Tearing up in a classroom full of 34 other people is not a good look. But that was me yesterday in class during my first week as a student in nutrition graduate school.
As we introduced ourselves in class, it was immediately clear that the backgrounds and passions of my fellow classmates were reflections of my own. “I love to bake and write about food.” “I want to help people find a happier relationship with food.” “I started out in basic research and hated being away from people.” “I had my own personal journey into a healthy lifestyle.” “I’m always looking for a running buddy.” “I teach cooking classes.”
Their stories reminded me of a conversation I had with a trusted elder as I was preparing for my first graduate school experience. I confided to her that I was torn between a career in psychology and opening up my own bakery. She advised me to go to school first–the kitchen would always be there. So I went.
I loved my time at Teachers College; the classes were stimulating, I found a community of people to work and grow with in my area of interest and I gained valuable research experience. When my post graduation plan of pursuing a PhD flopped, I was dejected and confused. I needed guidance, mentorship and counseling. So, I reached out to my boss for advice.
“What do you want to do?” asked my lanky, salt and pepper headed boss. “Well, it’s either open my own bakery or get a PhD in psychology.”
Naturally, three years later, when I asked that same boss for a promotion, he responded with: “No. How do I know that you aren’t going to leave tomorrow to open a bakery?” Lesson learned: never confide in a boss.
Essentially, since 2008, I have felt torn between psychology and culinary work. And yesterday I was so moved because all along, there were people out there–just like me–toiling about how all the pieces fit. As a few of us decompressed after class last night, the dusk light catching our glasses as we toasted our accomplishments, I realized that I had finally found a community of people in nutrition graduate school with whom I can be my truest, most authentic self.