This week I am looking at a milestone birthday. I am going to be the big 5-0
I’ve never been a big one for birthdays, but this one feels a little different. Maybe its the realization that I will not train for the Olympics, or be a professional football player (although honestly, there were signs those would not come to fruition before this week).
Perhaps it is because I see the signs of age in my body and mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not whining about it. In fact, if any of you catch me regaling you with stories of my physical aches and pains, you can shoot me-no explanation necessary.
To the police officer on the scene after that, it was justifiable homicide.
The good news about 50 is that by now you get to accumulate a bit of wisdom.
But wisdom is a funny thing….
When you use it at the right time, its amazing. You can see a light bulb go off for someone when you give them insight into a corner they have not yet seen around in their lives. But if you give it at the wrong time, you have just forced your opinion on someone who wasn’t looking for input at all.
Youth is an amazing thing too. We are only starting to choose our paths, and there is so much potential in the sheer number of choices we have. Along the way we make mistakes, some of them small, some of them large. But we navigate our way through it all, and that is where wisdom comes from.
I’ve often said to my younger staff that if you are in your early 20’s and you are staying out late and consuming too many adult beverages on a regular basis, you are about the middle of the bell curve. If you are in your early 40’s in the same place, the bell curve has shifted and you are not in the middle anymore…you have a problem. I think one of the things that is about right for the 50 year old is to consider for a moment the legacy that he/she is leaving behind. It accepts our mortality, and yet gives us a chance to have made a difference to another with our experience.
So, this list has 5 veterinarians on it, and many of you know junior vets, or students in vet school, or pre-vet students, or kids that think maybe they want to be a vet. To all of them, this is my best shot at what I have learned.
Just like my kids might not ever benefit from my wisdom, the vets I work with probably don’t need to hear this because I chose them for their own strengths. But I figure if I can put this out to the universe now, then the right person will get it when they need it. I wish I was 100% on these items, but the fact is I learned most of them the hard way. Even if you are not a veterinarian, I think many of these are applicable to anyone who deals with people and/or animals in their work.
Look your client (human) in the eye when you talk to them-this is especially important when delivering bad news. You are a human, they are a human, you will get through this if you are connected.
Take a moment to be one with your patient (pet) every time they come in-Every visit is potentially scary or not, depending on how you do it. Don’t start with an exam, start with a well timed touch or kiss. Do not do that with the human, only with the pet.
Don’t f#@k with the pancreas-it has lots of enzymes in it. If you touch it, it will get angry.
Leave your baggage at home-your coworkers and your clients will listen politely, but its the wrong place to hang out your dirty laundry. Plus, animals will feel your emotions and respond negatively. There is no quicker way to piss off a cat than to touch them when you are irritated and agitated
Smell puppy breath as often as possible-there are chemicals in there that mellow the human soul.
Listen first, talk later-I cannot emphasize this one enough. You think you know what is going on when you walk in the room. You are wrong. Shut up and listen.
Expand your knowledge, regularly and diligently-Whatever you are doing, someone else is doing it better. Find them and learn. Look things up daily. Sometimes you won’t learn anything, but most of the time you will. The odds that you will learn something new is significantly better than winning anything in the lottery. Even the scratch tickets.
If you work with female humans-don’t let them talk about each other in any way other than to each other’s faces. Sorry ladies, you know I am right on this one.
Volunteer at a shelter regularly-Don’t put this one off. There is nothing you do that will change you more (in a good way). There are animals that need our help, and you will see a lot of them. Not only do you make a difference by doing this, but you appreciate the people who take care of them and also who adopt them.
Work hard, then go home-you have people that love you waiting.
Take patients home from time to time-this seems to violate work hard, then go home. Find someone to share your life with that will understand that both things are true.
Never turn away from putting a pet to sleep without taking a moment to honor that pet’s life-do it however you want. Just do it, and don’t talk about it. That piece is for your personal integrity.
Surround yourself with people who care-this will help you keep on track in your life more than any other habit. You are human. You will experience compassion fatigue. Those people are your lifeline to meaningful work. If you do not have your own practice, and you work in a place where that seems impossible, then give them your notice now and find another practice. You won’t regret it, I swear.
Take regular vacations-otherwise you will fry like a hush puppy.
So, just in case I get hit by a bus, you have my best advice.
Have a great week.