When I was 3, I was asked what I wanted to do as a grown up. Easy: "I want to be a vet". The plan was still there when I applied for University. My father said maybe it was unrealistic to expect that my childhood dream could still be what I really wanted to do in life. Plus, we were new arrivals in Australia, my mum was studying to try to get her degree recognised in Australia and there was no money to send me interstate to study. The vet course was not available in Adelaide at the time.
Then when I finished my medical degree (it seemed like the next best thing at the time); I looked into it again. Would I go to Uni and do a vet course even though I'd spent 6 years as an undergraduate and finished two degrees? At the time, my partner was not keen to move interstate, so instead, I did my intern year and had my first child the following year. My nurturing nature took to motherhood like a duck to water. I had a second child soon after and dedicated all my efforts into making two new humans, with good morals, intelligence, ambition and compassion. We had 17 animals in our household, because I loved them, and they were a fantastic learning tool for children. How to treat people and adapt to their needs: we don't chase cats, we wait for them to come to us. We don't bother the hen when she is sitting on her eggs, we are gentle with the rats because they are little, we don't frighten bunnies, and we must certainly go to time out if we hit the dog, because the dog has a right to feel safe in our home, just like the people.
Then when the kids were a little older and I was deciding where to take my career next, I looked into the new Adelaide course. Could I go back to Uni for another 6 years and become a vet? I put it out of my mind yet again and decided to embark on a career in Emergency medicine, which so far had been the only area of medicine that made me feel enthusiastic. 3 years into the training, my husband decided that he did not love me anymore and that our goals in life were different. I was angry, sour. I was faced with financial implications and time restrictions which meant my personal goals needed to come second, (third even), to my kids and the mortgage. I quit Emergency training and went to do General Practice. My intention was to secure a lifestyle that allowed single parenting, time for kids and income for bills and schooling.
Over the years, the dream of veterinary science became just a dream. Getting the kids through school and catering to their dreams became the priority.
I have now been a doctor for 20 years. I'm good at it, I work hard to be a good doctor. But my passion remains going home to 12 pets. Needy, dirty things that give me more pleasure in a couple of hours before I go to bed than an entire working day does.
My children are now 19 and 18. I have made two humans, and I know that the demands of motherhood do not diminish. The mortgage is still there, and the unhappiness of going to work every day instead of staying home with my animals still remains. Over the last 3 or 4 years I have once again looked at my options when it comes to going back to vet school. It turns out my degree is so old, I don't even have a GPA, as they didn't give you one in the late 90s. My qualification does not guarantee any recognition of prior learning, and the University fees are now triple what they were two decades ago.
The vet course requires 40 plus hours on campus for 6 years, at a campus 1 hour away from home. When on earth would I work? At night? Last year, I decided it was impossible, and decided to leave the dream behind. Accept that you are old, Heidi. The dream is over.
Someone asked me the other day what I liked best about medicine. I answered: "I don't really, the science is fun, but getting up every morning is a struggle".
What do you want to do?, they asked.
"I wanted to be a vet", I replied. "But I can't, that ship has sailed".
"Because it's a degree with full time contact hours, a 2 hour commute. When would I work? At night?"
They shrugged: "People do it".
People do it.
They do, don't they?
I will never be happy until someone tells me categorically that I cannot do this. I do not want to be a doctor, I never have. I want to be with animals all day. And yes, I can euthanase animals, no, I don't mind that you earn less than a doctor, I am aware that I would be in debt for the rest of my days, and be tired 24/7.
I need to show myself and my kids that I can do anything I put my mind to, they can reach and do.
I will apply, and I will secure night hours in order to finance it.
The thought and the knowledge that I can has filled me with purpose again. I am so excited by the prospect of working with large animals, and learning comparative anatomy. I have the people skills to deal with pet owners, I have the life experience and the determination to make it happen.
I have even decided that the extra 40kg I am carrying need to go so that I am fit and healthy and strong and more likely to succeed.
I think a childhood dream that has never gone away just needs to be made reality. Screw the mortgage!
It will stay there and slowly diminish, but I am tired of slowly diminishing with it. I need to do this so I can stay alive. Watch this space.
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