I just got back from a 9 day trip to Florida. Don’t stop reading now, I haven’t gotten to the good part yet.
The first 4 days were at a conference in Orlando. NAVC is a huge veterinary conference that I go to every few years along with 10,000 other veterinary professionals to learn what is new. There are lectures, labs, and the air is buzzing with excitement. I signed up for 1/2 day lab on microsurgery and can’t wait to practice my skills. We trained on those catnip mice. Turns out you can remove the stuffing and sew them up with itty bitty suture.
The next 5 days were in the Keys. I do love the combination of mental stimulation followed by time to reflect. I am a self described work-aholic, although I prefer to think of it as very committed to a profession I love. I struggle with balancing the responsibilities of being a veterinarian, a business owner, a leader of our team, and having any time left over for fun stuff. I left for this trip feeling like I had been a bit consumed this year and unable to attend to the things that I felt were most important.
On the 3rd day of the conference, I sat next to a vet who was complaining about how hard it was to get good help. He told me how lazy his staff was, and how he could accomplish so much more if he could just employ better people. He was a single practitioner in Tennessee and was about my age. I’ve thought a lot about that guy since then.
When we arrived in Marathon Key, I saw 4 kids huddled around a storm drain. As we got closer, the kids (i’m guessing aged 8-11) were in the process of trying to bust open a coconut. One of the middle kids was videoing it all on an iPhone, one older boy was looking at a lizard nearby and the youngest girl, with the skinniest arms I’ve ever seen, was slamming the coconut on the storm drain with everything she had. When the coconut broke open, the children all cheered.
Last night we got home and stopped at a friend’s house for burgers. He had been recently kind of forced into early retirement and seemed to be doing ok with it. When we started talking, he told me that he had gotten a call back from the previous employer who as in a pinch and offered him much more to come back full time. He didn’t say anything about how he felt about it (we are guys after all) but it was obvious from the sparkle in his eye that he was happy to come out of retirement to help out…between you and me, I think the pay was secondary to how it made him feel.
We make our reality, don’t we? I left for this trip feeling overwhelmed and like I could never get done what I had to do. The only solace for me was that I knew that the team would have my back while I was gone and do a great job. I am so incredibly grateful for the group I work with, and I don’t tell them that enough. I cannot believe how well this team works together. Seriously. They work together, play together, have each other’s backs. I never have to worry that they are not doing the right thing by the patients we see, while also understanding the emotions of the human involved. In addition, each of them brings something to the table that I don’t have. It is hands down the best group I have ever worked with.
On day 6 of this get away, despite my love for my team, I was fantasizing about selling the practice, moving to the Keys and working in a Turtle Hospital. There are 7 species of sea turtles, and we toured the hospital to see how they are rehabilitated and sent back into the wild. I actually looked up the lyrics to “Born Free”, just in case I had to sing it.
Then I found out that the local people consider the iguanas of the area a pest, and that they had started a catch/neuter/release program rather than putting them in soup. I thought ‘what a great way to use my microsurgical techniques training?” Mary and I briefly sketched out a program for an iguana sterilization project.
I identify with the girl with the skinny arms. When the coconut needs cracking, she uses what she has to get the job done. Its not what we are born with, its how we use it…right? On the other hand, you can’t crack every coconut.
We all want to be of use, and our greatest expression of that is often in our career. You can also find your usefulness in volunteer groups, or in family. But I do think its a basic human need to be useful to others. We see those around us as helping that or hindering that ability…and that part is where it starts to be in our heads.
I think many people get caught up in the blame game about why they aren’t getting what they want. It’s the economy, or your spouse, or your coworkers, or your parents, your skinny arms, or the government that keeps you from cracking the coconut. OK, maybe I’m getting lost in the metaphor, but you know what I’m saying….
So, I need to clean up a few things in this brief time I have clarity. I will post this on Facebook to get as many people as possible. First of all, one of the things I want to accomplish is teaching. I’m not talking about changing my career, but about incorporating it into the practice. I will start with every other month, a different topic. Free lecture series, first topic your decision (you can vote on the Facebook post comment section)
Helping your Pet Age Gracefully (new information)
Inappropriate urination in cats
Update on Lyme disease
First one February 15th (Sunday) 11am. I’ll send out a separate email where you can sign up. There is no charge for this, but I have to decide whether we can do it at the clinic or whether I need to find a bigger space.
Secondly, I need to ask that you in the community consider whether to push “send” on the emails you compose to me. I love you all, and want to keep connected via email, but I came back to 274 emails. In general, if the email question is more than a few sentences, set us up a time to see your pet. For routine refills, general questions, etc email my awesome team at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the spirit of personal responsibility, don’t take this as yelling at you, I made this problem by making my email available to everyone on the planet. I know that isn’t common, and I like the things I do that are not normal most of all…but lighten my load so I don’t end up in a turtle hospital cracking coconuts.
Also, I have made a mess of trying to find homes for difficult pets. It started, as most things do, with a few stories of situations where animals need re-placement because of behavior, or the owners were moving, or allergies. It is now officially a barrage and we are not set up to be a shelter. If you find kittens, you can bring them in and we will find homes for them and spay/neuter/vaccinate them. This is true only for you and not everyone you know. If it is anything else, please contact the Bangor Humane Society. We will continue to work with them and the SPCA in Hancock County to foster kittens and find homes…but no more problem animals.
Thanks for reading this in its entirety with an open heart.
Have a great week and use whatever you can in this to make your life better too.