. I had a local veterinarian and two
emergency clinics who could have helped her. But I was not available.
Her dog suffered waiting for me. She is angry with me. I have let them
all down. She and her husband had a lot of things to say to me today.
And one of them was something along the lines of, “you are a
veterinarian and that should be your life.” It has been my life. For
the last 15 years I have been a veterinarian first, second, and mostly.
But today...today I spoke words I didn’t know I would ever speak. I
look this sad and angry couple in the eye, and I said, “I am not just a
veterinarian. This is not my whole life. I have a husband. I have 3
children. I have a life and hobbies outside of this building. I work 6
days each week. I can not there for everyone all the time. I can not
I said that. You don’t know me. You don’t
understand the power of those words. But I understood. Instantly. In
that moment I realized. I am more than a veterinarian. I am a lot
more. And the rest of me is important. To my husband, my children, my
pets, my parents, my friends, my sisters. And to me. It is easy to get
caught up in the needs of your clients and patients in this business.
They need me. And I have gotten lost in trying to be there to fill all
of their needs.
I have lost track of all of the other hats I am
supposed to be wearing. I have sacrificed the needs of the people I
love the most. My clients are quick to turn on me when they feel
wronged. I wasn’t there for this woman. She turned to Facebook to let
my entire community know what a monster I am. My family is neglected by
me on a daily basis. They have rarely complained to me and never
publicly humiliated me. They love me and support me for
being...well...me. Not for being a veterinarian. Because that isn’t
important to them. I have spent my life defining myself as something
that isn’t even important to those that mean the most to me. I realized
today that I am not a veterinarian. OK, I am a veterinarian. But that
is my profession, it isn’t me. So, if you see me pulling weeds, if I
invite you to a dinner I cooked, if you catch me reading a book to my
toddler, running on a back road, sharing a morning swim with my girls,
milking my goats or out to dinner with my husband, please know. I am
still a veterinarian. I still care deeply about you and your furry
friend. The wellbeing of both of you is important to me. But the
wellbeing of me and my family is important to me, too. And while I will
probably always define myself as a veterinarian, I will be a far better
one for realizing that all those other things I do are important, too.