Thanks, Paul

Despite my promise to myself that I would blog more frequently, I’ve been a very poor blogger lately. Tonight, if I’m being 100% honest, I’m only procrastinating studying for a neurology exam (I’ve already read through the 121 pages of required information once, but a second time just seems dreadful at this point). Yes, this week it’s a neurology exam. Last week it was zoonotic diseases and urinary where the week before was reproductive systems. It’s a never ending cycle of exams every Monday (and the occasional Friday) that is leaving me feeling burnt out. Originally, we had two weeks of intense examinations followed by a month off where we were just responsible for classes and maybe the occasional assignment or two. This caused a lot of complaining during those two weeks of high stress and in an attempt to ease our burden, the administration decided to try a new schedule of one (or so) exams every week from the beginning of the semester until early November, at which point we would have about a month before finals. Though this eliminates the two weeks of intense stress, we now never get a break from studying. It never feels appropriate to slack off and watch Netflix because there’s always a huge grade on the line within the next few days. Some people really like it, but I’m experiencing burnout.

Throughout my existence as a caffeinated stress-ball, I’ve had unrelenting support from my wonderful boyfriend, Jeff. With our three-year anniversary coming up in a few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about our past and how we got here, as well as where we’ll be going in the future.

Jeff and I went to high school together, but traveled in totally different circles. We’d later find out from our parents that we actually went to preschool together, but neither of us remember this. We had mutual friends and were even both officers in our National Honor Society, but didn’t interact much aside from an occasional greeting. We both had long-term relationships in high school, so there was never a romantic interest, and once we graduated I didn’t think we’d see each other again.

I’m not sure if it’s out of a fear of growing up and losing touch with our childhood or just the desire to show everyone that after high school you really blossomed, but everyone followed each other on social media after graduation. Back then, I loved twitter and I sat in my freshman dorm up late one night bitching to my followers about the train outside my window that had been going off for the last three hours due to maintenance. My friends and I referred to the automated warning as “Paul” and I give him at least half of the credit for Jeff and my relationship today.

Somehow my posting lead Jeff to comment and soon lead to direct messages asking about how our first years away at school had gone. Our high school sweethearts hadn’t lasted and when we both went home for summer vacation, we made plans to meet up and “hang out” because dating isn’t really a thing of my generation.

Our summer together was sweet, but our schools were four hours apart by car and eight hours apart by bus (he didn’t have a car at the time) and distance didn’t appeal to either of us. We found reasons to argue and push each other away and soon decided it was just easier to call it quits and go back to school than keep fighting about how we would proceed. It wasn’t long until I heard from him, though.

I missed him. We clicked differently than I had felt with anyone else. I asked him to come visit and he did – he kissed me as soon as he got off the bus and I was in love. I’d tell him that a few months later and it would take a while before he said it back, but I didn’t care. I knew that he loved me in the way that he looked at me and I wasn’t afraid to say it out loud.

We were long distance until I graduated from Delval and even longer distance after I moved to Ohio, totaling just over two years apart. We fought like mad. It took a long time to learn how we each communicated and if he wasn’t just a stubborn as I was, it wasn’t by much less, so our arguments were loud and emotional and lasted for days. I remember crying to my best friend and telling her that I didn’t know what to do because I knew that I loved him, but we just couldn’t communicate apart. Text messages led to confusing mixed signals and being busy sometimes seemed like blowing each other off. Skype was great if a connection could hold, but it still wasn’t always enough. Two years is a long time to practice and we eventually learned that we needed to make time to see each other as often as possible and to try and give the person the benefit of the doubt before being hurt by a miscommunication.

I remember him coming to visit me one time while we were on winter break. Since I worked at the equestrian center, I had to spend part of my break working before I could go home. Though we weren’t supposed to have visitors, no one ever checked, and he stayed with me the extra week that I was there then we drove up to New York together. It was nice going into work on a freezing morning at 5:45 to feed the horses and clean stalls, then come home, toes and fingers freezing, to a warm bed with a cuddly boyfriend in it. I had a dinner shift once that I came home from to find him making a dorm-room dinner. We had grapes, cheese and crackers, mac’n’cheese, and wine. For dessert, we had a brownie cake from the grocery store down the road and vanilla ice cream. We ate this in bed in our pajamas trying to stay warm because the school had a tendency of forgetting about the workers and shutting off the heat. That night, we walked the abandoned snow-covered campus to the frozen lake and sat in the gazebo talking about life. In all of the craziness I put myself through, he was my calm, and he still is.

He still plays with my hair when I start to get sleepy and rubs my back when I get stressed out. He ignores me when I start to lose my mind over something trivial and makes me dinner when he thinks I haven’t eaten (and I haven’t, cheese-its are not a food group and I need to stop pretending they are). Though I do my best to show him that he means the world to me, I don’t think that he will ever truly know. I hope to spend the rest of my life with him trying to make sure he understands.


Strings and Other Things

When I was first asked what I wanted to be, I said a doctor. Not an animal doctor like now, but a people doctor. I wanted to work for my pediatrician because she was nice to me and had lollipops. I wanted to drive my pink battery-operated ride-around Barbie jeep to work because it was fast and cool and I didn’t mind that one person had to get out and push it up the hill because, after all, it was batteryoperated. We would drive that thing around the backyard as kids, my first ever friends Anthony, Caroline, Colin, and I. When it rained, we’d get stuck in the mud. When it snowed, we’d push it up the hill pulling our sled. And when there was a bee inside it, we’d send Anthony first because he was a small human tank and didn’t understand pain.

The second thing I ever wanted to be was an author. As you can probably tell, I’m no professional, but I loved poetry as a kid and even got published in a few children’s books. I read everything I could touch and wrote almost every day. I’d write poetry, short stories, and songs – which brings me to my third job I ever wanted.

My mom made me play piano when I was a kid. I wouldn’t say that I hated every single second of it, but there was a lot of crying involved. When given the opportunity to play the violin, I all but kicked the piano trying to get to my new strings. There were few things I loved more than my violin. Having taken piano, I knew how to read notes which really helped move me along. I played in the school orchestra, took private lessons, competed in solos, small ensembles, and full orchestras. I was really good. I didn’t mind playing for seven hours some nights, from as soon as I got home until I went to bed only stopping to eat some food (vegetables, I was vegetarian for 12 years of my life). I don’t play much now; I live in a quiet apartment and it’s a loud instrument. I’d give anything to be that good again.

I’d also like to be as good at speaking Spanish as I once was. Yes, I took nine years of Spanish, starting in the after-school programs in third grade all the way through to graduation. I went to Spain and Italy with my senior class and it opened my eyes to an entire new world. Unfortunately, there were no upper-level Spanish classes at Delaware Valley University, and if you don’t use it, you don’t retain much of it over time. I still enjoy reading a Spanish book or watching a movie from time to time, though.

There’s a lot more to me than vet school – sometimes it’s hard to remember that. I love nature and being outside. I love exercising. I love to play my violin, spend time with friends, bake, read books, watch movies, enjoy other cultures, ride horses, and write. I need to make time for these other things, especially when vet school is taking its tolls on me. I need to remember why I’m here and how to enjoy it. Everything is hard – hell, we had to push the jeep up that hill.

I have had two instances that were extremely similar in my life time, once in high school and once in college. I believe that they were meant to inspire me and push me to do better things and in some ways they did, though the words that were spoken have stayed with me all of my life and caused a tinge of resentment that I can’t seem to forget.

When I was in high school, I took as many Advanced Placement, or AP, courses as possible to try and look good to colleges. This included AP Biology which I absolutely dreaded. I loved the content and material, but the course was dull, the professor was more dull, and the text book was a fine-print ramble of information. I struggled to pay attention in class, I put the homework off until the last minute, and I didn’t study for tests until the evening before. Though I managed to score A’s on every test and had the highest score on the AP final exam, the professor told me that I would never be successful in what I wanted to do due to my attitude about things. I hadn’t thought I had been outward in expressing my feelings on the class and I had always tried to be polite, but I imagine that I only hid so much.

The same thing happened to me in college chemistry. Though I performed quite well through intro chemistry (and would later shine in organic chemistry and biochemistry), I struggled with the main chemistry course. The material was intangible, the labs did not apply, and I just could not find a way to apply the material to anything in my life. So, once again, I did as little as I could in the class to perform well. Despite finishing with a good grade, the professor told me that I didn’t stand a chance of getting into vet school without a solid understanding of chemistry, which I clearly did not have nor desire to have. Despite the way I viewed the class, I truly looked up to the professor prior to this comment and enjoyed the life experiences he shared with us on a daily basis. To hear these words come from him crushed me. I remember second guessing if this was what I was meant to do.

But I did it anyway.

The Barn on the Hill

When I was little and working on the farm where it all began, I used to take horses out on the trail to get them accustomed to the environment so kids could ride them safely. The farm hosted a camp where kids came every summer, which was how I learned about the place to begin with. One pony that no one aside from me ever rode would never be a children’s mount, but I still liked to take him out alone when I had some free time. He was underworked because he was over-stupid, so he was a personal project and always willing to leave a few miles behind for a while.

The farm was hilly landscape with the main pasture being one giant slope bordered on the left by a road and behind by a wooded area. The path to the land behind the pasture was typically too washed out to take children on, but with a little encouragement and careful guidance, my pony never had a problem racing up it. Because trail groups rarely went up this way, local wildlife frequented the area. My over reactive mount would jump sidewise at every sound, but still we went on. The terrain only got steeper as we continued and it was always hot. I remember feeling my jeans stick tight to me and smelling my pony sweat as we climbed the hill. I’d stand in my saddle, leaning forward to give him the benefit of my weight as we ascended the slope, broke through the trees and found ourselves in a large open pasture. Anything large and open seemed to look like a race track to my mount as he would dance in circles beneath me and toss me about trying to resist my restraint. I just wanted him to stand still for 5 minutes to take it all in.

Climbing the hill revealed the beautiful farmland of New York. New York never gets any credit for its lush green farmland in the spring or the violent reds and sharp yellows of the trees during the fall; people only ever think of Broadway. Looking out over this hill, though, told the truth about what we have to offer. Looking across to the opposing hill was a red barn with a silver silo. It was too far away to make out any animals that live there, though today I know it’s a thriving dairy farm. To this day it’s the most beautiful thing that I’ve ever had the chance to see, even though the impatient pony didn’t let me fully appreciate its wonder. Not that I minded much, what with getting the chance to blast across the open field on my painted lightning.

Looking back, I made a lot of choices then that I would consider dangerous now. Though I always had my phone on me, taking a wild pony out on my own was probably not the most intelligent decision I’ve made. Neither was riding him bareback and trying to get him to jump over things, which he loudly protested. I came off of him numerous times, but it was a short fall and I never got hurt much.

That’s not to say that I never got hurt on the farm. No one should ever plan on working at a farm and expect to never get hurt. I’ll never forget going to get the wild pony out of his separate pasture down behind the barn. He was kept with other ponies, mostly because when they were in the herd they hustled the other horses away from the gate and caused more than a few horses twice their size to come in limping at feeding time. But the pasture they were in was a bit makeshift and the gate had to be lifted and dragged. The job was really meant for two people and, being impatient, I had tried to attempt it on my own. I lifted the gate to drag through the grass when three ponies convinced they hadn’t been fed in days bullied their way through the gate causing it to snap and me to go down with it. I came home that night with hoof marks in my leg, one that would never completely go away, and bruises the size of grapefruits. My mom was pissed. My pony was grazing next to me.