Alumni Stories: Lessons of 2020

Despite 2020 being an absolute rollercoaster for everyone, I have learnt two very essential lessons.

By Madison Hillstead ‘16 Academy

Published previously in the 2021 issue of The Ascent, Rundle alumni magazine.

1. Nothing in life worth anything is easy. 

This year I was honoured to be accepted into Veterinary Medicine at the University of Calgary. In February 2020, while walking alone outside at 3:00 am in a snowstorm to check on patients, I asked myself, “Are all these hours I put into studying, volunteering, and potentially losing a toe to frostbite worth pursuing this career path?” 

Being where I am today, the answer to that question is yes. Even though my program now is significantly more demanding and complex, I am enjoying it even on the toughest of days. However, I also try to make sure that my drive and passion don’t come at the expense of spending time with those I love. Education, patients, and cases will always be present in my life, but family and friends will unfortunately not be.   

2. Don’t short-change the future based on current fears and hardships.

Years ago as a struggling university science student, when I  felt defeated after failing a course, if someone told me that I’d be studying medicine in the future, I would have laughed. I now realize that those moments of stress, struggle, and even failure have taught me some of the most crucial lessons.

It’s hard in those moments not to be hypercritical of myself and dash away my goals because I’ve drifted off my intended path. If I believed that I could no longer achieve my dream of becoming a veterinarian based on a bad mark or a bad experience, I don’t think I would be where I am today. What truly helped me through those difficult times is focusing on my strengths and figuring out how I can improve upon myself. Furthermore, not comparing myself to those around me was especially hard in a very competitive academic field. Individuality and creating your journey are more inspiring than following in someone else’s footsteps.