My path has not been exactly what I imagined, but isn’t that the way it usually goes? If you had asked me 20 years ago where I would be today, I would have told you that at almost 45 years old, I would have two decades of clinical work under my belt, and possibly own a veterinary hospital. Life is full of great surprises.
My childhood loves: Books and animals
As a child growing up in Northeast Ohio, I loved books. My parents joke about hiding my books at the bottom of the toy box, hoping that I would play with my other toys on my way to the bottom, as I inevitably dug them out. I wrote my first book at age 5, about a cat who had kittens in a box. My mother and grandmother bought copies of the stapled papers for 50 cents apiece. After I was first officially published, my mother gave her copy of the yellowed book back to me. She had kept it, because she was sure I would write real books one day.
In school I loved science, particularly biology. I wasn’t exactly a tomboy—I definitely don’t do sports—but if a puddle or creek possibly had frogs, salamanders, or crayfish, I was all in. I still love doing those things with my sons. I am fascinated by animals and bugs. Snake wriggling through the grass? I’m the one who tries to get a better look, while everyone else runs away. Spider in the house? I usually help it outside, especially if it’s a cute, big-eyed, jumping spider.
My other childhood loves were our family dogs, most notably an incredibly smart shepherd mix named Maxie. Maxie knew my sisters and I by name, and loved Christmas morning so much that we had to hide her presents to prevent her from opening them early. And, she was my first major surgery—a splenectomy.
A bend in the road
In college, I majored in biology at the College of Wooster, a quiet, private, liberal arts school in Ohio. I was pretty sure I wanted to be a veterinarian, so the summer before my junior year, I called veterinary hospitals listed in the phone book until I found one willing to hire me. I worked two summers for an old-school veterinarian, to ensure that veterinary medicine was my true calling.
I was elated when I was accepted to Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Veterinary school was a blur of long classes, weekend-long study sessions, and, finally, clinicals. Looking back, I remember few details from those four years, but I gained invaluable knowledge and experiences.
After veterinary school, I worked as an associate veterinarian for two Columbus-area practices. However, as much as I loved animals, medicine, and surgery, I felt like something was missing. Practice was not as fulfilling as I expected. Yet, when I was offered a veterinary technician instructor position at a local community college, my first instinct was to refuse. I went to veterinary school “to be a veterinarian,” not to teach, I rationalized. “But,” I thought, “What if this position is a 9-to-5 job, with no weekend or holiday obligations, that would allow me more time with my growing family?” I was now married, with a 6-month-old son. So, I decided to try, despite my fear of public speaking.
It took a while, but I found my groove. This was a new program, so I built the curriculum from the ground up, and would spend nights after my son went to bed writing notes and powerpoint presentations for the next day. The RVT who was hired as program director quit after two months, and I was promoted. During my first annual review, the Director of Education told me that I succeeded, not because I was naturally good at teaching, but because I refused to give up. I treasured those words. They did not mean I was not talented—they meant that I had worked hard and succeeded, which meant much more to me.
Always a writer
I wrote a lot during my 15 years as an educator and program manager, developing curriculum, writing accreditation reports, and creating operating procedure binders. I was known as our department’s editor. When an instructor wrote something they were unsure about, they asked me for advice, knowing they would get their paper back with plenty of purple—they say to never use red—ink.
In 2015, I saw a post advertising for writers for the anatomy book I taught from. I submitted a writing sample, and got the “job.” It paid little, but I wanted to get my foot in the door of professional writing. After completing my chapter, the editor called to ask if I would be interested in working on a larger project with her. I joked, “As long as it isn’t McCurnin.” It was. Dr. Dennis McCurnin’s Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians and Nurses is known as the “vet tech Bible.” The book contains 37 chapters and more than 1,200 pages, and includes every topic a veterinary technician student studies. Although being one of three co-editors for the textbook was a daunting proposition, I considered being asked an honor, and I could not turn down the opportunity. Over the past six years, I have worked on the 9th and 10th editions.
A new chapter
That takes me, finally, to Rumpus. In 2018, a co-worker told me about a Facebook post asking for help writing blog posts. I contacted Sarah, and started writing pet owner-facing content on a freelance basis. One year later, when she had already started joking about me leaving my teaching position to work for Rumpus full-time, I found out the college where I worked would be closing. I officially became Rumpus’s chief operating officer in early 2020.
I am fairly introverted, and worried about working from home. I pictured not talking to anyone outside my family for days on end, and never changing out of my pajamas. But, I have frequent meetings with the Rumpus team and our clients, and love the flexibility of working from home. I do put on actual clothes—most days.
I feel that I have landed in the perfect position. Little did I know that my love for books, and a knack for writing and editing, could lead to this unique, niche position that seems made for me. When I am asked to advise new graduates, veterinarians or otherwise, I always tell them to be open to unanticipated possibilities. After all, I would not be where I am today—with a fulfilling career, wonderful family, and time to enjoy both—if I had not taken risks and strayed from the path I envisioned. My career is not at all what my 20-something self imagined—it is much better.