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Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's Day

Happy New Year!

Like many zookeepers, I have a slight inclination to the obsessive compulsive.  And I don't mean that in the way that most people say that they are OCD.  I mean that I really have some things that I need to be done, correctly, in order, for my brain to let me function.  The locks all have to be checked again at the end of the day.  Certain things get cleaned on a certain schedule.  Details concerning the provision of enrichment.  

None of this is in a written protocol anywhere.  It's just stamped into my brain.  Sometimes I wish it wasn't.  It's led to a few (well, okay, a lot) of late nights, well past closing time and completely off the clock, just so I can get things done "right."

No two keepers have the same obsessive fixes.  I work with one keeper who is completely obsessed with pools.  He just cannot tolerate a postage-stamp sized spot of algae in giant pool.  I can live with that spot of algae, as long as the water is clean.  I can't live with bird poop caked all on the perches in our exhibits.  That doesn't seem to phase him in the least.

One of my mental quirks is an obsession with timing, and proper beginnings.  I like things to be neat that way.  I'll tell myself in the morning, "From 9 to 10 I'll do these exhibits, from 10 to 11 those ones."  I like to start and finish projects at neat time increments.  If I finish one exhibit at 1:52, I have a hard time sometimes not postponing the next one until 2.   I like to implement changes - a new diet, a new enrichment calendar, on the first of the month.   Whenever possible, I like to start new medications on the first day of the workweek.  

There's no sane reason for it.  It's just... neater.

As you can probably imagine, then, New Year's Day is a big deal for me.  It's like my annual reset button at work, when I plan to kick off all sorts of new projects and keeper resolutions.  Some of them I actually keep.  The danger of this mindset is, if you aren't careful, it can lead to sloppiness later on.  Not just at work, either - I wonder how many people binge-eat donuts in mid-December, telling themselves it'll be fine, because they are going to start dieting on January 1st.

Having a fixation of neat beginnings sometimes helps to motivate me with a clean start.  It (sort of) works for me.  But it's important to be willing to make improvements throughout the year in order to improve the care of the animals as much as possible.

A March 18th New Year's Resolution isn't nearly as neat or clean-sounding as one on January 1st... but it's a lot better than waiting until next January.

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