I want to choose happiness

I haven’t blogged in quite some time. I can say that I was busy, but I suppose I didn’t make the time either. Over the summer I worked as a CEO (Chief Experience Officer, essentially a tour guide) leading overland tours through the U.S. and Canada for G Adventures. I was very busy. I met some absolutely amazing people and had some amazing experiences. I worked usually 17+ hours per day and was utterly exhausted for most of the summer. I drove a van/trailer and had to set up camp and teach passengers how to camp.  I researched areas where I was touring and found the best routes and stops between destinations. I often had to choose between taking a shower or calling my boyfriend. I only showered every 2-3 days and called my boyfriend less than that. My boyfriend hurt his back over the summer and I feel as though I jeopardized my relationship with him between not calling him often and not being able to come home right away when he hurt himself.

Overall working in the tourism industry was an interesting experience.  I truly did love meeting all of my passengers and getting to know them a little. It’s funny that when I went on tours I always figured that the tour guides probably wouldn’t remember me and I’d be lost in the sea of other tourists in their mind. For me that isn’t so.  I remember all of them.  Meeting all of them and the other amazing CEOs that were my colleagues over the summer was the absolute best part of the experience and I lucky to have had the opportunity. Now the summer is over.

I’m back at home. I have picked up some veterinary work since I have returned. I’m not excited about it, in fact I dread it. I dread it more than is likely reasonable to do so.

The bottom line is this: Working in the veterinary field makes me despise the human race; working the tourism industry gives me renewed faith in humanity.

I was sitting at home looking at the veterinary classifieds when I got a message from my friend, who is a veterinary technician.  Her message was as follows: “We had a lady call in saying her dog was bloated. When it came had to carry it on a gurney, because it was completely unable to walk due to a steak knife in its abdomen.  The lady stabbed her dog 3 times to relieve the gas. We took it to surgery, it was a complete cluster fuck.  We euthanized the dog this a.m. of course.”

That is only one example of the many things that make life in the veterinary field difficult. My friend’s text was a bitter reminder of the world I will re-enter if I go back into veterinary private practice. I had the urge to burn the classified ads that I was looking at.

I ended up picking up some work in a small clinic last week, filling in for a veterinarian on vacation, then I returned to looking in the veterinary classified ads. Today I found out that a prominent and talented veterinarian, Dr. Yin has committed suicide. It is a tragic blow to the veterinary community.

Suicide is very common in the veterinary industry. The veterinary industry has the highest suicide rate, more than any other profession….   or so I keep hearingagain and again. I have personally known two veterinarians who have committed suicide, and a handful more who have either attempted or considered attempting suicide. It’s tragic and sad. My friend, Melanie, a classmate of mine and a wonderful veterinarian, has posted a related blog that is worth a read.

It makes me angry. I have been a veterinarian for 9 years. There are aspects of being a veterinarian that I like, but overall I can assuredly tell you that I have not loved my profession. It has not been the dream job I imagined as a child.  It is a stressful and difficult job. I find that veterinarians are riddled with guilt, debt, stress, doubt, compassion fatigue, and burnout.  I believe veterinarians feel pressure from many directions that push us to the limits, and results in veterinary medicine consuming our lives.  I believe it is killing us. I see very little being done to change this.

I have been lucky and haven’t personally had suicidal thoughts or tendencies. (Don’t worry mom).  But I have definitely been feeling unhappy in the profession. I also have felt pressure from others when I tried to make changes to my life to deal with this unhappiness.  At first I tried changing jobs, and repeated that when it didn’t solve the problem.  Then I transitioned to part time, then to independent contracting work selling my veterinary services to practices who need shifts covered for veterinarians ill or out of town.  I could feel the pressure from others and received comments like “Every job will have its issues,” “bloom where you’re planted,” and “most people don’t like their jobs.”  When I left the profession temporarily for the summer to work for a tourism company I got to hear more:  “What a waste of your degree,” “why would you ever do that?”, “But you worked so hard for your degree,” and “don’t you love animals anymore?”

I have also received a lot of advice within the field when dealing with unhappiness in the profession and a lot of it consisted of: “go to a therapist,” or “go see about getting prescribed antidepressants.” Although I don’t think there is anything wrong with seeing a therapist or using antidepressants if they are necessary, I have to say that my gut response to this advice is: “For fuck’s sake! Why can’t I work in a job that doesn’t make me depressed?  Why does this whole profession push people to suicide?, can’t anyone see there is something wrong here?!”  I have had jobs outside of the veterinary field and they didn’t have the same soul sucking quality that life in veterinary private practice has had for me.

I have wanted to love it.  I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was six years old.  I worked very hard to become a veterinarian and I have worked very hard as a veterinarian in practice.  I am a good veterinarian.  That isn’t the issue.  Being a good veterinarian is stressful; it has made me care too much and burn out.  It has made me overly sensitive to negative comments from clients.  It has made me overly sensitive to the tragedies that occur daily when dealing with sick animals and stressed people.  I have also learned that a six year old doesn’t really know jack shit about career planning and shouldn’t be in charge of my fate.

I have been told that: “Nobody really likes their jobs” and “someone has to do it.”

I’m no longer convinced that that someone has to be me.

I want to work doing something that I love and feel happy doing every day.

I want to choose happiness.



15 thoughts on “I want to choose happiness

  1. Choose happiness, Melissa. You have to do what is right for you. You are not the first, nor the last, that find it is not worth the stress and the hassle, despite the work put into it. I am a very firm believer that we all have a path and a goal for this life. Perhaps your goal required your experiences from veterinary medicine to this point, but that does not mean that it is the end goal for you. Get out of it. You can always come back if you decide you want to, but if you don’t, that is ok. I keep hearing more and more about learning to care for yourself – to leave veterinary medicine for you is self care. The veterinary community will miss you in practice, but I would rather have you alive and well than suffering in practice or dead. I love you, Melissa!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Melanie. Like I said, luckily I haven’t had suicidal thoughts. But my heart goes out to those who do. With a veterinary degree we can do many things (so I’ve heard), so I need to go explore those options now.


  2. Wow, you just put into writing a lot of thoughts that I have had. It’s sad to think that I wasn’t surprised that another veterinarian took her own life. Be happy. The people that matter won’t care if you are “wasting” your degree.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yeah, I’ve heard about the “many” things vets do too, but all I can think of is supervise research, which to me isn’t the worst thing in the world. Sarah Mills is an extention agent, which I think is WAY cool, but I’ve never been one.

    I had been wondering about the difference between you and me, you are much better (medically) at what you do, but the bad parts don’t bother me as much as they bother you. And I came up to this thought. Being a veterinarian was probably plan C or D for me, I don’t think I had thought about it very hard until college. I worked for the local veterinarian in high school, eh, it was pretty cool, but I only casually thought of maybe seeing if I could be one, most of the time thinking I’d never get in and I’d go into dairy nutrition.

    As a kid/teen I seriously wanted to be a farmer, that was my total dream job. Also high in the line-up were artist and truck driver. (I actually went to art college portfolio reviews, but didn’t want to be a teacher or graphic designer so figured I should give that up.) Maybe because I didn’t have much hope in it, and I already shattered my dreams of a “dream job” being a vet is OK. Well, the clients are an interesting bunch. Damn Oregonians, so wussy.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Seeker_of_fun, it is sad for me to think that you might have anger at your six year old dreams. They were so full of excitement. I know you love animals so much. It certainly is not bad or failure to choose another path. It is just fine to accept the fact that Vet Medicine is not for you and not feel guilt about it. You are fantastic at whatever you choose and fun is much more vital to people than they ever want to believe. Pick up your “stuff” and get going in your new direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I work in a job that I love. It’s not in the medical field but it’s certainly a common enough job – communications. Just telling you so you know it’s possible to have a job you love. You’ll know if/when you find it. Good luck in the search.


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