Almost exactly one year ago, I was a happy, optimistic graduate of the University of Georgia.
Now, I have a part-time, $10/hr job, and I live with my parents. This is not what I envisioned myself doing at age 22.
It’s easy to blame the economy, but my lack of career path is largely due to my indecisiveness. What do I want to do with my life? I am doomed to be stuck in this weird limbo between childhood and adulthood until I figure this out.
At age 5, I thought that the best job in the world would be a elementary school teacher. You would get to teach and play with a group of little kids all day! Now that I am not 5-years-old anymore, that sounds like the worst babysitting job ever. I want to have my own kids one day, but not 20 of them.
A journalist, a professional athlete, a news anchor, an architect, a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker…I could easily imagine myself in lots of different professions while I was growing up.
My passion for health, nutrition, and fitness began in high school. I declared my major in dietetics my freshman year of college and never wanted to change it….until about a month before graduation. You can read a little about that in this post: Runaway Dietitian.
There were many reasons why I became turned off to the idea of being a dietitian:
1. I hated most of my senior year classes. I got through Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Anatomy to learn how to calculate feeding tube formulas?? Shoot me now. There is a lot more to dietetics than the clinical aspect, but I really hated those classes. I never want to think about pumping dextrose into someone’s stomach again.
2. The problem with “nutritionism.” I do not think that the USDA and the ADA are concerned enough with eating real foods vs. processed foods. My ideas about health food changed greatly when I read Michael Pollan’s books, which have lots of important information that we were not learning about in school:
”Fish, beef and chicken through the nutritionists’ lens become mere delivery systems for varying quantities of fats and proteins and whatever other nutrients are on their scope. Similarly, any qualitative distinctions between processed foods and whole foods disappear when your focus is on quantifying the nutrients they contain…
This is a great boon for manufacturers of processed food, and it helps explain why they have been so happy to get with the nutritionism program. In the years following McGovern’s capitulation and the 1982 National Academy report, the food industry set about re-engineering thousands of popular food products to contain more of the nutrients that science and government had deemed the good ones and less of the bad…
…it’s a lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a potato or carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over, the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming about their newfound whole-grain goodness.“
3. The USDA Food Guide Pyramid. Hmm…let’s see we have a surplus of grains, so we will tell people to eat a lot of that even though obese Americans need to be eating a lot more spinach and a lot less bread. We will also make the milk section look huge due to our profitable dairy industry despite the fact that many Americans have lactose intolerance and that dairy probably doesn’t prevent osteoporosis anyway. The food guide pyramid is based on politics more than health.
4. Sustainable agriculture, locally grown food, pasture raised animals…where your food comes from and how it is produced is a more important consideration for both your health and the environment than how many grams of carbohydrate or fat your food contains. OMG, let’s stop eating GMO’s. These are the issues that I am currently most interested in concerning nutrition rather the science behind nutrients.
Image from the movie Food Inc. Scary stuff.
Dietitians have a very important job, and I’m glad that we have some intelligent ones out there (including Gina, Kristen, and soon Emily). I just no longer feel like being a dietitian is the best career match for me.
So I now have a degree and a dilemma. How can I use my degree to get a career I will be passionate about? And also, did I give up on dietetics too soon? I mean, I would be about to graduate from my internship and have a real job if I had gone through with it. I definitely think about that sometimes.
I’ve been looking into different health related careers from public health to dentistry. I actually got accepted to a health promotion master’s program, but I turned it down because it was expensive, and I was not positive that is what I wanted to do. For the past few months, I’ve been seriously considering physical therapy school. I have most of the pre-requisites, and I think that being a physical therapist would be a very rewarding career. (Plus they make about twice as much $$ as dietitians on average!).
The downside: Best case scenario, I would start school next summer or fall (different programs have different start dates), and it’s a three year program. I’d be almost 30 (ok, I’d be 27) by the time I would FINALLY graduate and get a real job. That sounds like an eternity to me. But I think that it would be worth it .
What did you want to be when you were a kid? How did you decide on your career path? Anyone else have issues like me in finding the right career/figuring out how to use your degree?