I’m Back!!

It’s been much too long since I have afforded myself the luxury of some time to sit and write a blog post. So much has changed over the past few years. The career that I was once so sure I wouldn’t abandon has been abandoned. I graduated school a year early. I moved back home, something I swore I would never do. I’m working full time. I’m finally taking some time to focus on myself.

I’ve begun working out more consistently, reading constantly, and exploring new hobbies. One such new hobby that has really caught my attention is fiction writing. There is nothing quite like the freedom of immersing yourself in a fictional world and letting everything else fall away. You can become anyone, do anything, go anywhere, stretching the limits of your own inventiveness. Subsequently, I have decided to put this blog towards a new purpose: to share excerpts of my writing as I seek to practice and grow as a writer. Any feedback towards that end is appreciated. I hope you enjoy what I come up with as I finally break my online silence!


It’s All About the Money As Usual

I have just spent the last few hours researching my future career as a veterinarian, and the results are rather discouraging. Everyone I talk to and everything I read reiterates that there simply are not enough jobs, and the jobs that do exist do not pay enough money to stand up to the crippling amounts of debt piled onto students by vet schools. So now I am faced with the dilemma of pursuing the career that I am undoubtedly made for or adjusting my path to something that will give me a more stable future.

I know that I will stay with veterinary medicine regardless of the money. Not many people are as lucky as I am to find something they are so passionate about, and I will not be dissuaded by the money. However, I am a realist at heart, so I do not take the financial burdens lightly. It is painful to have to acknowledge that pursuing your dream could be the very thing that kills it. That entering the field I love so much could be the thing that destroys my enjoyment of it. So many of the blogs that I have read are full of inspiring posts about pursuing your dreams, full of assertions that there is always a way. But what if the way to reach my dream ends up killing it before I get there?

It is a sad indication of my impending adulthood that I must face the realities of the world I am easing my way into. In that world, money rules everything. In that world, you can’t simply fall off the grid and pursue your dreams in the purest sense. If you are going to accomplish something, you have to accomplish it within the means society provides to you, even if those means fundamentally alter the end product. Jobs that have their origin in compassion and care are now business endeavors. People that went to school to help others now ask how much a potential client can pay. These are not bad people, corrupted by money. These are people that have accepted the system they were thrust into. And I see no other option but to follow in their footsteps, as difficult as that is for me to accept.

Maybe it’s the constant rain of the past week that makes the future look so bleak, but there certainly seems to be very little light at the end of the tunnel. There are tiny glimmers of hope that rest in extremely competitive scholarships and virtually impossibly small acceptance rates into special programs, but even if I manage to get the huge debt under control, the career itself still holds many unfortunate realities. Long hours, difficult schedules, minimal vacation, low salaries, physical demands, and approaching treatment as a business. It does not exactly paint the picture of the career I always imagined.

Here I am stuck with this impending conundrum, while also stuck between the realism of adulthood and the optimism of childhood. The child in me wants to believe the money will work out or that changing my career path will yield the perfect picture I have in my head. Neither of those scenarios is necessarily true. The money could work out. A different career could suit me very well. Yet I have to make a decision without any idea of the outcomes.

But despite all of that, I sit here cozy now with a dog (foster dog) resting his head on my leg, looking up at me as his eyes fall shut, and I know I am doing the right thing. For now I think I will let the child inside of me win out and allow myself to imagine a career’s worth of deep, soulful eyes looking up at me with that same innocent, loving, trusting expression. Those eyes don’t know anything about money problems. They know only that they are safe, loved, and cared for. And that is what will always make the issues worthwhile. I will gladly go home in an old car to a modest home if it means that I get to do what I love. We may be forced to live in a society that is run by money, but that does not mean that we have to let money run us.

My adorable foster dog!

Bella Toscana

My time in Italy is winding down quickly. On Saturday I will be leaving my two week vacation here for a two month stretch in Germany working on farms. I have absolutely fallen in love with the beautiful countryside in Tuscany. I have always loved mountains and the winding roadsroads here with stunning views wherever you turn have captured my heart.

Maybe it’s the euphoria of my first big travel experience, but I haven’t even left yet and I am longing to return. To me there is something irresistible about the simple life they lead here. A life where everything stops in the mid afternoon for siesta time, families play together in the streets in the evenings, and the loyal family dog can go everywhere with his owners.

While we were here, we visited many of the major cities (Florence, Venice, Rome, etc.), which were all amazing to see, but never was I so happy as when we aimlessly drove the snaking streets of the countryside, stopping for food as we passed tiny towns  with views that looked like they belonged on a postcard. The vineyards and olive trees lined every slope, and gave their fruit to become the amazing wines and olive oils that you can only get here.

And that brings me to the food. Even after two weeks of almost entirely pizza and pasta, I have yet to tire of it. There is nothing like true Italian pizza and pasta. I was also surprised to discover that Tuscan cuisine has a great deal of seafood in it, and the two best meals I have had were seafood pasta in Portofino and gnocchi with tomato and cream sauce and crab meat in the small coastal town of Viareggio. It would certainly be no hardship for me to eat this food for the rest of my life.

Maybe as my travels continue I will fall in love with another place, but for now my heart has been captured by this stunning countryside. I am, after all, half Italian so it makes sense that I would connect with the land of my anscestry. One day I will return to this beautiful country, but until then, caio bella Italia.

The Geyser of Grossness

Today I discovered that I have an unusually high tolerance for disgusting things. Now really to work at a vet you have to have a high tolerance, so I kind of already knew. I mean I have had all sorts of bodily fluids all over me, but until today the one thing I had never had on me was tumor juice. So let me start this story from the beginning.

It was a crazy day at work. I mean I didn’t even get to leave for lunch and ended up working 10 ½ hours straight. I’m not complaining, because I love my job, but it is a physically demanding job and I had to go to class right afterwards so I was pretty drained. Anyway, it was towards the end of the day when a very nice, very elderly couple came in with their equally elderly (in dog years) west highland terrier.  The poor dog was blind and practically deaf, and her owners were rather frail themselves, but the sweet man carried the dog in his arms the whole way inside. They were clearly very devoted to that dog.

This is a west highland terrier in case you didn’t know

Now fast forward to the exam room as the vet checked the dog over. When he got to her tail he noticed a fairly large, fluid-filled growth practically encompassing the whole circumference of the tail. The couple was clearly concerned and immediately urged him to take care of it however he thought best. So we took the dog to the back treatment area, where we take care of anything beyond the simplest exams and vaccinations.

Once in the back I held the dog as the vet conducted a more thorough exam of the dog, once again going from head to tail. Well, I don’t know if you know this, but part of a vet exam includes checking the anal glands of the dog, but unfortunately the tail hangs down in the way. I think you probably see where this is going. He lifted up the tail to take a look at the hind end, and all of a sudden I felt a geyser of fluid hit me forcefully in the arm.

So there I was, covered in tumor juice, while we both tried to figure out what had just happened. It turned out that as he lifted the tail he had accidentally squeezed the growth, causing it to burst and eject its juice all over me. And now I should not that although I say juice, it was actually very pleasantly full of chunks of what turned out to be rotten, dead tissue.

Oh and the story doesn’t end there. Once he helped me get cleaned up some, the vet managed to squirt himself also, narrowly missing his face while the force carried the fluid some ten feet away from the table and all over his shirt.

It wasn’t until I was finally finished with my shift that I realized that the gush of fluid had soaked not only my scrub top but also the t-shirt I wore underneath. Not a big deal until you take into the account the fact that I had to go to class with tumor juice stains on my shirt (I apologize to my classmates if I smelt of tumor). And that is what led to my realization. I mean I can’t have an awesome story like that and not share it with everybody! Well I did share it, and it turns out that most people didn’t think it was as awesome as I did…

But for me, in that moment, while we were both covered in tumor juice and joking about calling our coworkers in and squirting them too, I thought how awesome my job was and how lucky I am to know exactly what I should be doing with my life. I wasn’t in the least grossed out by the fact that I had dead tissue and tumor fluid dripping down my arm. After all, I can always wash it off, and then all I am left with is an awesome story with which to gross out all my friends. Because it turns out that not everyone thinks getting doused in tumor juice is awesome.

P.S. In case you were wondering, the vet did not seem too concerned by the growth, aside from saying that it would probably just fill back up with fluid. So who knows? I may get to relive that awesome moment!

Why I’m Not “Good People”

I think this is something everyone needs to read! Very well articulated and powerful

Jenny's Library

I’m not a nice person.

I’m not a good person.

I’m not a kind person.

This isn’t to say that I don’t ever try to be any of these three things.  I do, especially the last two.

It’s more to say that, for me, surviving in this cissexist, racist, ableist, heteronormative, classist, often fucked up world of ours has involved rejecting the idea that “good” and “bad” are static states of being.  I will never be a “good person” because, to me, “good” is not something that you achieve.  It’s an ongoing process that never ends.

It is, in fact, almost impossible not to be doing bad things as well as good when you are human and therefore flawed.  Especially when you are part of a messed up system, as we all are.

This, to me, is why it’s important to call out bad behavior, or hurtful language, or even…

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Slobbery Doggy Kisses

Today was such a gorgeous day here in Charlottesville. It was the perfect temperature for capris and a t-shirt with the sun shining in a brilliantly blue sky while a light breeze was blowing. The trees are starting to bloom and the grass has turned a lively green after the dull color it adopts during the winter. It was amazing to say the least.

It’s impossible for this weather not to lift your spirits, and today it had me downright giddy. I was walking dogs at the local SPCA as I do every week, and I was running just because I had too much joyful energy to walk calmly. And the feeling was infectious. The dogs all seemed to be in high spirits and my fellow volunteers were more relaxed and happy than I’d ever seen them. Everyone seemed to have huge smiles on their faces for no apparent reason. Again, it was amazing.

My buoyant mood got me thinking about how amazing volunteering is. It is such a consuming part of my life right now, and I don’t know how I went through so many years without it. I had such a desire to help people and do some good, but so many places required you to be at least 18 to volunteer, so I was forced to bide my time until that much-anticipated birthday.

As soon as I got into college I jumped into my first real volunteer position, which unfortunately that position did not turn out to be very enjoyable. I didn’t feel like I was doing any good, and I was frustrated with that. Then I started volunteering at the SPCA, and I have never looked back. I immediately fell in love with everything about the place from their goal to make it a place that families will visit just for fun to the absolutely wonderful volunteers that I work alongside.

And beyond the place itself, you need only see the excitement when a dog realizes you are taking them outside to know how meaningful your contribution is. Here are these animals that are completely dependent upon us for everything, and I love nothing more than to take a dog out to one of the parks and let them off the leash and watch them sprinting all around and rolling in the dirt and playing before tiring themselves out and returning to your side to give and receive some love. Just today I was with a dog and while he was busy sprinting laps around the park I bent down to pick something up and he comes barreling out of nowhere to almost bowl me over as he aggressively climbs up in my lap to cover my face with slobbery kisses. If that doesn’t immediately make your day then I don’t know what would.

Choosing to start volunteering is probably the most positive decision I have made in my life so far. It happens to be an added bonus that all of this volunteering is helping me progress towards my goal of becoming a vet, but I know without a doubt that I would still choose this if there was no end goal. I honestly feel like this volunteering has almost brought me to life, for lack of a better term. It has given me a purpose and a direction, proving to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that my current career path is the right one for me. I have established friendships and gained experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

It’s still two years off, but the thought of having to leave this place behind is really tough for me, but who knows? Maybe someday I will end up back here as their vet. And no matter what I do and no matter where I go, I know that there will always be amazing days like today and dogs that need love and are ready to give out some gross, wet kisses in return.

The Comfort of Family

The past few days I have been in a weird mood. It wasn’t exactly bad, but just contemplative. I have spent every free moment thinking about my future career and worrying about whether I am doing enough to get into vet school when the time comes. I am both very excited about the prospects for the future and also very stressed out and worried about the unknown of applying to vet school. And I think all of that combined with the fact that I have not had time to just relax and enjoy the company of friends in awhile left me in that weird mood. But regardless of what caused it, the events of today will hopefully pull me out of it soon.

Today, unbeknownst to me, my dad made the drive down here to come visit me for the weekend so I wouldn’t have to be by myself for Easter. I cannot even begin to express how amazing that surprise was and how much I needed it. I didn’t realize until he was here how much I miss having family around. I miss being around the people that know me better than anyone else and who I can be completely comfortable with.

I feel like being at school is a constant game of making yourself pleasing to everyone around you, whether lab partners or roommates or employers, the list could go on. With family, you get the chance to release all that and just be. You don’t have to filter what you say to fit someone else’s standards or expectations. Family has seen you at your worst and so you don’t have to pretend with them. Well, in theory that is, but as a general rule you can be freer with your family than with just about anyone else.

Sometimes friends can fill the void absence from family leaves, but I have yet to really find that deep of a friendship here. Not to mention, no matter how deep the friendship, they will never know me as well as my family, because they were not there for my past. They didn’t watch me grow up from a cute little kid to a socially awkward middle and then high schooler. The relationship you have with your family is truly unique. Side note, by my definition this does not have to include only blood relatives. The people who have filled these roles no matter what their blood relationship are definitely family.

Anyway, getting back to today, it is such an amazing surprise to have my dad here. I really need this break with him, and the familiarity that comes with it. It’s been a nice reminder that there are more important things than getting into vet school. I am doing everything that I should be doing to get in, and the world won’t end if for some reason I don’t. It has undoubtedly been good for me to be away from my family in order to give me room to grow into myself, but sometimes you still just want your family around you and a phone call doesn’t always suffice.

And sometimes, they may not even realize it, but they step in at just the right moment to make everything seem so much better.

First Impressions Between Parents and Children

Yesterday I was reading an article by Malcolm Gladwell in his book What the Dog Saw, a compilation of really incredible articles on everything from how we respond when disaster strikes to the one that earned the book its title, addressing why dogs respond the way they do to people like Caesar Milan. The chapter I was reading is entitled “The New-Boy Network: What do Job Interviews Really Tell Us.” It was all about how we are able to draw conclusions about people based on a single meeting, or even a single moment.

Supposedly when meeting someone, the handshake is everything, and the article essentially said just that. The first moment you meet someone defines how your relationship will progress from there. It colors everything you think and feel about that person from then on, changing the way you perceive their behavior. As cited in the article, there are many psychological studies that have been conducted to prove that the first impression a person develops will play out over time. In one that was used in the article, people were shown the clip of just the initial handshake and greeting that occurred in an interview. Their assessment, based on only a few seconds of film, significantly matched how the interviewer assessed the interviewee, despite the vast difference in the amount of time spent with the person. It is proven time and time again that the first feeling we get from a person is the feeling that we carry with us.

I find this all fascinating, but it makes me wonder about our relationships with our families, specifically between parents and children. On the parental side, you can’t exactly get a first impression from a baby that is representative of who they will be as a person. I think it is rather generally accepted that a baby is just a baby for at least a few months with hardly a discernable personality beyond how well they sleep and how much they cry. But that isn’t a first impression anyway. The first impression a parent gets, when they first hold that new little being in their arms, is tiny, helpless, and innocent.

Is that why our parents have such a hard time letting us go when we grow up? They have established this impression of us as helpless and completely dependent on them for survival, and it has been proven that we do not easily change our first impressions. On top of that, we reinforced that opinion for a number of years afterwards when we really were dependent on them. But suddenly we don’t need them as much, and we aren’t helpless, so they have to go through the difficult process of overcoming those ingrained ideas that all started the moment they set eyes on us.

On the other side of things is the child. When we are born we have very limited cognitive ability as well as poor eyesight and obviously no experience with the world with which to put our new experiences into context. There is no way, then, that we can establish a first impression in the same way we do when we are older, but that doesn’t mean we don’t establish any. All kinds of books and TV shows featuring pregnant characters have lines like, “Oh she moved, she must like the sound of your voice!” or some other variation thereof. Babies especially respond to their mother’s voices while still in utero. After a baby is born, parents often play the sound of a heartbeat to soothe a newborn by giving them a familiar, comforting sound.

These things indicate that a baby, even before birth, is aware of its surroundings and assigns certain emotions to stimuli. This is not too different from what makes up a first impression. When we meet someone we see something about them or hear how they say something and interpret it, deciding whether we like or dislike it based on past experience and therefore assigning an emotion to it.

Say someone strongly shakes your hand and makes direct eye contact with you. To you this makes them seem confident and decisive, but it reminds you of a boss you once had that would publicly yell at you and your coworkers for minor offenses, so the handshake intimidates you. Now you have assigned the emotion of fear to this person so the next time they come up to you, you are primed to feel anxious.

A baby hears its mother’s voice and heartbeat from the time it first develops the ability to hear in the warmth and safety of its mother’s womb. When it is born, the baby sees, smells, and feels its mother for the first time, and when it hears her voice, it associates her with the security of the womb. So that was a really long way of getting to the point that the baby’s first impression of its mother is that of all-encompassing, 100% safety and security. The same kind of experience applies to the father, minus the in utero part, of course.

The words and actions of small children play out this impression, where their parents are the ultimate source of security and protection. I have even read stories of abused children who believed they deserved the treatment, because it makes more sense to a child that they deserve it than that their parents are imperfect and would actually try to hurt them. In one story (I unfortunately don’t remember where I saw it, but it may have been an episode of Oprah or Dr. Phil or something), a boy would not tell a police officer what went on at home until he was told that his dad gave permission. As soon as he heard that his dad said it was okay, he told them everything. That is the strength of a child’s impression of their parents as perfect, if not superhuman beings.

So between a parent and a child you have a parent who views the child as helpless and dependent, while the child views the parent as the perfect source of ultimate security. It’s no wonder then, that puberty is such a difficult time for everyone involved, when the children stop being so helpless and the parents stop seeming so perfect. It’s a time when everything that was true for years comes undone and must be reevaluated. A process that we are proven to be poor at.

Of course there are many other factors that go into the relationship between parents and children, but to me this seems to explain a lot about the struggles I have been having with my parents the past few years. If you have any thoughts, I would love to hear them!

No More Apologies

You know, I realized today how much I apologize on here. I apologize that my posts aren’t funny or because I think they are too wordy or confusing. And I realized that I shouldn’t be doing that.

As much as I want people to enjoy reading what I write, I started this as therapy for myself, to help me work through all of the thought bouncing around in my head and figure out who I am. And I shouldn’t feel I have to apologize for what I am thinking. This is absolutely not to say that anyone has said or done anything to make me feel I should apologize. It all comes from within myself and a desire to be likeable or pleasing to others, coupled with an awareness that real people are reading my words and a feeling of obligation to provide pleasure to my readers.

I am painfully aware of how often my posts lack positivity, so I feel like I have to apologize for bringing people down. There is so much bad in the world that I hate the idea of adding to the negativity. However, I never feel a stronger desire to write than when I have something heavy on my mind. So maybe that’s what a diary is for so I don’t subject everyone else to some of my darker thoughts, but I enjoy sharing. 
I’m trying to get better about keeping things to myself, since I have a bad habit of telling my entire life story to everyone I meet, and this is a big part of that. It gives me an outlet for those things I refrain from sharing so I’m not overwhelmed by bottling it up. I’ve tried journaling before and it always ended up making me feel worse. I would allow myself to spiral into a worse place than I started. Having an audience gives me a reason to turn the post around and end on a positive note, even if it’s just a reminder that we can try again tomorrow.

So yes, my writing is sometimes, or often a bit of a downer, but that doesn’t mean I have to apologize. I have always highly valued authenticity, and that applies to this too. I am not going to pretend things are wonderful if they aren’t. Sometimes they are wonderful and I will share that too, but the bad comes along with the good. And the great thing about this whole project is that if someone doesn’t like it, then nobody is forcing them to read it.
I don’t have to apologize for being serious and thinking deeply and having issues. I don’t have to apologize for sharing my real thoughts. And I certainly don’t have to apologize for being myself.