I went to the Waffle House (WH) for brunch on X-mas Day and ended up sitting at the highbar. Normally, I read while caffeinating and ingesting my scattered, smothered, diced, peppered, and capped, along with my meat choice du jour, but on this day I happened to make a joke with a couple as they sat down next to me, and that easily lead to our conversation over the next hour.
Though the conversation rotated between the three of us, I spoke more often and more directly with the man because he was seated adjacent to me, while his wife sat on the other side of him. I cannot say for sure, but it seemed to me like we were all in the same general age range.
They had heard an indirect comment that I had made with a good friend who happens to be a WH staff member, which intrigued them to ask me about my vocation. (Under normal circumstances, I tend to guard that info from casual public knowledge for multiple reasons.) After I had explained that I was a veterinarian, the other man responded that pre-vet had been his first love, his first focus in school, but that after he had been seriously advised on how hard it was to get in and then through such a program, he had given up on it and gone in another direction. I believe that direction was a business degree, but I cannot state so definitely. We talked for a little while after that about being animal lovers, and then, about some of the challenges currently bombarding independent veterinarians and the whole spectrum of veterinary medicine.
Our conversation moved on naturally and comfortably towards the principle of retaining independence in our lives, living in less populated areas while still appreciating Atlanta for what it does offer, and a passionate love for all outdoor activities, including mountain biking, hiking, and backpacking.
At some point mutually agreed upon about also appreciating the outside in warmer weather, it came up that this couple, was headed down to their beach house, which they had personally built on some island in the vicinity of Gulf Shores and/or Orange beach. From the way they described it, it sounded glorious and heavenly in regard to my beach preferences. I was happy for them and felt that they deserved to be so successful to be able to afford and enjoy such a piece of property.
Soon, the conversation turned around a switchback once more and together we stumbled into the wilderness area of the Cohutta (GA), home of Jacks River Trail, the Conasauga River Trail, and Bear Creek MTN Bike Trail, amongst other treasures. Our knowledge rivaled one another about the entire area, but his definitely bested mine a bit. We talked about the trails, hiking and biking, the crashes, getting lost miles off of the map, unknowingly stumbling into the Mountaintown floodplain basin, and the bigass Poplar tree that serves as a sentinel for those riding on the Bear Creek Trail.
Eventually, my new friend(s) revealed that he actually owned a cabin in the Cohutta in an area that I am familiar with and truthfully very fond of. And then, he revealed that he also owned a second cabin that stood in a different, more remote and secluded region of that wilderness area. The second cabin is harder to get to than the first and its location does not even allow him access to an electrical connection, but nonetheless, it is still a second cabin and land that he happens to own in one of the most beautiful and feral areas of Georgia. He more than graciously offered to let me use either of the cabins and before parting, we exchanged numbers and emails. They seem like very genuine, extremely cool people, who just get it. We even discussed maybe getting together to force ourselves to ride our mountain bikes again. I like the idea. I like their spirit. I loved the conversation and the happenstance of spontaneously meeting people like that in one improbable moment or strand of theoretical time, space, and reality. T’was Christmas Day and a time for such connections, discoveries, and eventual ponderings.
I would be lying though, if I didn’t also say that I did experience a smidgen of irony and jealousy in this communion and our shared tale of choices and the consequences those choices had brought about. A lifetime ago, my newfound friend turned away from veterinary school because it was too hard and difficult to gain admittance and then to survive the tribulation associated with earning such a degree, but it would appear his financial gains related to such a decision, have far, far surpassed anything that comes even remotely close to my own. I can barely take a vacation and I am essentially homeless, while he (and his wife) owns a primary house with considerable acreage, a beach house, and at least two other cabins in a pristine Wilderness Area.
I accept the choices and the associated consequences related to such that I have made. I also do not wish ill will upon these new friends of mine. I am happy for them. If I had to hedge a bet, I would guess the world is better with them in it. But I wonder, I really do wonder, about our world and the reward system of business that people have fostered and caused to thrive.
I imagined once I was accepted into veterinary school, I would be the one making a little extra money, the one having a little extra family time, the one with maybe an extra house or two, both modest of course. I never imagined or conceived in my wildest dreams, that financial reward could work inversely upon someone who competed and survived in a challenging professional atmosphere, and who also just wanted to put his vocational expertise and responsibility foremost over revenue and salary. I never imagined that was a real possibility for the longest time.
I wonder if I was presented with the real option of switching places with my newfound friends what I might do. I have to admit that I’m very tired of suffering for trying to honorable, noble, and skillful in my profession. Those houses and getaways are quite alluring to me. I also wonder if they might switch places with me? Would that first love of interest and desired accomplishment hold over the material assets and accumulations that resulted from less of a challenge, if he knew, knew, he could attain the title of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and the associated responsibility of such?
Jeff Cribb , Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Lover of the Great Outdoors