Required Listening: Bad Touch by The Bloodhound Gang.

 

Twenty years ago I thought the future me would be much further ahead. I’m not saying things have turned out better or worse– just different. Let me put it this way: If the eight-year-old me knew that the twenty-eight-year-old me would spend his Saturday nights learning how to play Apologize by One Republic on the keyboard while toilet training his cat (named Mama) – he may have done things a little differently.

I didn’t know the first thing about being an adult when I was in high school (I still don’t really), and I definitely didn’t have life goals that were aligned with my talents, skills or abilities. This all became startlingly clear during a career counseling appointment with my Scottish high school guidance councilor, Mrs. Cosgrove.

It’s not really important that she was Scottish, but it is worth noting that one of my favourite extra-curricular activities was tricking her into saying “roll up the rim to win.” With that accent it just sounded so ugly coming out of her mouth. And also it was something fun to do in the Nineties.

“Where do you see yourself in ten years?” She asked, expecting me to take a few minutes to think up an answer. Truth was I didn’t need a few minutes, I had everything completely planned out.

“In ten years, I am either going to be a veterinarian, a lawyer, a doctor or a combination of the three.” Quickly referring to my transcripts, Mrs. Cosgrove appeared both surprised and confused. You see, despite the fact that I had recently dropped all science and math-related classes from my course calendar I was still very confident that my career aspirations were well within reach. This was mostly because, earlier that year I had successfully turned a case of mistaken identity into a perfect crime of opportunity. I say crime, because even then I knew that what I had done was probably illegal somewhere.

I’ll rewind a bit. I attended a very catholic high school and we were expected to commit ten hours a year to making a difference within the community. Most students volunteered at soup kitchens, hospitals or retirement homes. I, mostly missing the point of the assignment volunteered to clean animal kennels at a local veterinary clinic.

Truth is, my motives were not completely selfless. The real reason I had set my sights on our community animal clinic was because I had convinced myself it was the quickest way to become a veterinarian. My
ill-fated strategy was to get my foot in the door as a kennel cleaner then work my way to the top. In my mind (and with a little hard work) I would be a doctor in a matter of months– no need to take a biology course or anything. I was the Elle Woods of Veterinary Sciences. “What, like it’s hard?”

One day while hosing down one of the kennels, I was approached by one of the clinics best veterinarians. Turns out she had heard a lot about me. Seems I had a reputation for doing “good work.” As a reward for all of this good work-– all six hours of it, she was extending an invitation to assist with her first surgery of the day.

I’m not going to lie. As soon as I heard “good work” I knew she had mistaken me with the other co-op student. The university co-op student. You know, the one with the Masters degree. Yeah, him. Pfft!

But I’m no dummy, and I definitely knew a good opportunity when it was handed to me on a silver platter. If I was serious about this whole becoming a veterinarian thing–- there was no time like the present to
prove myself.

I walked over to the neighbouring kennel and looked a bewildered German Shepherd named Dusty straight in the eyes.

“Dusty, you have nothing to worry about buddy. You are in very capable hands.This is just a routine…”

I glanced down at the clipboard attached to his cage.

“…testicular extraction!? Well, that’s gross!”

I learned a lot that day. For example, did you know that when you neuter a dog you are actually removing his testicles? Oh you did? Well I certainly didn’t. I was a ball of nerves (pun intended) the whole time, but the surgery was ultimately a huge (pun intended) success. Three hours later I had completed all ten hours of my community service, not to mention my first testicular extraction. I said my goodbyes and walked out the front door feeling optimistic for the future. I also walked out of there with a fresh pair of canine testicles, which I had tucked away safely in my back pocket as a souvenir. Just kidding– we definitely burned those.

As it turns out, performing a near flawless neutering hardly qualifies you to become a veterinarian– or a lawyer for that matter. Back in the guidance office, Mrs. Cosgrove took a good hard look at my transcripts, then at me, then at my transcripts one more time. With a determined look in her eyes she made her way down a laundry list of possible careers. Looking perplexed she neared the bottom of the list without having checked a single box. With some slight hesitation, I watched her reluctantly draw a circle on the form.

“Well Dan, I don’t know what to tell you. The way I see it, you only have one option.”

I often wish I had been there to witness the reaction on that veterinarian’s face when she met the real co-op student later that afternoon. If I’m being honest, I think it may have looked very similar to the reaction I had, once I realized my poor academic decisions had left me with a rather limited portfolio of career opportunities.

In a tone that suggested she could not believe what she was about to say, a highly-educated high school guidance councilor made her professional recommendation known…

“Have you ever given any consideration to a career in theatre?”