Vacation: A Time To Relax OR A Time To Get Ahead?

Here I am, enjoying my “last summer of freedom” before I devote myself to a career that doesn’t exactly embrace the Monday through Friday 9-5 schedule that so many people are used to (much less the luxury of summers off that we, students, and teachers alike enjoy). While I am enjoying my “vacation” time, I have taken note of the variety of ways that my classmates have chosen to spend their “last summer of freedom” and it got me thinking that students (and professionals alike) can view “time off” very differently.

In my experience there are two mentalities that students have towards vet school and their time off (some may call it vacation, but that word doesn’t truly apply to one of the two mentalities).

The first mentality is the student whose vocabulary lacks the word “vacation.” Mentioning the word in conversation with these individuals results in looks of such confusion that you start to question whether your words were spoken in Farsi. These individuals consider their profession to be their life and spend as much of their “free time” (i.e. vacation, time off, etc.) pursuing endeavors that will further their career or make them a better vet.

The second mentality is the student that highlights their vacation days on their calendar months or years ahead of time in eager anticipation of those sacred days off. These students treasure their vacation time and do everything they can to make sure that their vacation time is a break from their work. These individuals are not necessarily worse at their jobs or less eager to learn and improve, but they know that, for them, vacation is meant to help relax them and restore their energy so that they can be a better vet.

I personally tend to be more aligned with the latter mentality. I work hard, but I know that my ability to work so hard is dependent upon my ability to take a break from time to time and let my mind reset. When I am able to do this, I come back to work with a reignited passion for what I do and a clear head that seems to work better after having received a break from the day to day jumble of cases and clients that can get so overwhelming.

While these two mentalities are not completely mutually exclusive, we tend to be more like one than the other. While we cannot really change the way we function, I want to emphasize how healthy and important it is to switch mentalities every so often; it helps create more balance in your life and you will often be amazed at how rewarding the experience is.

For instance, the summer after my second year I spent taking a break from school and enjoying some free time before 2 straight years of school without much time off as “vacation.” Despite the summer being designated as “vacation” time, I scheduled myself to be at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis for two weeks doing essentially the same things I will do in my fourth year clinical rotations. These two weeks were intense and yet incredibly worthwhile. Not only did I find my passion for veterinary medicine reignited, but I also amazed myself by my competency thus far both in my ability to diagnose as well as communicate with clients in an effective and comforting manner. My experience, which I will write about again at a later date, turned my feelings of anxiety about my fourth year clinical rotations into feelings of excitement.

Just remember, no matter how you view your free time, sometimes it’s nice to switch it up and do something out of the norm. You will find yourself feeling refreshed by the novelty of the experiences you have and become a more well-rounded individual overall.

And now, back to my vacation… 😉