Where I Am and How I Got Here

In two weeks I start graduate school. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be graduating from California State University Northridge in a few years* with an MS in Nutritional Science and all the classes I need to take the exam to become a registered dietitian. It’s exciting and a little scary, especially because I’ll be leaving my job as a personal chef to focus on school, which means a lot of belt-tightening and cable-canceling and frugal-meal-planning around here. So maybe it’s more than a little scary.

But mostly it’s exciting, because as Rob can attest, I spent many anguished years wondering what I wanted to do with my life, once I realized that a film school degree didn’t take me anywhere I wanted to go, and food writing was probably never going to pay the bills. I considered becoming a grant-writer, a post-production sound editor, an online English tutor. I thought about culinary school or an MFA in Creative Writing. Getting an internship always somehow sounded like a good idea. It never was.

And then one morning before work, browsing the job listings on Craigslist in search of a better life — totally normal and not depressing at all, you guys — I stumbled onto a listing for a job as the director of the kitchen at a women’s homeless shelter. The job combined cooking, teaching, healthy eating and helping people, which sounded like the kind of job I could describe to anyone I knew and and they would exclaim, “That’s perfect for you!” It was perfect for me. Except that I was completely unqualified. They wanted a registered dietitian or an applicant with equivalent experience.

What did it take to be a registered dietitian anyway?

Fifteen minutes of Googling later, a golden egg of an idea was hatching in my mind, and what emerged was so alive, so kicking and persistent and intense, there was no way to ignore it. I wanted to be a registered dietitian. I was going to go back to school. Starting immediately. I think I woke Rob up to tell him my revelation — I was already late for work, it didn’t matter — and he was hesitant, having witnessed other sudden, random career ideas before, but as supportive as ever. “That sounds great, honey. Just stick with it, okay?”

This from a man who has spent every day for over a decade working toward his dreams, even when it sometimes feels like he is being pushed two steps back for every step forward, even when almost anyone else in this world would have given up. Giving up is never an option. He is a man who knows about sticking with it.

And maybe some of it has rubbed off on me, because I’ve stuck with it since that cold January morning in 2010, through the harrowing process of trying to get into overfilled community college classes, the exhaustion of juggling two jobs and school, the loss of weekends or any kind of free time, the grumpiness, the bad teachers, the occasional tears. There were classes I gave up on (online chemistry? what was I thinking?), but never for a second did I think about giving up on the ultimate goal.

I stuck with it and now I’m here, still a long way from the finish, but also a long way from the start.ย I’m glad you’re here too. I don’t know exactly what’s in store for us, but I have a good feeling about it.

 

* Don’t ask me how many, please. It’s a little depressing, how many years it takes for someone with no science background to get a masters degree related to science.**

** Okay, fine. It will be at least four years if you count the year-long internship needed to become an RD. Sticking. With. It.

   

{ 15 Comments }

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    1
    June Blickenstaff — August 15, 2012 at 3:56 am

    I’m so proud of you! Mom xoxo

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    Bea Young — August 15, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Good for you! I loved your blog, you write so well. I have no doubt that you will be tenacious in reaching your goal!
    Bea

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    Joanna — August 15, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Wow! I am so excited for you! (Also, I just found your blog via A&O. I love it.)

    • Anjali — August 16th, 2012 at 10:17 am

      Thanks, Joanna, Bea & Mom!

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    Jen — August 22, 2012 at 8:24 am

    “I donโ€™t know exactly whatโ€™s in store for us, but I have a good feeling about it.” I think this is how you know you’re doing it right. I loved this post. I love that you wrote it, I love that you shared it. I also love that you figured out what you wanted to do from Craig’s List. They should tell high schoolers to look at the job postings on Craig’s List to help figure out what path to take. I think it’s genius. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

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    Rosemary Flora — August 23, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Loved your candor and writing ability. Good luck with the course and I’m looking forward to more blogs!

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    Grandpa Norm and Doreen — August 29, 2012 at 11:42 am

    We are very proud and happy for you and are wishing for you years of easy learning.

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    Jessica @ Desserts with Benefits — September 15, 2013 at 9:31 am

    I am in the same boat as you. So much/way too much science in order to be a Registered Dietician!!! I don’t know how schools can expect you to take biology, microbiology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, anatomy & physiology, and nutritional biology (or at least, that’s what’s needed for my school, ugh) in just four years. Oh, and 4-hour labs on top of that. Just writing all that down made my brain explode. I’m so glad I found your blog (via foodgawker and those nut & seed banana oat bars!). I will definitely be coming back again and again for your recipes, they are seriously healthy, and I now trust who it’s coming from ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Anjali — September 17th, 2013 at 11:35 am

      Thanks, Jessica! I don’t know how it is at your school, but most of the undergrads at CSUN take at least 5 years to finish everything and the grad students who don’t have a BS in nutrition take at least 3 years to get all the requirements done. Sigh.

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    Jessica @ Desserts with Benefits — September 18, 2013 at 8:33 am

    I guess it is just an unspoken reality, going to school for more than 4 years… a lot of people are still under the stigma that that means you are slow. I will definitely admit that this nutrition degree will take me 5+ years! My goodness, how do people handle two science classes in the same semester?!
    Anyways, good luck with your studies. I am so excited to read your future posts ๐Ÿ™‚
    -Jess

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    Ivy — December 9, 2013 at 10:32 am

    It’s so easy to get discouraged when you look at the years and effort required. But I’m sure you can do it! You also got into a program which is half the battle! I’m still completing prereqs in hopes of getting into a program. Organic chem has been a little discouraging but nothing a little blog reading won’t fix ๐Ÿ™‚ I look forward to reading about your journey (and recipes)!

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    Xiu — March 17, 2014 at 4:04 am

    Hey Anjali,

    Keep at it! I’m one of those who jumped around from job to job trying to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life and now I’m studying to be a dietician too (but i’m in Australia)! Love your blog and the beautiful pictures! Will be trying some of your recipes soon!

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    Christine — March 25, 2014 at 1:05 am

    Hi Anjali!

    Thank you so much for sharing your story–it’s so encouraging and inspiring! I can relate to a lot of what you wrote about agonizing over career choice (it’s kind of crazy how many of those careers you listed that I’ve considered, too! ๐Ÿ™‚ and am currently considering becoming a dietician as well! Would you mind sharing why you decided on CSU Northridge?

    Thanks so much, and I wish you all the best! Congratulations on almost being DONE! =)

    Christine

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    Sarah — September 21, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Hi! I am a RDN, CDE and have worked in LA for the past 7 years in everything from acute care ICU to where I finally landed in outpatient diabetes and GI issues. As you start working more with RDs you might find that though they know loads about nutrition, not many know about food. YOU. ARE. NEEDED! So, keep at it and if you need anything or have any questions about dietitianing (Hey- if “googling” can be a word, so can “dietitianing”), let me know. In other news- I love the Kitchn and your work on it.

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    Sarah — September 21, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Oh yeah! And I get CSUN interns all the time, so I might see you around!

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