Wednesday, November 28, 2007

can i get a hell yeah?

i've come here again to ruminate. not in the fore-stomached ruminant sort of way, mind you. that would be far too literal for my tastes. at any rate, as everyone in the entire universe probably knows, i have been struggling for a good long while with a career decision. by january 18th, i have to decide whether or not to pursue further veterinary training as an intern or stop the madness and actually practice veterinary medicine.

of course, opinions on this subject are numerous and varied. i can't complain that i haven't had a good sampling of opinions from everyone i know. in fact, i was involved in a very heated debate amidst orthopedic surgery just yesterday. i was informed, in no uncertain terms, that without an internship, i would probably not be a good doctor. i - obviously - took huge offense to this assumption and argued quite aggressively with my antagonizer (a person i actually rather like and respect). but that's not why i came here to think aloud...

suffice to say that i have heard many, many negative remarks about private practice. granted, my population pool is skewed. i'm currently in an ivory tower of sorts - where "cutting edge" medicine is practiced (i use the term loosely). everyone in this bastion of intellect has obviously gone the route of further education. most have done it because they became disillusioned with private practice. many of my professors have worked with older doctors - out of vet school for 20 years or more, stuck in their ways, disinterested in continuing education or betterment of their practice, totally apathetic and/or burnt-out. indeed, that was my first experience with a veterinarian (at the tender age of 18). i worked for an embittered middle-aged man - stagnating - obviously - as evidenced by his rage any time an animal behaved in any way other than perfectly meekly. i watched him choke a 7 lb chihuahua once out of pure rage. he was obviously an unhappy person - someone who didn't really like animals anymore (who maybe never had). he didn't do any continuing education, didn't seem interested in improving the level of care he offered his patients, had no desire to upgrade his equipment or standard of care. in short, he was miserable at what he did - but he kept doing it - for whatever reason.

so, on the subject of disillusionment i come to discourse. my grandfather is one of my favorite people in the world. however, he is a self-professed cynic. it runs in the family, i must admit. over dinner with my family last week, he launched into a story of how his naivete with the world and the system of higher education was shattered within his first few years as a college professor. he was amazed and disgusted when grades were changed for athletes, cheaters caught and let off scott-free, and disheartened in general to see that the world, after all, isn't a very fair place. and i understand the feeling. i once sat in on a class my husband teaches. next to me and in front of me were 2 very well-known university athletes. before lecture, jim gave a quiz. i sat and watched as these 2 "students" cheated, brazenly. jim didn't see it until i indicated the problem with some not so subtle head nodding and pointing and coughing and such. and what happened? nothing. jim discussed it with his supervisor. and what it boils down to is that it doesn't matter. failing a student is much more hassle than its worth. besides they just need to pass so that they can become NFL or NBA stars. who cares anyway?

i used to get righteously angry about this sort of thing. hell, i've seen it happen in the vet school. it happens every day in every profession - just read the newspaper: drunk doctors killing patients, drunk pilots being kicked off planes, it happens everywhere.

i'm getting off track here, so i'll try to tie this up into one grand thought. actually, it's two separate thoughts that kind of come together. in regards to the cheaters, liars, thieves, and generally lazy in the world that get away with this - hell that will hold the same degree i hold -after 4 years of dedication, incredible sacrifice, and hard-work - and so what? life isn't fair. some who deserve nothing have everything and some who deserve everything have nothing. that's the way it is. life was never made to be fair. nature isn't fair. it just is. so instead of focusing on what everyone else is doing wrong and how i am working much harder, being much more dedicated, blah blah, and how we/i am getting gypped in the meantime, i can focus on myself - my career - my marriage - my situation - making it the best it can possibly be and leaving those cutting corners and practicing poor medicine to their own devices. self-righteous anger is really only detrimental to those with the feelings of anger, after all.

the real thoughts i wanted to express were on disillusionment. my grandfather thinks that when i venture out into the real world of veterinary medicine, i am going to realize that it sucks and that people suck. that every job i ever hold will end up being about the money, that i will lose the love and joy i find in veterinary medicine, because - in the end - it boils down to the money. i have thought about this a great deal - especially as of late, hearing so much unhappiness from my professors and colleagues in regards to the "real world" - and this is what i have surmised: you're going to be disappointed and disillusioned no matter where you go. no matter who you're friends with, no matter who you love, what you love, everything disappoints you. yeah, i'm going to see stuff done by colleagues and doctors that disgusts me, that i don't agree with, that i wouldn't do myself. i'm going to have to sacrifice some of my own stances on subjects because that's what happens. you can't be an idealist in an un-ideal world. what staves off the inevitable cynicism then? some would say nothing - that in the end, i will wind up exactly as my professors and colleagues and grandfather already are - cynical. but this is my staunch (and perhaps naive) attempt to take a stand. disillusionment and disappointment come if you allow them to do so - but you can make a choice. you can let the garbage flow by you - accepting that nothing is perfect, everything has its flaws - and focus on becoming the best you can be at what you do - not just your job but your marriage, your relationships, your hobbies - everything. forget the rest of the world and its imperfections. love what you have, love what you do, keep a keen and open mind, and let the rest go its way. if you can do that, i think cynicism can be kept at bay.

if i choose to go into private practice right away, i can let the things i see and disagree with embitter me. i can decide that veterinary medicine is all about money and that i will have to completely compromise myself to be successful. or i can do what i already plan to do no matter what - strive to be the best i can be at what i do. offer the highest quality medicine i am capable of offering and continue to be the person i am - someone who loves animals and loves vet med. i can accept those things that i can't change about the world - its essential unfairness namely - and not let it drag me down when i witness this. after all, it's not fair that people cheat and get by, people cut corners and never get caught. but what's really not fair is that people are murdered, raped, starve to death - every day - and the world moves on. it's life. get over it, cynics.

if i go into an internship, i'll bitch and moan (as i always do) about how hard it is. but i'll love it too. if i stay in academia, i'll love it, i'm sure. but just like anything and everything, i'll be disappointed in some way - and yes, probably disillusioned. but...i've already said it all. accept life as it comes to you, keep an open mind to it, advance yourself, your knowledge, your relationships and loves, and the rest...well to hell with it.

then again, maybe i am terribly naive.

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