Lately I`ve had occasion to dwell [excessively] on how it is I got to where I am today and whether I`ve managed to meet key milestones along the way. I mean, I’m pushing forty! (And my holiday bills are inconveniently at odds with my looming need for a new vehicle.)
On the one hand I`ve achieved every dream I’d accumulated before the tender age of eighteen. On the other hand, when you’re eighteen you don’t know s---.
Since then I`ve had occasion to dream bigger and more fabulously. Leaving Miami did that to me when my middle-class, Cuban-American upbringing yielded to the fancy, upper-class higher education my family helped me secure.
At some point, most medical professionals of a certain age elect to settle down, grow a solid clientele, and milk it with love (or with greedy hands, depending on your perspective). It’s traditionally considered the ultimate measure of success in our profession (and one this Wharton MBA-wielding vet should have managed long ago by all societal standards of normalcy).
My friends see the solution clearly: just do it! They’re befuddled (to put it mildly) by my career choices, passive as they’ve been (I’m not the kind of person anybody confuses for passive). "You have a doctorate in medicine, an MBA, and some money in the bank (not really). Buy a practice or start your own (you idiot)! If you can’t manage that at least go work for Pfizer (you unambitious sloth)!"
But I’m not there yet. Here’s why:
1-I don’t have a lot of money to buy a practice with. (I’d have to give up my house entirely and move my son to smaller quarters further away from his next-door neighbor grandparents.)
2-I`m struggling financially as it is—a kid, student loans, and a big, Miami mortgage are more than enough for me right now, thank you (especially as a single mom).
3-I make [what I consider] decent money working for others without the considerable time-related stress of managing a practice full-time requires. (Who would drive my son to school and put him to bed at night?)
4-I can’t commit. As much as I love my job I’m not quite sure I want to spend the rest of my career practicing full-time. I know I enjoy a wider range of skills than most and may well put them to use more successfully elsewhere. Since practice ownership is such a huge undertaking for the financially challenged the commitment is necessarily life-consuming—so much for my blog, among other rewarding pursuits.
Yet achievement (particularly of the financial variety) in veterinary medicine is equated almost universally with owning a practice. Practice owners average 50 to 100% more income, hour-for-hour, than their associate colleagues. So what is a cash-strapped, commitment-phobic, single-mother to do?
Beyond my own sob story lie thousands of others like mine. Why is vet medicine, like so many professions, a bastion of have vs. have-nots clichés? Why does practicing as top dog always spectacularly out-rank this alpha bitch and others like me? I may as well ask why some of us are born into Calcutta-style poverty or suffer from colon cancer. But it dogs me just the same.
Beneath these metaphysical musings lies a simple truth, inconvenient though it may seem when I ponder the disparity between my unrealized goals and my generous gifts: life is good. Perhaps sub-eighteen-year-olds have a better grasp of reality than we full-fledged adults are willing to admit.