In the fall of 2007, I had started my third year of vet school at Tuskegee. We were just starting to dip our toes into the clinical rotation and junior surgery while still having didactic teachings. It is definitely a really stressful time in the TUCVM curriculum. This was also when my family dog was starting to get really old, and my parents were thinking about getting a new puppy.

Fast forward to December 2007 on Christmas Day, to be exact. My parents’ neighbor down the street (they live in the country) had a litter of puppies, and they had three little ones left. The dog owners had decided to keep the male, so that left two females that needed homes. My parents decided to take one, which meant the last female would be alone and unwanted. I didn’t really have time for a puppy with school, but I couldn’t leave her behind. That is when my Tilly stole my heart.

I had been driving a VW Beetle convertible. If you know cars, you know this is small. It wouldn’t work with a lab mix and two cats traveling back and forth from vet school. I made a switch with my Mom to get her 2007 VW Rabbit. It was just the right size.

My little red car took me through the last two years of vet school and graduation. After graduation, I took a job in Las Vegas, and the little red car took me across the country to start my first job as a veterinarian and purchase my first home. I drove my car to Los Angeles, where my husband proposed.

My next destination was Houston, Texas, where I started my second job as an associate veterinarian. My husband and I got married while living here; we traveled around Texas and across the globe. However, I worked more than I wanted, I put too much of myself into my job, and I missed family.

So we moved again. This time my little red car was along for the ride back to South Carolina. I took a short break from veterinary medicine to figure out how to be a relief doctor. Then my car drove me from job to job around the Grand Strand. It carried me to doctor’s appointments with my dad when he was sick. It carried my pregnant belly around town to work and even soothed my sweet baby girl when she wouldn’t sleep.

The years were catching up with the car, the red paint was fading, and the interior liners were starting to sag, but the engine was still in great condition. I did not want to give her up, but she needed some cosmetic work that I didn’t want to put into her, so I went shopping for a new car. I did not want just anyone to end up with my little red VW. She needed a good second home. I drove her back to Greenville, South Carolina, to have some work done on it before I put her on the market.

On my last road trip in my “Old Reliable,” I reflected on all these great life events my car has taken me through. It made me grateful to have been on this journey. Even though there were a great many times, it was sometimes more than I could bear alone. I had started in my career happy and excited, then quickly burned out. I realized I had allowed my career to define who I was and not the other way around.

As a new graduate, there are so many times that you will get discouraged on your journey. Cases will not go as expected, you will have workplace disputes, you will have a patient die unexpectedly, but you cannot let these events define you as a doctor. There will be so many more wins in your career that will give you energy and inspiration. Let your little victories give you confidence.

You are an individual that loves and cares deeply for your patients and clients. This should be only one part of what makes you unique. Do not get so caught up in working up cases in a textbook way. Learn to say no to picking up shifts or taking on extra work. Leave work at work, whenever possible (some cases just should not be forgotten). Spend time with family and friends that are NOT in veterinary medicine. Find a good mentor, one that you can discuss cases and life experiences with.

If you are having a hard time letting your work and personal lives be separate, then now is the time to reflect on your journey. Whatever it has been prior to today, good or bad, it is okay to change your path to give you more clarity. You do not have to be burned out on something that you once were passionate about.

Take a ride in your “Old Reliable” with the music blaring and no particular destination in mind. Reminisce on your journey and then focus on your future goals. Say them aloud, say them again and enjoy the ride.

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