You do some weird and borderline occult activities in vet school (and, even more disturbing than the activities themselves, grow to consider them perfectly quotidian). Just this week, I've cut a pony in half (not in the way of "watch in amazement, ladies and gentlemen, as I saw my lovely assistant in half, wave a sheet over her with a grand flourish, and reveal her whole once again!", more like "Move the colon to the left or the saw's going to fling preserved horse shit all over!"), spent half an hour trying to remove a set of testicles and penis in a single unit (now there's a life skill), extracted teeth (don't worry, the patients didn't feel a thing ... mostly because their heads were no longer attached to their bodies), and discussed phosphorylation and cholesterol carriers over Thanksgiving dinner. Perhaps the strangest off all is that I thoroughly enjoyed every reeking, grotesque, macabre, and downright absurd moment.
Just as absurd, yet infinitely less disturbing to those not initiated into the secret joys of the anatomy laboratory, is skyping with one's dogs. I tried video chat for the first time today. I saw my parents face-to-face (well, monitor to monitor) for the first time in months; it made me smile. I saw my dogs for the first time in just as long; Jason looked right at me and wagged his tail at my voice; it made me cry, damn near broke my heart. I could see him, he could hear me, but I couldn't reach out and touch him, and he couldn't understand why.
Over the past few months, as the hole left by my family's absence has gradually widened from a crack in the sidewalk to what at times is a gaping abyss of loneliness, I resolved to stay strong, not to break down, not to take measures to relieve the emotional pangs by begging Mom to come visit or getting a dog of my own. I thought that satisfying my heart's cravings would be weak, that holding out until it became absolutely unbearable was a mark of mental fortitude and strength of character. I used to play this game with physical hunger, seeing how long I could go, feeling like I had beaten some sort of game with every hour that ticked by that I withstood my body's demands. I would say to myself, "It's only a few more hours until the next meal. You'd be weak and pathetic not to survive until then." This time, it wasn't counting down until dinner, but until December, until I would fly home and reunite with everyone, clear-headed and dry-eyed, and impress them all with how stoic I'd been. I've learned that denying one's needs and desires is not strength; it proves only how stubborn you are, not how strong. True strength is admitting when you're hurting, when you need help (help meaning Mom and Dad, more often than not), and not being afraid to let people see you cry. I'm happy to report that I am now secure and confident enough to recognize that needs are not weaknesses, that oftentimes bellies should be filled before the clock strikes exactly noon, and that sometimes the need for a family member cannot wait until the day of a flight back home. But I couldn't bring my family to me or me to them - what now? Make a new addition to the family. Sport has been occupying my couch, bed, and kitchen floor for two weeks now; he'll be occupying my heart for quite a few years to come.