My youngest sister has known what she wanted to do with her life ever since she knew that the career of veterinarian existed. Perhaps she knew before that, some sort of magic womb intuition. Or maybe she is a soul continuously brought back to this flawed world in order to commune with the animal kingdom. Whatever it is that makes one person know, with all the certainty of their being, that there is only one thing they want to do, she has it.
Three years old. Tiny little nymph of a child with a mischievous grin. First words: endocrinal radiology.
Just kidding. But I remember her room: animal alphabet wall paper, single bed more occupied than Noah’s Ark. Stuffies everywhere: Horse, monkeys, bears and a huge larger-than-her bunny rabbit my mother christened Harvey. If we wanted to leap into the bed and cuddle her, and my other sister and I always did (sisterhood is not unlike being lion cubs) we had to accept the lumpy corpses of stuffies and their plastic noses poking at our ribs.
Alas, my poor sister landed like a welcome afterthought in a family whose every member is allergic to animals. No pets, unless they were the kind you could stick in a tank (a rule I still hold to with my own children).
Well. When she was around ten years old ( I can’t remember exactly when- maybe younger) she got into dressage in a big way. So much so that one Christmas, my mother surprised with a big box. In the big box, was a lot of paper and one VHS tape (remember those?). On the tape was a video of her brand new pony, Lollipop.
Now, when I say this story, you must fully comprehend the meaning of a pony in our family. First of all, it was a huge expense. My mother was by no means upper middle class. In fact we were solidly middle class. For my sister to have her own pony, she needed to work off her horse’s board at the stable. She also needed to get her own paper route to defray expenses. She did this, as well as played on soccer and field hockey teams, ballet and school until she graduated from high school. In the summers she worked as a summer girl for some rich Americans who owned a large house on Salt Spring Island.
In short, my sister was always working. When she wasn’t working, she was studying. When she wasn’t studying, she was partying harder than anybody I’ve ever known. Burning the candles at both ends is an expression I’m convinced was tailor made for her.
She continued this gruelling schedule during her undergraduate years. In fact, she worked even harder as she knew that getting into vet school is harder than getting into med school. She was not accepted to the schools in Canada, but this didn’t stop her. She applied to vet school in Melbourne, Australia and was offered funding from the rich American family who had been so pleased and awed by her work during the years.
Work, work, work, work. She continued to kick vet ass during her schooling. After graduating and in between those horrific qualifying exams that the medical professions seem so fond of, she took a trip to Cambodia, Egypt and Nepal, even volunteering at a vet clinic on Egypt. She did her exams, got an internship in Manhattan , then a fancy residency in Madison. Right now, she is completing this residency and planning to go back to Manhattan for a Fellowship which will make her one out of four people in the world who are doing what she will be doing when she’s finished.
And this is the reason I’m writing this post about her now. I received a phone call from her last weekend. She had just completed one of the most stressful times in her career so far (more exams and her presentation of her research for completing her residency) and she had done both with flying colours. But that’s not all. She was approached by a woman who offered my sister her dream job in Vancouver (the city she wanted to live in) as soon as she’s finished her fellowship. Her ability to speak French was the icing on the cake. My sister would be the ideal candidate to speak in Europe. And let’s not forget her very plump six figure starting salary.
Besides, stating the obvious – that I am so proud of her even though I have no idea what her specialisation is (she has tried to explain it to me and all I retain are the words endocrine, radiology and minimally invasive) – I am inspired and not in the Hallmark kind of way.
I mean that my kids are so lucky to have someone like my sister to look up to (except for the smoking. They are not allowed to role model that). She is the living example that if you find something you love, and you work your ass off (it’s true. She has only a small amount of ass left) you can achieve just about anything. And not only for my kids. For me as well. When I’m feeling tired and brain dead and just want to lean back in my chair and pass out, I think of my sister. I think of the work she has put in and the times she must have been discouraged but didn’t give up.
I think of how amazing she is.
Then I slap myself in the face, force my eyes back to the computer and continue working.
Okay. I guess that was a little Hallmark. So sue me.