Ask any ten-year-old girl what she wants to be when she grows up, and there’s a good chance “veterinarian” might be her answer. It almost sounds cliché to say that I wanted to be a vet since I was a kid, but it’s true. Sort of.
Like many ten-year-old girls, I grew out of my fantasies of playing with animals all day, and I found different career paths. I majored in molecular biology in college, spent a few years doing lab research, and then my career took a turn and I landed a job in sales. This wasn’t a complete departure from my science background (because researchers were my clients), but it brought different challenges and I learned new skills. I was in my late twenties, living in San Francisco with a solid paycheck and a good resume that would help me climb higher in that field if I wanted to. Then my ten-year old self started nagging again, and this time with more compelling reasons than just the fantasy of playing with animals. Medicine, science, animals and people all wrapped into one interesting and meaningful job—that was something I really wanted to do.
Truth be told, my ten-year-old self nagged a few other times in my life prior to that moment, but she was silenced by “logic” such as: It’s too competitive to get into vet school, You have a good career path…why start from the beginning again? Can you really go into debt and live like a student again? Will I ever have time to start a family if I go back to school? This time, the nag was more like a punch in the stomach that brought me to tears. I had to become a veterinarian. I had to have that knowledge and education under my belt, no matter how hard it would be.
While my research and sales background would be favorable things to add to my vet school application, I still had a lot of work to do before I could think about applying. For the next year and a half, I scrounged up all the different kinds of animal-related experiences I could, with various types of volunteer work and a part-time vet assistant job. I also had to take some extra prerequisite classes, all while still maintaining my sales job. All that work paid off, and I was elated to find out that I was accepted to UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine on my first try.
Vet school was a rich and rewarding experience, and even at the most intensely difficult moments, I felt grateful and lucky to be there. I knew that I was in the right place. I was 32 when I graduated and began working as a small animal general practitioner, and I have never looked back. And although I got a little bit of a late start, I was still able to start a family. Now, at 37, I am the mother of two young boys, which presents new challenges to life’s balancing acts. I’m still paying off student loans, and will be for a long time, but I’m so happy that I made the decision to go to vet school. It’s given me a lifelong career that will always have meaning to me.