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wondering about career direction, animal care, changes at wildlife center, much other mental meandering

October 12, 2010

I’ve been puzzling over what to do for some time now, a very long time. I spent many years in college, more than some doctors, and still didn’t figure it out.

I was a social worker for awhile, and one job I was particularly good at, but it wasn’t good for me and I burned out some years ago. Kinda sucks to find something I’m really good at, but am not up to doing for a long period of time!

I worked with developmentally disabled adults. I took them to activities – stuff to do – mall, library bowling alley, movies, riding on the city bus. It was quite an experience. I was great at that job, but it was SO draining! The company I worked for wasn’t the most ethical either, which made matters worse.

I just burned out. Stopped. Don’t know if I’ll do any form of paid social work again.

A friend asked me if I’d ever given much thought to being a therapist/marriage and family counselor, something like that.

I might be good at that sort of work, but I told her I haven’t given it much thought at all. Have to get a Master’s degree for that kind of work, and many, if not most people with their LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) certificate or whatever don’t find very high paying work and also get stuck pushing papers around all day, or work in VERY high stress county jobs as case workers of one sort or another. Don’t think I want to do that.

I’ve been thinking about working with animals. There is a veterinary technician program at most community colleges. It takes 2 years to be a vet tech – which is an animal nurse. The job does not pay well at all, but only two years of schooling for it is certainly a good thing. Also, I bet the job is interesting. And, job security is high. All the career books and articles I have read in the past few years predict a high demand for vet techs. Nice to have at least some job security.

I don’t have a background in science, and not sure I could learn all that stuff – anatomy and physiology of animals, surgical assistance, pharmacology, all that stuff. That’s not the main thing holding me back, though.

I am often terribly absent-minded – lost in my own head. There are few things I can really really focus on so that my mind doesn’t wander. Being absent-minded is not good in a medical environment, whether it be working with people or animals.


Haven’t exactly gotten a whole lot of training at the wildlife center where I work. I do basic care and feeding, and some handling of birds. I also do a lot of cleaning and scrubbing, because somebody has to.

I’ve put in close to two years at the wildlife center – working usually 1 or 2 days a week. I haven’t learned much.

Part of that is my fault. Being a night person, and having trouble getting to sleep before 3 pm.. well, I miss out on some things.

Other people who volunteer at the center get there at 10 am or earlier. They have more chances to learn and do more direct animal care. Years ago I used to get there early too, but not so much this past year.

During the summer, I had an evening schedule. It was our busy season, and people were needed to work evening shifts. We are in our slow season now, and not as much animal care to be done. Since I show up later than most people, I clean – scrub cages, scrub lots of stuff really. Getting semi-used to horrid smells.

It’s always been tough for me to keep my mind on manual work. Most of my time at the center was not just manual work, though. I used to walk into enclosures where there were hawks or owls. I had to keep my mind on what I was doing – cleaning and feeding, because I was in the cages with the birds. If I didn’t pay attention, I increased the risk of getting hurt, and got hurt anyway, but not often.

Now, the schedules are different, and other people do what I did. This was partially due to my choosing to work with songbirds for a change, and because I get there later than most folks. So other people are on main raptor duty these days.

What can be frustrating is working with young kids (age 18, mostly) who have not been there as long as I have, but have learned tons more. Some of them got the preventive rabies vaccine covered by their insurance, instead of having to pay $700.00 for the vaccine. I wish I hadn’t bought so many musical instruments through the past years, and used that money for the vaccine instead. Too late now. This means that I cannot handle raccoons, coyotes, skunks, bats, foxes, and possums. I do like the birds best, but I really like these other animals too.

Today was a bit demoralizing. The girl who has picked up a lot of skills had a new volunteer helping her today. The new volunteer has been a vet tech for 6 years already, and has lots of animal experience. I was going to move the raptors and other birds from cage to cage, and scrub out the indoor cages, but they wanted to do that, especially since it was the new girl’s first day.

I have to admit that the first girl I mentioned really does have a knack for the work. More so than I do. She just finished high school, and is VERY motivated. She plans on going to college and majoring in Wildlife Medicine, or something like that. The new girl, the one who is already a vet tech, is planning on going to vet school.

To be honest, I felt outclassed. Not a good feeling. Reinforcing my doubts about being a vet tech. I’ve been figuring that lots of jobs are not right for me – lots of “no’s” but no clear “yes’s” yet. Sometimes I feel compelled to just sit at home and write and write – blogs, maybe do some articles just for practice or research reports or try fiction – which has never come easy for me, and that is an understatement.

It can be extremely difficult to make a living as a freelance anything though – writer or graphic artist or.. I’ve been listening to these “Rich Dad Poor Dad” audiobooks, and reading some of the books as well. The author said it is typically freelancers – people who are self-employed who have the hardest time making a living.

What to do what to do.

At the wildlife center, I did find something to do today. There is always some form of cleaning or yard work to be done, but today, I did something I’ve never done before.

We have a special freezer in our freezer shed. It is the place we keep all the dead animals we could not save. My supervisor asked me if I’d bag up all the frozen dead animals and bring them to the county shelter. That’s where we dispose of the animals. I was told they are stored at the county shelter until someone from a tallow plant comes by to pick up the bodies.

In the past, it has freaked me out a tiny bit opening freezers looking for the dead mice or ducklings we use to feed many animals, and instead looking down at a freezer full of quite a variety of dead wildlife.

This time though it didn’t bother me to look in there. And mostly, I didn’t feel very sad either. I wore gloves, and I pulled the animals out of the deep freezer.

I bagged 176 dead animals – the majority of them being small songbirds, but also dead owls and other raptors, a large wild turkey, some rabbits, other rodents, and a fox.

I just felt a little sad when I found dead barn owls that I had to pack up. Barn Owls are my favorite birds.

Overall though, I was content, because I had a job to do most people there wouldn’t like, but it didn’t bother me.

Also, since the other staff were getting all the main work done – the care and feeding, and because I really didn’t feel like spending lots of time outdoors in the heat (DAMN hot for October!) I didn’t mind leaving earlier than usual.

I loaded the bags of dead animals into my mustang, headed to the shelter, and unloaded them there.

Since bad smells and dead things don’t bother me, maybe I should become an undertaker – good pay and benefits, and people are always dying – so definitely job security… and pretty much a guarantee of creating stunned silence at cocktail parties when asked “what work do you do?” and also making it REALLY hard to get dates..

One of my favorite movies is a Japanese film about “casketers.” – Men who lead memorial services, and ceremonially prepare bodies for cremation. It’s actually a wonderful film, hardly morbid at all – and, if I recall correctly, it won a Best Foreign Film Oscar. I plan on buying it next month.

I think it is important to honor the dead in some way, though. I’ve felt an odd desire to respectfully visit cemeteries lately. Cemeteries used to be treated as a sort of public park. I don’t mean the kind of park where people would go to play baseball and get drunk, but still, a park – some place nice to go to.

But I digress..

After I dropped off the animals, I decided to drive through the country for awhile. Mostly, I am familiar with country roads and highways east of town. The wildlife center is east of here, and so are small foothill communities I like to visit. I’ve spent much more time driving those roads east of here.

This time, I went west and also South. I wandered for hours, through orchards and plowed fields. I sweat like crazy! I don’t use the AC much in my car because the gas mileage is bad enough already. Finally though, I closed the windows and put it on. This is really a terrible time to drive in the country, because it is harvest time – massive amounts of dust and other particulates in the air! So I kept the windows closed for awhile.

My iPod had ran out of juice (which reminds me, I need to recharge it tonight) before I even got to the county shelter, and I got tired of listening to NPR – which I listen to everyday, so just drove in relative silence, just the sound of my car, the other traffic the wind through the windows. I drive a lot without music or NPR.

Apart from the heat and feeling anxious about stuff, I enjoyed the drive, and explored much new territory. I didn’t get lost. Yesterday I went over google maps for a long time checking out these roads, and planning a route. I didn’t have the map with me on the drive, but didn’t need it.

I drove much farther than I’d planed, but still didn’t get lost. I tend to have a good sense of direction, as long as I am outdoors. Indoors though, pretty much hopeless – almost always get badly lost in hospitals, even small ones, and have difficulty finding my way back to the lobby of doctors’ offices after I’d seen the doctors in examining rooms.

Ok… so I should not work in hospitals.. I get lost. Don’t have much interest in healthcare anyway – would help if I had talents in that area – ALWAYS jobs available in the health care field. My sister-in-law is in her second year of nursing school. She’ll do really well, I bet. My brother hopes to become a physical therapist. – Also a very good job, with fairly high demand.

Some people take a damn long time to figure things out, while other people know by the age of 5 what they are good at, what they want to do, and they do it.
Most people figure it out sometime after they turn 5, but before they turn 38.

I turned 38 last month. Kind of sobering.

It’s very difficult to accept that things I have a passion for are things I’m not good at (music, especially, but also not super-talented at animal care), and things that I’m good at, I don’t want to do (such as learning a foreign language – Spanish is the most practical to learn, but I would much more enjoy Japanese, or some other Asian language, or perhaps Dutch or German – you know, languages I do not much need out here – languages I would not need unless I actually traveled abroad).

I’m ok at art I suppose, but how to make living as an artist? I don’t think graphic design is the smartest field to get into right now, and most graphic designers end up being employed by advertising agencies. I do NOT want to work for a company that tries to convince people to spend more money than they can afford on stuff they don’t need and probably won’t use much. Occasionally, there is a product that is worth advertising – something that is actually a benefit to people, but most things advertised today – such as luxury cars and prescription meds, are either not needed or are downright dangers. Listening to those med commercials can cause serious anxiety problems! Yes, I know some meds do help, but for most of my lifetime, RX medications were not advertised on television. Still shocks me sometimes, and avoiding drug commercials and other advertisements is a big reason why I mostly just watch PBS. They have commercials too, but fewer, and no shows are interrupted by commercials (just really annoying people during pledge time).

Let’s see, what else… I had thought about being an ESL teacher – and that is still a remote possibility, but with my attention deficit problems and some anxiety issues – maybe not the best career. I might be good at teaching adults, though. I tutor English right now, and I’m good at it.. don’t especially enjoy it, but I’m good at it.

I keep feeling compelled to play music – try and try – have done so for many many years with, experimenting with lots of instruments (and later selling them on ebay or trading them in) and having very very little success. My mind just loses track. This is not a problem with some things. If I’m drawing a picture and my mind wanders a bit, that’s fine, same with writing, but NOT fine when playing music!

It’s a compulsive thing. Today, as I was feeling down for awhile, I was trying to cheer myself up with the idea of buying a bass guitar. I’ve owned 5 already, and one of them was pretty good, should have held on to it but didn’t – long story. I would have to go into debt to buy an instrument. Not wise. My priority these days is paying off debt, not adding to it. And my room is already cluttered with instruments I don’t use much.

Still.. I wonder… could I play bass? I do hope to find out someday.

The only other instrument besides bass I’d really like to make a serious attempt at that I have not tried already is one of the harder instruments on this planet to play – the uilleann pipes – Irish bagpipes, the kind that have to be played sitting down. If you have seen “Riverdance,” or “Braveheart,” you’ve heard these pipes. “Braveheart” was set in Scotland, but, ironically, most of the piping heard during the movie and on the soundtrack was done on the Irish pipes, also called Uilleann pipes. That word is pronounced “illin” – and is Gaelic (native Irish language) for “elbow.” The elbow pipes.. well, good name, since the bag the pipes are attached to is pumped and filled by using one elbow to pump a bellows.. anyway..

I can go to Guitar Center and not buy anything though. The bass I might like to get is close to 600 dollars. I might be crazy enough to put a decent used $200 bass on the card, but not $600. Maybe I will go to Guitar Center tomorrow. And not buy anything.


Time to stop this writing this entry. I am going to (with some trepidation) work more with the unique career book I bought a little while back. It is a workbook, not just a fact book, which is good, as long as I do the work.

It’s not not even 10:30 yet, and I won’t be going to bed for awhile, so might as well get started.

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