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Lake George: Thief | 2016 | Monday Morning of the Year


Everyone should carefully observe which way his heart draws him and then choose that way with all his strength.  

-Hasidic Proverb

Amber the Vet Tech Student

I kiss Amber goodbye. It shouldn't feel any different from when she goes to work tending to the gardens of the idle rich, but I cannot deny the strangeness of sending her away for her first day of college.

I have encouraged Amber's college aspirations, particularly as these apply to becoming a veterinarian. Well, I have taunted her with the inevitability of sick animals in need of being put to sleep, mandated dissection, and infuriating owners, but only to test her mettle. Veterinary science is a stable, high paying, and practical discipline. She opts to take twenty-one credits this semester - a staggering amount, as far as I am concerned, with one class ending just as the next one begins - and off-handedly mentions that the future semesters will be similar. She looks not merely to an Associate's degree and certification as a vet tech, but a possible future as a veterinarian. She will not go into this half-cocked.

I do not know many people whom I would encourage on this path, certainly not in the attempt to unofficially double major in vet tech and biology - her college doesn't actually offer degrees in biology, but a future college might appreciate her industry and exempt her from requirements. As an author and state worker, I do not understand her level of passion to needlessly hard work, but I cannot deny that my money would be on her to accomplish this goal. (Also, as point of fact, my money has yet to be involved; she is insistent that she will pay for as much of this as she can without dipping into my savings. I am not too worried. She is an investment I am glad to make, certain it will pay dividends.)

I have told her that, once she gets a degree, I expect her to actually work in this field; she is not allowed to flit to another discipline to appease her dilettantism.

The world has disappointed her. She once wanted to pursue criminal justice, though I am grateful this did not pan out. She is an optimist and sees the best in people, often those who are unworthy of her grace. I would not have wanted her to spend her days with the broken as I do, though I wish I didn't have to credit implicit sexism for driving her from the field. She earned a Bachelor's in art, trying her hardest to make a living on Etsy, though I do not think a fraction of a percent of their subscribers manage more than pocket change. I doubt I am capable of her level of devotion, particularly if I would be required not to kvetch endlessly. She tried to be a gardener until the landowners, who would rather have a fallow field without any rent, plowed under the local community garden. She attempted to run a community sponsored agriculture farm share, sending out boxes and having pick-ups before each of the solstices and equinoxes, but the community failed to sponsor her. She likes her current job, but it is not a career. With each step in her journey, no matter how she threw herself into her projects, she felt brutally underutilized.

In part, I think the death of the voles we tried and failed to foster predicated this step. She saw a way that she could be uniquely useful to the world, even if she understood how many barriers stood between her and utility. Just as people tend to repeatedly hear a word they just learned, Amber began to see animals in need of her care after their deaths and took this for the universe guiding her.

Years ago, a friend's lovely mother was gently probing me as to my collegiate aspirations. At the time, I think she was nagging by proxy, asking me what I wanted to do with my life so that her son might be induced to claim some motivation for himself. I mentioned that I thought I might become an English teacher and she cooed, "That would look so good on you!" Working with animals, particularly being a veterinarian, looks perfect on Amber. (Given my allergies that prevent us from having fuzzy pets, I have mandated Silkwood showers when she returns home, however.)

College has been a decisive factor, one way or another, in the ending of my prior relationships. Jen needed a boyfriend who would be going to college in the fall, even if it would not be hers. Kate left me so she could be truer to what she expected of or needed for a college experience, specifically a lack of oversight. She didn't want to be answerable to another person. Emily found freedom and a relationship that suited her better while I helped give her a home through graduate school. He was around during her daylight hours and I was only the man whose bed she shared a few nights a week. Melanie found comfort and stability in her weekends with me, but the end of college surely meant the end of our relationship (and her illusion that she could maintain any attraction to a man). I had promised myself after Melanie to avoid all romantic interaction with college students.

I cannot imagine how her college could be a threat to our relationship. She is wholly invested in me and too busy to carry on an affair, particularly given that she insists she is keeping her day job while she goes to school. I can imagine that we will be able to spend less quality time together - already she has had to back out of apple picking and a family party so she can work more hours for her job - but I don't envision that being poisonous to our relationship, particularly given that she tends to cuddle on me every chance she gets. Still, as they say at my day job constantly, all change is loss. We are losing the exact relationship dynamic we had grown into. Nevertheless, far weaker relationships have prospered in far worse circumstances. I asked her if, purely as a hypothetical exercise, there were anything I could have said that would have dissuaded her from returning to college.

"You could have said you would divorce me," she answers.

"I would never do that," I say. "I want to support your betterment."

"Then no."

Today is the first day of an adventure that may take around six years, if Amber follows through with her hope of getting her doctoral degree and becoming a full-fledged veterinarian (and, in her words, taking care of me as I took care of her while she was underutilized). I do not know what the other side of the tunnel will bring, but we can only look forward to her progress.

Soon in Xenology: Faces.

last watched: School Live
reading: The Way of the Peaceful Warrior
listening: Cat Power

Lake George: Thief | 2016 | Monday Morning of the Year

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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