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Claws And Clay: Mastering The Art Of Veterinary Science

30/09/2016 12:12 | Updated 30 September 2016
James Greenwood

Growing up as a child, I was surrounded by animals and art, the two running harmoniously together. Eventually I had to choose. I played it safe. I followed the defined career path to become a veterinary surgeon.

It may come as quite a surprise that the veterinary profession is currently navigating through stormy waters. The idyllic notion of James Herriott has been replaced with KPI's, corporate deals and the most recent survey suggests that disillusionment is rife.

Despite these uncertain times, I remain immensely proud of our veterinary profession. Vets are a committed and honourable breed. I have always held a deep empathy for animals, their role in our society and the injustice some face through human cruelty. Everyday I feel like I make a difference and it comes as no surprise, therefore, that I love being a vet.

However, the emotional combination of working with animals, people and money can begin to take its toll. A few years ago, I was suffering from 'compassion fatigue'. My standards never slipped, no animal under my care was at risk but I couldn't see the 'good' in the job I was doing. I knew I didn't want to leave veterinary, but I recognised that something had to change.

I decided to re-evaluate my priorities and dropped to a four day working week.

With the extra time off, I enrolled onto a pottery course. Here within lies the metaphorical and physical transformational power of clay. I loved it. Word got out that I was becoming 'the vet that pots'. Creative people started entering into my life. A close friend donated me his spare potter's wheel as an act of encouragement. I started re-connecting with influential, artistic people from my past.

I saw an advert online for a major new television programme focussing on pottery. I felt a sudden urge of excitement and unusual creative confidence. I was starting to believe that science and art don't have to be mutually exclusive. Through discovering a new love for clay, my love for veterinary science was skyrocketing.

Move forward twelve months and one winter's night in November, I was to appear as a contestant on BBC Two's 'The Great Pottery Throwdown'.

Television, in my experience, does not afford personal validation. But I use it as an example of how far I have come by simply giving myself that wonderful privilege of time. Time to work out who I was, why I wasn't fulfilled and what was missing.

We all have a natural talent within each and every one of us. I ignored my creativity for too long, I can't answer why. But I am guessing there are others out there also feeling shy of themselves.

There is no such thing as finding happiness. Happiness is created through doing something you are innately very good at and therefore you love doing it.

I have learnt that by allowing both the time and headspace to let your natural talent breathe, doors will open and the opportunities that may follow are endless. Trust me. Try it.

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