This has been the number one question of the past year or so. Why would I spend 5 long years at Glasgow University Vet School and throw that all away to change career so soon? It wasn't just 5 tough years at University. A good few years before I even started Vet School I was working hard to get as much experience as possible not only in veterinary practices but also in kennels, dairy farms, sheep farms for lambing, stables, wildlife centres etc. Plus the endless hours of study and shutting myself away in my dining room at home to get straight A's at A-Level. So all in all it was probably 8 years that were spent dedicating my life to graduating as a veterinary surgeon.
Hmmm, indeed. Why did I "give it all up"? That's exactly it. I haven't "given up" veterinary. I am simply exploring another of my many passions. I don't identify myself as someone who would dedicate their entire life to one discipline, past-time or path of learning. I thrive on variety be it my training, my food, my learning, my travel, my dreams and my goals. I have been a fully qualified vet for 5 years. 5 incredible years that I will never regret and I will never EVER regret dedicating my life for so long to being a vet. It made me the strong, analytical, confident and independent person that I am. I have travelled the world volunteering for charities in remote places to help animals where they need it most - the whole reason I decided to pursue a career as a veterinary surgeon. I would repeat vet school all over again. They were the best years of my life to date.
However, like every job there are highs and lows. In veterinary, these lows can be too low for many. I unfortunately know of far too many people who have taken their own lives from the stress and strains and depression that a veterinary career can force on you. One dear friend was my sanity rock during a few months working at the PDSA, a UK vet charity. She showed nothing on the outside. So fun, down to earth, realistic and in the same boat as me. She had become a locum vet, like myself, to try and get some more control and balance back in her life. With the stress of the job, on-call shifts, long hours, sleepless nights etc, becoming a locum vet (essentially a self-employed vet) can help ease some of those pressures. Making this change in her life was all that I really knew about her struggle but I had no idea how deep it ran. It still breaks my heart that it was too late for her. She took her own life at the beginning of last year and it knocked me sideways. She set up a group to help others like her in the veterinary profession, to help us to try and voice our genuine concerns and what has to change in the industry. It would take a few separate posts for me to even start going into what and why but just know, it's a much bigger problem than the vast majority realise.
The first morning back at work after the news - I stayed in my car in the car park petrified of walking into the practice having to tell my team what had happened. It took a phone call from my parents before I was able to walk inside. I did a morning of consults before I tried to even start to speak about it as I couldn't for trying not to cry. It still affects me now and I can't imagine what her family and friends are still facing. I won't go any further into this as this post was not meant for solely illustrating this side of my veterinary career and I don't want it to distract from my reason for actually writing this post. Like I said, I haven't given it up and I don't regret it. I just realised there were starting to be too many low days and my current state of mind needed another focus and direction to see if there was a better way to live. Not necessarily for the long term, I just wanted to give myself an opportunity to try something different, before I felt I couldn't.
So, why a personal trainer of all other career paths? Since I can remember I have had a huge passion for all things sport be it participating, watching, coaching or cheering on. I am also quite inclined to challenging myself with my fitness and it is fair to say I am quite competitive..! I LOVE learning about the physiology and anatomy of the human body and how it functions at its best in a plethora of different situations be it for strength, performance, speed, injury recovery, sleep, stress, disease etc. It filled me with such excitement to even think about studying again in something I have such interest for. This is where my 2 years of madness started. I was a full time veterinary surgeon studying online for personal training with Train Fitness and another year long course in nutrition coaching with Body Type Nutrition and all the while managing to train once and quite often twice a day for triathlon.
Well, I obviously qualified and made one of the biggest decisions of my life. I called the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RVCS) and cancelled my membership and I was no longer a registered veterinary surgeon. That was a big day..!
I started my career in a dream job at SIX3NINE in Covent Garden. A gem of a private studio in central London and one where I had been a client myself. An amazing journey in itself actually. 2 years prior to working there I treated myself to a PT and I was a member for 6 months. Trained by the Nutrition King himself, Dan 'Pricey' Price. I attended many of their workshops and was lucky enough to be one of the first students for their SIX3NINE Academy for PT's. So to then be approached for interview to be a part of their team a few months after qualifying was a dream come true. A team that couldn't be more knowledgeable or more supportive in my new career. Especially through my injury (fractured collar bone) and pulling out all the stops to help cover my clients and ensure I recover in the quickest and best way possible. The belief they had (and have) in me was unwavering and I am still pinching myself that they had the faith in me to take me on, mentor me and make me the personal trainer I am today. Even when I made the decision to move to Paris in May this year, they were very supportive and I hope to continue to keep a strong relationship. If they ever need anything they know where I am.
It has been my dream to have my own business and this career path has given me that. That is not to say I will never be a practicing vet again. If anything I would like to dedicate a lot of time where I can to volunteering as I said previously - to help where it is needed most. I have made many lifelong connections in the veterinary industry and my loyalty will remain with many and I will always help wherever I can. For now, my energy is focused on being the best personal trainer and nutrition coach I can be - plus a lot towards triathlon as I really do love that!
To anyone else thinking of whether they want to have a go at a different career. Just do it. It is better to regret something you have done than something you haven't. Worse thing that happens? Yes you might fail, but knock backs are what make you realise what is worth it and what you truly want. You have a qualification already under your belt and you can always fall back on that. Whatever you want to do, make connections now, stay fresh in their minds. You really don't know the potential opportunities that await.