Get comfy, people, this is a LONG one!
This post was supposed to be entitled, “What am I doing with my life?” because when I decided to write about the quandry I was in, I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. Hence the question mark.
Boy, can things change in a week or two. (Speaking of changes… Be sure to check out the “Meet Holly” tab above. In honor of my “new” self and future, I updated/changed the “About” tab and gave it a new name. Let me know what you think!)
I am, in fact, going back to school. I’ll be pursuing a B.S. in Dietetics from Buffalo State University, and then plan to become a Registered Dietician. I start classes at Erie Community College Monday to get the core classes, like BIOs and CHEMs, out of the way. I’ll probably spend two semesters there before heading to Buff State to take the nutrition classes. This isn’t going to be a short process; I’ll be lucky to finish all the academic work in three years.
My dream job is to be a health food writer. Ultimately, I’d love to get published in something like Shape or Men’s Health or the like, but would be happy just helping people eat healthier food! I’ve always seen myself writing long-term, but never quite knew what about. It’s important to me to have a flexible job/career; we plan on having kids one day and I want to be able to be home more than I’m away.
Actually, let’s back up. It started some time in college. The truth is that it didn’t take me long to realize news writing wasn’t my passion. (And to be a good reporter, it’s got to be!) While I wrote for the college paper, I did so half-heartedly. I didn’t want to be a reporter then and I don’t want to be one now. In all honesty, I got a Journalism degree because before college my dad said that’s what I should do. I knew I liked writing and didn’t like math or science. It was safe and I trusted my dad. Dad, if you’re reading this, I love you. Thank you for everything. I just wish I’d known more about what was out there in the big, wide world before me and my “people-pleaser/I-can’t-quit-anything-self” went off to college. Who knows where I’d be if it had occurred to me to change my major. Or even just THINK about changing my major.
Anyway, I digress.
Shortly after graduating from Penn State with my Journalism degree, I remember wishing I’d gone to school for nutrition. Or creative writing. I just knew writing for a newspaper (at least in the traditional start-at-the-bottom-and-cover-the-midnight-fires-and-shootings) wasn’t it for me. I spent four years in the Air Force working in Public Affairs and as an Exec, using my degree some of the time and learning invaluable professional skills as well. After I separated (because that wasn’t my passion, either), I took a year off to just relax and enjoy myself and not jump into anything right away. I realize not working is a foreign concept to some, perhaps most, but Andrew really wanted me to and who’s going to argue with that? I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I DID know I didn’t want to just jump into the first Air Force civilian job on base that came my way. I’m so glad I took the time off; I worked out like crazy, made some great friends and spent a lot of time de-stressing. And believe it or not, I was quite busy most of the time. It’s just the kind of person I am. Between working out, taking care of a husband, animals and our house, cooking, baking, reading, working occasionally at the library and having a full social calendar, I was rarely bored.
During this time (from the time I got stationed in Ohio until we left) I’d lost weight twice (both times by counting calories) and gotten more interested in health and wellness. I started eating healthier than I’d ever before and worked out with more intensity and purpose as well. My running improved. I started cooking and baking as much as I could from scratch, and using only whole foods on my menus. Making the healthiest food possible became a passion for me. (I wish I could say Andrew was as excited about healthy eating as I was; I’m still working on him.)
One year was well on its way to two when all of a sudden we were moving. I’d started to feel like something was missing from my life, a sense of purpose, perhaps, but I’m thankful I wasn’t working before the move from Ohio to New York.
However, after getting settled into our hotel in New York, all those feelings of purposelessness and wasted potential came back with a vengeance. At least in Ohio I had had a house to take care of; now I was cramped in our hotel, procrastinating on getting my resume and clips together to start looking for freelance writing work. I’d always talked about wanting to do something with my life, more than just raise our future children and be a housewife. I wanted those things too; that’s why I always said I wanted to contribute financially without having a traditional 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (or later) kind of job. Andrew has been pushing me to go to cooking school for years, but I don’t want to be a chef. I don’t want to have a bakery. (I’m a morning person, but bakery-morning is too early!)
And that brings me to reading Kath’s R.D. post. I spent an entire afternoon reading her post (and all the links throughout!) and ended up with a bit of a headache and feeling like there was no way I could do what she did. She spent 2.5 years going to school and doing an internship, and it just seemed too hard and scary and overwhelming.
That’s when it hit me–I wanted to be a food writer. All that school seemed so daunting until I envisioned my name with the initials “R.D.” after it in the author’s info section at the end of an article. I grabbed the nearest magazine, flipped to the front section featuring the bios of the contributors and shoved it under Andrew’s nose. “That’s what I want to be,” I said to him. I wanted to be health-food writer. I think I always knew this is what I wanted to do, I just never knew how to say it. I mean, who else actually READS the contributor’s bios in magazines but me?
And then I slept on it. And kept thinking about it. And started googling about being a nutritionist. And then I made an appointment to speak with the Nutrition Department Head at the University of Buffalo. At first I thought maybe getting my master’s in Nutrition was the way to go, but after speaking with Dr. Farkas at UB, I learned that to be an R.D., you’ve got to do the undergrad coursework. I also learned that while becoming an R.D. would be a lot of “extra” work that I might not need as a food writer, it really is a good plan in terms of opening doors and being the “expert” in the field of nutrition. Basically, once I’m finished, I can ANYTHING, from working in a hospital or with a school-lunch program to opening my own consulting practice.
And I’m genuinely interested in learning all about food, nutrition and how the body uses food for fuel. I’m so excited to get smarter about all this stuff! While I’m a little intimidated by all the science, I think I need a challenge at this point in my life. I’ve been afraid of going back to school, of failure, of hard classes and rejection for too long; the new me is capable of anything!
Of course, I’m a little anxious about the future, knowing this degree will be like a full-time job for the next three years (not to mention the internship) and a lot can happen in that time. We’re ready to start a family, at least we thought we were, so that’s something that will be on my mind. I can’t help but think, though, that maybe there is a reason Andrew and I are here, now, near his family when I start school. We’ll just take it one semester at a time. Goodness knows women have done much harder things than go to school and have a baby.
And getting this degree will be a lot different than my first time around at Penn State. I was an 18-year-old college student who lived in the dorms and had a boyfriend; this time I’m pushing 30, married with a dog and trying to get settled into our new life in New York. I had wanted to load up on classes (think 18 credits) to get going as quickly as possible, but then thought maybe easing my way in with fewer credits might be wiser, something like 12 credits. I ended up smack-dab in the middle with 15 credits this semester, and think that my schedule of all sciences and one night Psych lecture will be perfect.
Going back to school also honors my late-grandfather. When he died, each of his 20+ grandchildren got a lump of money, and it was important to me to use it on something intangible, like school. He (and his wife, my grandmother) were both Ph.Ds in Chemistry and highly valued education. I can’t think of a better way to use the money he left behind.
And let’s not forget back-to-school shopping! And I don’t mean the clothes–the supplies! (Although I suppose my recent Goodwill purchases in Ohio with Susy could be construed as “new” school clothes…) My favorite part of summer was always just before school started when mom and I went to get notebooks and paper and pens. While not quite the same as growing up, I’m looking forward to making a Target run with Andrew to pick up a binder or two and some paper. I already treated myself to the backpack I’ve wanted since college… (I was too cheap to spend the extra $30 to get the one I wanted and have regretted it to this day–lesson learned!)
Here’s to going back to school–this time as the older, smarter, wiser version of me who knows EXACTLY what she wants!