84: Don’t Give Up Before You Start

84: Don’t Give Up Before You Start

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Getting In...To College

Don’t Give Up Before you Start

Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

~Thomas Edison

I couldn’t help smiling as dogs—black, white, and brown, some as high as my waist and others no bigger than a small rabbit — launched themselves at the cage mesh and barked. The noise was deafening, but to me, it was also music — the soprano, alto, and bass voices of eager animals excited to see us as we entered the vet tech school kennels.

“I never even knew this was up here,” my mom said.

I didn’t either. I’d never really imagined there were animals living four floors up from the city streets. It wasn’t just the dogs, either—here were sweet, wobbly puppies, cats and fuzzy kittens, rabbits, squealing guinea pigs. Students in blue scrubs cleaned cages and cuddled animals. They seemed so professional — and lucky. Everything I saw made me long more and more for the chance to go to school here.

I could just see myself filling food dishes and giving medications — or sitting right there, in the anatomy lab, or taking notes in that classroom. Becoming a veterinary technician had been my dream since middle school, but actually being here for the interview and tour made it seem so real. And way more exciting than my daydreams.

As we trailed after the admissions director on our way back to her office, I whispered to my mom, “Now I want to go to school here more than ever. I’m going to really work to bring my grades up.”

But the interview part of the day wasn’t exactly encouraging. The admissions director told us there weren’t very many certified vet tech programs in the whole country. The school only took ten students from the surrounding counties, so they could leave slots open for students from across the state and out-of-state. They didn’t want to graduate a whole bunch of local students who couldn’t find jobs.

I kind of gulped. I wasn’t a bad student, but I was definitely not an outstanding student either. Plus, during my sophomore year, I’d gotten a bad case of mono that caused a whole lot of other problems. I became so sick I’d ended up in the ICU for a while. I missed months of school, and it was a miracle I passed at all—never mind my grades that year.

The director talked a lot about how hard the program was, and how many people wanted to get in, because there just weren’t a lot of other places to go. She told us, “Apply right away, because if you wait, there definitely won’t be a spot.” I left with my feet dragging, and my heart felt like it was down there with them.

I was supposed to follow up by sending the school my high school transcript, and completing a formal application. I did go ahead and send the transcript, but I just never got around to filling out the application. My mom mentioned something, and I told her I hardly thought it was worth it. My whole life, I’d been scared to take a chance and fail. Life is hard enough without making a fool of myself. We discussed it a bit, but in the end, she didn’t push me.

A couple of weeks went by, and one day the director called. “Maria! How come we never got an application from you? I’m looking at a transcript here, and it doesn’t look bad at all. Did you change your mind?”

I was shocked. I thought they would look at my C- average and I’d be out the door, but she remembered me from our interview and liked me, and she understood about my being so sick. She said, “Don’t quit before you even get started. You send that application in — promise?”

After that, I did go ahead and apply, and was surprised to receive an acceptance packet soon afterward. But my next hurdle was trying to decide whether to tell them I’d attend. The director’s warnings about how hard the program was had shaken me up. Finally, I told Mom that no matter how hard it was, I wanted to try. This was my dream, and if I never tried, I knew I’d always regret it. Better to try my best and fail than to never know if I could have done this.

The program was hard. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life, and more than once, I came close to failure. But the proudest moment of my life was when I finally stood there in my graduation gown and became a veterinary technician — it was almost as thrilling as the first time I put on those blue scrubs! The best part is that now I spend every workday taking care of animals, and my family and friends know they can always call me when their pet is sick, or hurt, or just acting funny. I like feeling competent and professional, and I sometimes think about what life would be like if I had been too scared to try.

~Maria Wright

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