Sunday, May 30, 2010

Why and How

I had decided that a career in veterinary medicine could be very satisfying to me, and I started to explore everything that would mean, the work itself, what was necessary to enter the profession, everything I could. It became very clear very quickly that veterinarians, n the whole specialize. Broadly, specialties fall into the major categories of small animal (principally common companion animals such as cats, dogs, lagomorphs, etc.), large animal (live stock, etc.) and exotics (zoo animals and I think wild animals may fall into this area as well), and epidemiology. Sub specialties are also common either focusing on a particular field of medicine as human medical doctors do (vision, dentistry, cardiology, neurology, etc.) or specific animal species (Horses, Cats and Dogs are probably the most common focus species, but really any animal family or species could be a specialty).

It did not take very long for me to decide what I wanted to focus on: Large animal medicine with a specialty in sheep and/or goats. Practically, it makes sense to me to go into large animal medicine. There are more small animal vets these days than anything else. Exotics is (based on what an acquaintance who IS an Exotic Specialist has told me) a field that attracts steady attention and excitement from prospective practitioners, to enough of a degree that work as an exotic animal specialist (especially working with zoos) remains competitive despite a high washout rate (students who usually shift focus to small/companion animals) when the intimidation on the breadth and potential danger of working with these non-domesticated animals sets in. Epidemiology is an important field that is growing and that I am interested in, but it isn't my highest interest. Large animal specialization is a field that is in decline. A lot of potential veterinarians just don't have the interest in the animals, or the willingness to live in a rural setting. The population of existing vets for large domesticated animals is aging, too. The thing is the need is definitely there for large animal vets. Truly devoted vegans aside, even many vegetarians will engage in the use of animal byproducts (wool, leather, dairy, honey, etc.) and the broader part of most major cultures in existence today is dependent to some degree or another, though they may not think about it, on livestock for a portion of their diet, clothing, medicine and other commodities. I am neither vegetarian or vegan myself. I doubt I ever will be (though I've had some great vegan and vegetarian meals over the years). I do think that livestock farming could stand some major reform; I am principally opposed to factory farms or hormone induced stock animal enhancement. That said, people are going to continue using animal products for a long time. I would like to be involved in making the lives of those animals as pleasant as possible while I can. I bet this might sound pretty delusional to some people, but I think that it is equally delusional to believe that there will be a worldwide transition to orthodox vegan culture in my lifetime.

Pragmatism aside, I think there is a part of me that holds this interest out of a romanticism and my faith. The romanticism is probably largely founded on the fact that my maternal grandfather, a man I unfortunately did not really know, though I closely resemble him, by all accounts, was a rural veterinarian in western Iowa. There is something about living in a less urban (and especially non-suburban, ugh, suburbs, that's a different conversation though) environment that I find appealing. The relative solitude and quiet would not be unwelcome to introverts like me and Kristin (my wife). I enjoy city life well enough, and the ideal, would be to find a community where suburban sprawl was limited to the point that I could live in a city and practice in easily accessible rural communities. As for faith, as a Baha'i (again, a conversation for a different time) I believe that the work we do, our contribution to society at large is a form of service both to our community, the citizenry of the world, and to God to the degree that service carried out in the spirit of steadfast devotion to God is a form of worship. Furthermore to this, one should endeavor that their work, their service to the community, the world at large and to God, should be that through which they can contribute most greatly to the sustenance and spiritual maturation of humanity. I believe that working with agricultural animals is something that I will do very well and that in fulfilling this role I will be engaging in service to society by helping to keep people fed (and clothed), and the other creatures that share the world with us healthy. Being a professional of this sort will also improve my opportunities for mobility allowing Kristin and I more freedom to relocate should we wish to.

Speaking of relocating that's part of why sheep/goats are my animals of choice to specialize in caring for. New Zealand. There are other parts of the world I could move to as well where sheep are important livestock, but it is very true that in New Zealand sheep outnumber people. From what I've researched about Kiwi Country suburban sprawl is not much of an issue there either, so I could live in Wellington or Auckland or some place, still practice medicine and be in one of the most beautiful climates on earth. Also, sheep and goats are especially versatile animals. It isn't just meat. Both also provide dairy and their fur (goats less so, but still), wool, can regularly be harvested for use in textile production. Raising them, especially in an organic and free range environment, also requires far fewer resources and space than husbandry of cattle or swine. Definitely my favorite domesticated agricultural animals. All this said, I would like to care for other animals as well, I love cats especially for example, but sheep and goats are where it is at for me.

This is subject matter I will doubtless come back to again with some regularity and in greater detail, but I feel this is a good start for the topics. Next time I post I will probably try to talk about what I've done so far to work towards my goal of being a veterinarian. Cheers.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Diverting My Focus For a Moment to Talk About What IS Really Important: Star Wars

I'll return to the primary subject matter of this blog after this post (probably) but given the timing I think I'd like to stop for a moment and talk about something that has been very important to my life. As the title would blatantly indicate that thing is Star Wars. I haven't made an overly strong effort to point it out yet, but I am very much a geek/nerd. This is something that should be rather evident by the conclusion of this entry.

A couple of years ago, about six weeks before meeting the woman who is now my wife, I took it upon myself to be the Game Master of a table top roleplaying game set in the Star Wars universe. I was heavily inspired by the comic book Star Wars Legacy, set approximately 140 years after the conclusion of the film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (that's the first one produced back in the 1970s, with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader and all that for any who don't know). I was enjoying the comic which had only been in print for a few months and realized that telling a story like I wanted to tell would be easiest to do in a point in the fictional time line of Star Wars where there wasn't anything published that my very geeky friends who would be playing could complain I was contradicting by the content of the larger tale I was guiding them through.

Tonight I am bringing this epic story to its conclusion. Part of me will miss it because it's been a great creative outlet for me and something that I get to share with people who I enjoy the company of. Part of me will not miss it for that exact same reason; if I'm pouring most of my creative energy into this activity there isn't necessarily a lot left in me to focus on, say, written work that I could maybe publish, or at least share with the people important to me. It isn't like I'm going to lose the socialization either really. There will be other games with these same people, I just may not be the one running the show.

I think of role playing games (those that involve other people, not single player Final Fantasy video games) as a collective creative process. The player's of the game are the protagonists of the story, and the Game Master works with them to establish the framework and plot elements against which their story unfolds. Not everybody feels this way about role playing. Some people, players and game masters both view the entire experience competitively, an experience that is more adversarial than cooperative. The way I game though I view everything as building and seeing through a particular story. I like closure and I want everybody to have fun. There are no losers, only winners in that type of game. If people are not having fun then I'd prefer not to play the game. I'm just not a very competitive person.

Maybe I'll talk more about the actual story of my game some time, lay out the plot, but I think for now I've made my point. It is hard to face the end of my own personal Star Wars trilogy (that's right, I framed it as a trilogy), but it was fun while it lasted and I find closure rewarding. Hopefully my players, my friends, will not find tonight to be anti-climactic and will leave with positive feelings about this experience. i can talk about sheep and working towards pursuing Veterinary medicine next time.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Intended Destination

My present long term goal, and I realize I wholly neglected to identify it in my foundational post, is to pursue entry into a Veterinary medicine program, complete it and become a Vet specializing in large animal medicine with a sub specialization in sheep and/or goats. Okay, so now that, that is out there the obvious questions this evokes are those of how I came to this decision and why. Let's start with the how.

I've been pretty aimless in my life for a very long time. I had an interest in animals, working with and caring for them, at a very young age but this was derailed during my adolescence by two things that heavily contributed to me losing sight of that for a very long time. One of these was a passion for and interest in comics and other popular media that had me wanting to be involved in the creation of comics (or television programs, video games, feature length movies, etc.) for a while. There's nothing wrong with an interest in being a creative professional, I still have some stories I very much would like to tell and would love to see published/produced in some medium, but creative work, as a vocation, entirely neglects my natural aptitudes for investigation and analytic reasoning that I feel can best be put to use in a scientific career. Furthermore, I was never fully committed to the pursuit of that. I could have attempted to be bold and take the necessary steps, say after college, to relocate to a part of the country where such work would be more readily available and I could develop the necessary connections in media production. I wasn't really producing work in great capacity either and I also wasn't comfortable leaving my existing support system or taking the necessary financial risks.

Why couldn't I take that leap? Well maybe (probably) that can be attributed to the second thing that made it so far for me to realize where I wanted to go with my life: clinical depression. The details of my dealings with depression are something I may delve into at more length another time, but for the purposes of this entry I will keep things as simple as possible and acknowledge the profound negative impact that this malady has had on my judgement and sense of self-worth. Along with that suffering depression led me to some pretty self-destructive ideation and actions. When I REALLY lost sight of the possibility of pursuing a career in the sciences was when I applied for and earned an ROTC scholarship as a senior in High School. For a period of about 10 months I was wholly focused on this, believing that nothing but a military career was appropriate for me, romanticizing the concept based on an obsession with World War II movies and table top and video war games. About six weeks into my freshman year of college I accepted that the US army was not really an organization that was concerned with protecting the civil liberties of all people everywhere, defeating Nazi super villains and seeing justice done. It was (and largely remains) an organization committed to protecting the economic interests of the most powerful citizens and businesses in the United States without regard to the exploitation virtual enslavement and poverty visited on those who have what the American Capitalist class wants (and I use the term Capitalist here in its originally intended sense to refer to one who possesses capital). Disillusioned I left ROTC and proceeded to engage in taking the necessary student loans to finish college. I was pretty much without direction after this other than the half-hearted pursuit of my stated intention to be a writer (or director, producer or similar creative professional). With no real career intent, I ended up majoring in Cultural Studies because I figured I needed to pursue completion of a Bachelors Degree in four years, believed that a Liberal Arts degree was all I was really fit for ( I hadn't had a legitimate science or math class in two years by this time) and that major offered the most classes in a liberal arts program that looked interesting. It isn't a bad thing, my Cultural Studies BA. I had a GREAT academic advisor with whom I maintain a friendship to this day, and I got to watch a lot of movies and write many papers about comic books as texts and as an art form.

After college I spent the following years working in the service sector. I continued to look for other work, additional education required or not, something that would feel more like a profession, a career, than a job. Something I wouldn't get sick of after a year or two on the job. People made suggestions to me and I looked into a few things along the way myself, but as I tried to envision myself in these careers I realized that they would not be able to hold my interest or I flat out wouldn't be happy doing them. Watchmaking and repair? Thorough investigation informed me that I would be becoming a glorified jewelry salesman for elite niche consumer commodities. Teaching? I could have explored teaching English or History, but I have had enough experience as a trainer of other people in my career to date to know I don't want to devote all my time to teaching. A career in higher education is definitely out. If I wanted to dwell exclusively in the realm of academia I would have pursued that immediately after leaving. Library Science? I came back to this one a few times at the prompting of now ex-girlfriends, friends, co-workers and parents and every time I concluded that I had spent enough time doing information management work to know that it would not hold my interest in the long term.

In the Spring of 2009 my Mother commented on how good I am with animals after I successfully trimmed the claws f their rowdy new kitten and said (I'm not sure how seriously she meant it at the time) that I should have been a veterinarian. Something about this resonated and I started to investigate what would be necessary to pursue a career in veterinary medicine in earnest. To a degree it seemed insane to me that I would do this. I hadn't taken a single serious college level course since I gained college credit for Chemistry my senior year of high school. Yet I have found myself motivated to pursue this end and without doubt that it is work that I would find meaning in and never wish to leave out of boredom.

In my next entry I believe I will try to write about what I have done thus far in pursuit of my goal of becoming a large animal veterinarian and perhaps the reasoning behind my intended specialty.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What I meant was . . .

I chose the title, "Walking an Invisible Road," for this blog because I created it primarily as a chronicle and a focus for the pursuit of my career goals, and I believe it accurately reflects my feelings on the process. I HAVE actual goals for my life now, something that is relatively new to me after having been alive for nearly three decades, but I know there are things in life that just cannot be planned or accounted for. There are those diversions and side-trips in almost any journey that just happen. I think in terms of the metaphorical journey of life that these aren't necessarily deviations from the path that lack purpose. I have faith that they are twists and turns, loops, rises and drops in elevation in the actual path that we are walking on; a path that will ultimately lead us to where we need to be. The road is invisible but we are able to walk it without deviating from the path and we arrive at all destinations in due time.

Now that I've attempted to rationalize my decision for the name of this thing I want to acknowledge that I think the title is pretty horribly pretentious. I mean, seriously, Walking an Invisible Road, sounds, to me, like the title of an unsuccessful novel or a self-help book, maybe something in the Christian Inspiration section at Barnes and Noble. Still, I spent almost two days mulling over a title for this little excursion into electronic journaling and this was honestly the least pretentious thing I could come up with that remotely eluded to the intent of the blog. I hope anybody reading this doesn't think I'm too full of myself based on the title alone. Then again I suppose you could be correct. If I'm being honest with myself I have been known to act full of myself but that's usually with comedic intent. Usually.

Okay, I think I've laid the foundation for what I want to do here. In my following posts I intend to discuss the path that has led me to where I am now, events relating to my progress towards where I presently believe my life is leading, and I'll probably throw in some musings relating to my hobbies and maybe some creative writing too. I wish me luck.