I live in a world of definitions. For example, the rectus capitis dorsalis minor muscle can be defined as the small straight muscle attaching to the caudal aspect of the bovine or equine cranium on the dorsal aspect of the neck; its own name defines it (if you can read Latin). I can differentiate an eosinophil from a basophil functionally, morphologically, and by the length of time it spends in circulation, because I memorized the definitions for the both of those cell types. Definition is how we describe our world and the different aspects of it; it allows us to differentiate between a red tailed hawk and a Cooper’s hawk, or a Rambouillet sheep and a Jacobs sheep. In this world of definitions, too often we fail to realize how we have allowed ourselves to be defined.
Although I have wanted to be a veterinarian from a young age, and have long felt called to this profession, it wasn’t until college that I allowed it – encouraged it – to be the sole defining focus of my entire life. Grades, which had always been a part my identity, took on a whole new importance. I pursued jobs, volunteer opportunities, extracurricular activities, and friendships often based on how it fit into my pursuit of a DVM; any interest I had in politics or news was based on the fact that I had heard admissions committees often asked political questions in interviews. I even periodically considered giving up reading fiction, because what good is fiction when you can read about the nuances of bioethics in new legislation in Europe? I thought that I had to live and breathe veterinary medicine, that it was the only thing I could care about.
I didn’t see how much I was not only a DVM in training until I was actually a veterinary student. My grades slipped, my brain hurt, and I met people who very intentionally have built a life around and apart from veterinary school or veterinary medicine. Veterinary medicine is not an end-all, be-all for me anymore; it can’t be. It is a profession built around providing medicine and wellness to animals, and although there is a growing movement to provide wellness to the practitioners of veterinary medicine, it is still a focused, small world. I still want to do well in my classes, not because my grades define me, but because I am proud of my education, and I want to do well in it. I spend most of my time either at school, or studying, but I make sure to do some intentionally non-veterinary related things. Some parts of my life are on hold while I am in school (like reading fiction), but I haven’t given them up. I am a veterinary student, but I am also so much more.