Commentary: Life is your treasure map

September 13, 2016
Amanda Inman, CVPM

Don't worry about all the squiggly lines. Remember they lead to an "X," no matter who you are in the veterinary industry.

Life's map is sometimes more like one of those kids' treasure maps made with crayons with squiggly dotted lines that eventually lead to an "X." There is treasure there. You simply have to recognize it when you find it. (Photo Getty Images)I was one of those kids who had my life mapped out on a dream board at 8 years old. It was perfect. I would be valedictorian of my high school class, go to college on a full-ride scholarship, work in a zoo as a tiger trainer and conservationist, get married but have no children (because who has time for that) and be so happy taking vacations around the world with my six-figure income.

My magazine-cut-out collage of life perfection was just about as realistic as the unicorns on my bedspread coming to life and whisking me away to a castle to announce me as their long-lost princess! All those perfectly sequenced goals and I did one of those things: I got married.

'I've felt the heartbreak of failure'

I came close to my magazine cut-out life collage in a few places. I was an honor student, just not a valedictorian. I worked in a pet store during high school (OK, it wasn't tigers, but I did have to tame a few feral kittens once or twice). I was awarded a scholarship to a university out west to study biology, but I chose to stay local and marry my high school sweetheart months after graduating. I must have decided at some point that I did have plenty of time in life because we had a child in our early twenties. I went to college off and on for years one class at a time at night after work or online after our son went to sleep. I was offered a six-figure salary once, but only as a last ditch effort by management to keep me from turning in my resignation letter as an office manager of six years. I've owned my own business and felt the heartbreak of failure. As for vacations, yeah, I've had a few, but the farthest I've ever gotten is Cancun-so I wouldn't exactly call myself “worldly.”

Now, before I go on, I need you to know that my life today is great. That's what compels me to share all this with those of you right now who may feel your path hasn't been “perfect”-that it hasn't gone the way you thought it would go or dreamed it would from the start. Life's map is sometimes more like one of those kids' treasure maps made with crayons with squiggly dotted lines that eventually lead to an “X.” There is treasure there. You simply have to recognize it when you find it.

The answer the veterinary hospital administrator laughed at

My treasure was walking into a local veterinary clinic on a whim and asking to fill out an application. Later, in my interview, I remember the hospital administrator asking me, “If you could be anything in the world, what would it be?”

“A tiger trainer in the circus!” I answered. (Yes, I said "circus" instead of "zoo." The 8-year-old me wanted to grow up and have a real job, but the closer-to-30-year-old me wanted to just have some fun.)

That answer during my interview is still something our hospital administrator laughs with me about to this day. She thought it was great that I quickly and enthusiastically had an answer. Well, I'd been planning it to some degree since I was 8, so…


I was hired, and I restarted at the bottom of a career ladder. Fast forward 9 years later, and I've been a receptionist, a team leader, a supervisor, an office manager and now a practice manager who earned her title of Certified Veterinary Practice Manager. I had to take a U-turn on my life path and retrace all my steps to dig up the “X” hiding my success underneath. I've never been happier, and I appreciate my success more because of the delayed and crazy path that got me to it.

Sometimes you just have to be OK with taking a detour when it comes to your goals. You can't beat yourself up for not having events happen in a certain order and then assume that certain aspects of life have just passed you by.

I beg you to stop, take an assessment, and if you don't like where you are, check your directions. Maybe you took a wrong turn and just need to look around, read the signs and (as my smartphone's map app says), “recalculate” your route.

Comma the cat is a fan of Amanda Inman's career choice. (Photo courtesy author)

Amanda Inman, CVPM, is practice manager at Pet Care Clinic of Kokomo in Kokomo, Indiana.