My first stint in college lasted all of 2 semesters, back in 1988-89, when I was 19. I was a music performance major because it was my dream to be an orchestra percussionist. Dreams change. I dropped out, and played drums in several local rock bands. That dream didn’t pan out, either.
When I was 26 or 27, I had worked as an admin assistant for a few years, but I realized that my life was static: I wasn’t going anywhere in that company. There were no promotions for someone in my position to be had.
My love for animals and wanting to help them gave me the idea to become a veterinarian. I had a long way to go because I had to finish college first before I could even apply to vet school, but I was ready for the challenge.
I quit my full-time job and worked part-time at a small animal (dogs and cats) clinic before the school year began. It was one of the greatest places I’d ever worked. As a veterinary assistant, I learned so much. I had the opportunity to observe surgeries, such as spaying. I learned how to perform fecal tests and look for parasites under a microscope. I filled prescriptions. I helped the veterinary technician take X-rays, and I developed them. I greeted patients and led them to the exam rooms.
I wasn’t a vet tech, which requires a special degree and certification, and is basically an animal nurse. They assist, rather than observe, in surgeries, such as monitoring the patient’s vital signs. One of their many responsibilities was to draw blood, and it was my job to hold, and if necessary, calm down the patient, as they did this.
When the quarter began, my school and work schedules clashed. I got a job working at an emergency vet clinic, which was open when the regular clinics were closed overnight. (It’s now open 24/7.) I had much of the same responsibilities as I did at the animal clinic, but I also assisted in an increased number of euthanizations compared to my previous job, by holding the patient. We also got a lot of HBC (hit-by-car) patients, injuries that I felt could have been prevented. For me, it was a depressing work environment.
Meanwhile, in school, I was in a basic biology class. I did fine with the lab work, but unfortunately, these were about 3 weeks behind the lectures, and I had trouble understanding the concepts until we did the labs — I’m a hands-on learner. It didn’t matter how much I studied. I fell behind, which was no surprise, because going into this endeavor, I already knew that science was not my strongest subject. So I changed my major to English, because I knew how to read lol!
Also, I realized I would have made a horrible vet because I became too emotionally attached to the patients; I couldn’t remain detached, which I believe is necessary if you have to euthanize someone. I learned this while working at the emergency clinic, which was a valuable experience in teaching me what I can and can’t handle. I knew that for me, being a vet would take a toll on my mental health.
Have you ever changed career paths because your original plan affected your mental health?