On the auspicious day of my 25th birthday, I wanted to reflect on everything I am grateful for in life. This summer has provided me with so many opportunities and the chance to meet some incredible people who have changed my life. I spent the summer being clinically trained as a veterinarian in quite unfamiliar territory – spending 4 months abroad.
In Timmins, Ontario I got to hone my technical skills in mixed animal practice – from surgery to client communication to diagnosis and treatment and more. I then escaped to Fort Pierce, Florida where I got to realize my dream of being a great ape vet working with close to 300 chimps for 3 weeks, in beautiful weather at that! After touring the Atlantic coast of Florida for a week with a friend, I was then being trained at the Bronx Zoo in New York and got to see the Big Apple for the first time. It was time to return home for sure, but with a bittersweet nostalgia of all that I had learnt and experienced in the last 4 months, and prepared to come back to academia for one final 8 month onslaught!
I want to first thank my parents (and grandparents!) & brother for encouraging and supporting me every step of the way; and to the Aga Khan and the Ismaili community for the constant guidance throughout my life that has kept me grounded and in touch with my inner being. Never did my parents doubt my passion, no matter how far-fetched it sometimes seemed. Never did they doubt my often radical sense of idealism to change the world into a more peaceful and harmonious place. It was my mother who, for that fateful birthday 7 years ago, got me tickets to meet Jane Goodall – the woman who changed my life forever and inspired me on the path that I am on. Dr. Jane encouraged me to follow my dreams, she educated and inspired me to go vegan (7 years ago today!), she brought out my inner humanitarian and environmentalist. She inspired me to pursue a career with great apes and other primates. And most of all, she taught me the value of peace, education and cooperation in tackling the world’s largest problems – and that every individual has a role to play in making the world a better place. Even when all hope seems futile, she taught me that hope is one of humanity’s most powerful tools.
My friends have also been an amazing source of support and have helped me realize my potential. Steve and Tin, my bestest buds, you guys have always been there for me in the roughest of the rough and the best of the best – we’ve shared laughs together, been around the world together, planned our lives together, and inspired and encouraged each other on our own paths. I wish you the best of success in your journeys that I’m sure we will continue to share together. There are so many amazing and close friends that I am so lucky to have, and without listing a bunch of names (because you know who you are) I just want to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for allowing me to get through each day with a smile on my face. No matter how busy we are, we will always make time for each other!
Sherri, Rachelle and Kim you also deserve special mention! Friends, mentors, colleagues, surrogate moms!!! You have provided me with the opportunities that have shaped my life to this point. You are all such beautiful and caring souls that have done more for me than I am even able to thank you for. Together we have already changed so many lives and made the world a better place. I know that one day we will all be in Africa together helping our fellow primate friends – humans and animals alike! I’ve said this before, but you are all angels whose presence the world is lucky to be graced with. Thank you for all that you do, every single day. And especially to Sherri for giving me my first mobile veterinary kit!!!!
And for all the people who have helped me along my professional path to this point, whether you be professors, veterinary colleagues or mentors (especially the vet techs who have shown me the ropes – you also know who you are!) – your service is invaluable. From Dr. Yearwood who mentored me through middle school and high school; to the team at the TO zoo who coached me through my summers in vet school; to Dale & Dr. Peregrine for the constant academic and career guidance, for keeping me in check with reality and yet always encouraging my aspirations; to Dr. Kim who so graciously took me into her home and made me a part of her family for 2 months while teaching me how to be a real vet and make delicious salads ;); to Dr. B who made me fall in love with apes all over again, encouraged me to take risks, and is such an amazing teacher, friend and host (with newfound orangutan love!); to the team at WCS who hosted me for a month and provided me with great learning opportunities and new friendships; and finally to Markus for being a no-nonsense, down-to-earth mentor to me for the past 3 years. To all those I may have missed acknowledging here, you are in my heart, and I say thank you. And to everyone I met (friends both old and new) along my travels this summer, thanks for making the trip so enjoyable and filled with new experiences!
Luckily I stayed in Guelph and found an entirely new family at OVC. We shared class every day from 8-5 for four years and formed some extremely close and lifelong bonds – and most of all some hilarious memories. Again, graduating meant we all went to our respective homes or new homes to start our new careers and would likely never all be together in the same place again.
I feel like I am one of the luckiest people in the world. Fuelled by determination and a thirst for change, guided by family, faith and personal heroes, and grounded by those incredible individuals who surround me – I am humbled by all that I have experienced in just 25 years, by all the inspiring people I have met, by all the animals who have given of themselves to let me into their lives, and by all the positive change that I’ve witnessed. It’s hard to believe that I’ve come this far, as it always seemed like a distant dream. Yesterday I was given the gift of giving back to the community by helping with a mobile vet clinic for low-income individuals. The gratitude and humility these people had, and the amount they care and do for their animals, even though they might barely afford to feed themselves and their families was profound to witness. These are the people that keep me going. These are the animals that keep me going. My only goal in life is to leave the world a better place than I found it – by helping people, animals and the environment we all share. To date, I am thankful that I have been given the opportunities to fulfill this goal every day in my effort to create a career doing this in the developing world. After all, life is about the journey, not the destination. The journey has been magnificent, and will only keep getting better from hereon in!
With lots of love and prayers for peace amongst all peoples,
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