October 7, 2016

Leave a trail

By Amy Smith

As I was processing the amazing month I’ve had in D.C. I was trying to come up with a good summary of everything I’ve learned. There’s no way I could quickly sum up the scientific knowledge I’ve gained from congressional briefings and organization lectures or the civic understanding I’ve obtained by visiting federal agencies and lobbying in congressional offices. I couldn’t fit the career advice that veterinarians have generously shared into a few bullet points. One thing I could describe in a well chosen literary quote, though, is the personal advice that many veterinarians echoed over and over again:

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

A resonating and repeating trend from these vets was that it’s okay to walk a different path than your fellow classmates/colleagues. Each vet we met had a different story and a different reason for ending up where they were. They encouraged Lori and I to be comfortable forging our own paths. They exhorted us to be courageous and live our lives doing jobs we were passionate about and loved. I’m not sure if these vets knew how meaningful that advice was for me. I’ve always been that irritating person who regularly updates her five year plan, but in vet school I have been unable to make decisions concerning my future. I’ve been wandering from one possibility to another with no strong feelings about any one option. I was starting to panic that if I didn’t figure it out soon I would make the wrong decision and end up ruining my life. The veterinarians I met in D.C. showed me that there are no wrong decisions. They showed me that it’s okay to try something out for a year or two and decide it’s not for you. They showed me that it’s okay to change your plan because something amazing and different happens to open up. They showed me that sometimes even when you make the best plans, something better and extraordinarily different happens. These veterinarians gave me a huge amount of comfort and confidence. These veterinarians showed me that it’s okay to not follow the normal, well-trodden paths. These veterinarians showed me what it means to forge a trail and how sometimes that can be your life’s greatest adventure.

Thank you to all of the veterinarians who met with Lori and I over the last month. Thank you for sharing your stories and offering us your wisdom. Thank you for being inspirational.

Washington Monument