Recently, a friend of mine asked me about my upcoming plans, as many have done since my return to Colorado. After telling him about my future endeavors of trying to save the world one little street mutt at a time, he then asked me,”What’s the drive?”. My immediate response was my usual, “I am useful here, I am needed here, but I am so much more useful and needed over there”. Apparently, that’s not what he was asking. He quickly shot back with, “No, what do you get out of it?”. I sat for a moment, as I proceeded to almost question the first thought that popped into my mind. I then continued with,”I am not complete if I am not helping others, and what makes me whole is helping the most helpless possible”. The words sounded made up and cliche as they rolled off my tongue in the most natural way. He paused as he thought about my unusual response before giving a nod and said, “To each their own”. As I type this, it may make out his acquisitions to seem insensitive or judgmental, but they were far from it. I knew what he meant.
Throughout the day, I couldn’t help but think of his question. I wasn’t thinking about how it applied to me, but to others close to me. Recently, I have had an uncountable amount of conversations with friends who have found themselves lost. Whether they have been in a career that they feel stuck in, or are just looking for a change, they almost always end up asking me how I somehow found my passion.
We often spend so much time trying to pinpoint an exact career. When you are in college, you may bounce from Major to Major trying to find what fits. Once you have graduated, you may continue the roller coaster of confusion by switching from job to job because it doesn’t feel right. Something is not clicking. But what if we spent less time trying to find a job to make us happy, and spent more time figuring out what fuels us?
For me, I realized a long time ago that what fueled me was helping others. So, I started studying Psychology. I thought that by becoming a psychiatrist, I would fill that need to help people. One day, as fate should have it, something clicked inside of me when bringing my dog in to the Vet. I realized that I wanted to do more than just help people. I wanted to physically be able to help some of the most helpless beings I could think of.
When I originally started my schooling as a Vet Tech, I wanted to work in Zoo Medicine. To be able to treat wildlife, and work with such beautiful creatures in captivity excited me. Well, I hate zoos now, so like said earlier, don’t go looking for a particular job. My gears switched when I partook on a volunteer weekend with Soul Dog Rescue. My roommate at the time and I needed volunteer credits for a class, so we decided to drive our little car down to New Mexico on random weekend in November. Little did I know that that random weekend would change the course of my entire life. It was a fast paced, whirlwind sterilization extravaganza. Three surgery tables going at once, stacks of crates filled with dogs and cats waiting their turn to be pre-medicated, and doctors and technicians working in full force. We were in charge of the recovery area, and at the time it was one of the greatest responsibilities I could have ever been given. By the end of the weekend, 132 animals had been sterilized and home to their owners on the Indian Reservation. I was exhausted, sore, and high on life. It ignited this fire inside of me that never went away. I wanted to feel this exhausted and sore and beaten every day of my life, as long as it meant that I also felt the pure adrenaline rush of surgery and ultimate satisfaction of saving lives that could have possibly not stood the chance before. I immediately changed courses and focused all my efforts into rescue work and shelter medicine.
After my final classes were passed, I applied for the internship position at The Dumb Friends League. This was not the easiest thing I have done, that’s for sure. My grades were not top notch, and I doubted myself of ever getting the chance to apply to such a large, well known shelter. Once again, fate stepped in when I wasn’t listening, and my dear friend who I had worked with during Soul Dog Clinic weekends urged me to apply. She even wrote the Manager a personal recommendation on my behalf without even my knowing. It was after that recommendation, the Manager reached out to me when I was still too nervous to be rejected. The rest was history.
Now, I have the ultimate privilege of working at that shelter I was so scared to even consider adding to my internship list.
Last year, I was given the opportunity to travel with Underdogs Rescue to Thailand. We visited the Elephant Nature Park where we raised the funds to have upwards of 37 dogs flown to Colorado for adoption. The shelter at the park had around 500 dogs in it, all that were saved from mass poisonings, floods, and the meat trade. It was real deal, work with what you got, shelter medicine in very difficult conditions…and I wanted more of it. For a second, I thought that the fire inside me that had started years before couldn’t get any bigger; that was until I visited that shelter in the jungle of Thailand. By the end of the week, I was confirming my trip back.
I found what fueled me. It’s not a specific job that got me to where I am today, but it was a fire that only keeps growing with every experience.
It wasn’t until I was riding on the back of a motorbike with my badass rescue partner in crime that I finally realized all of this. Everything was immediately put into perspective. We were on a dirt road headed back from going to examine a dog with a severe maggot infested wound. We were deep in the hills, not exactly sure how we had gotten there or where we were. He drove past a turn off that instantly caught my eye. I remember longing to go down the steep dirt path that led to who knows where. Just as I had started to look back to the main road ahead, he stopped the bike as if he had read my mind and said,”Woah, that road is far too winding not to take”. I giddily laughed and cheered him on to turn around. We had no idea where it was going, but the cliff side road that look untouched seemed too tempting not to take. That was it. In that moment it was as if everything flashed in front of me. I never knew exactly what I should be doing when, but just followed what fueled me. Sometimes the roads that don’t seem to be the easiest, the uncharted territories next to steep cliffs, are the ones we need to take to keep fueling us.
Take the winding road, even if it’s not the one you were on in the first place.