By Alicia Ryan
When I was about 5 years old, my mom took me to a local petting zoo (as I’m sure a lot of parents did to keep their kid occupied for a few hours on a hot summer day). I can’t say I remember the day clearly, but the story of this event in my childhood comes up on a very regular basis (especially at big family get-togethers), so I can’t exactly forget it either. According to my parents' retelling, I was in a pen with some deer, and I absolutely REFUSED to leave the pen until I hugged and kissed every single one, and told them each how much I loved them – and this continued with every group of animals I encountered that day. It’s a sweet and funny tale, but it also ended up having a real impact on my life…
I went to school to study linguistics and marketing, and when I finished grad school, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do. I looked into government positions; some corporate gigs; I even almost took a job as a professor, but I wasn’t feeling the passion I always thought I would feel for my new career. I knew I had excellent skills, but I was at a loss for where and how to apply them. So, I took the summer after graduation off, did some volunteer work at a local shelter, and relaxed. Part of that relaxation time included an appearance at my cousin’s 7th birthday party one afternoon (so cool!), and while there, the “deer hugging” story made its rounds. But the timing of this particular recital made something click in me - I had that “lightbulb moment.” I love animals, I want to help animals! Just because I don’t have animal care experience doesn’t mean I can’t use my skills to help animals. After doing some research, I applied to Bideawee for their Volunteer Manager position within the marketing department. And thankfully, two years later, I’m still here doing what I love!
It’s an amazing realization to know that no matter what you excel in, you can apply those skills toward something you love. I’ve always had strong language/communications, and I’ve always loved animals, and I’ve learned that just because the connection between the two is not immediately clear, doesn’t mean there isn’t one! Sometimes you have to think outside of the box to make your dreams come true – sounds corny, but it’s so true! I’m so proud to say that I’ve worked my whole life in order to be where I am today: working with the best people in the world (i.e., our awesome volunteers!) toward our common goal of helping animals in need.
So yes, I’m glad my parents love embarrassing me, because without their retelling of that story on that fated afternoon, who knows where I’d be. Thanks, mom and dad! *waves*