Have you ever stopped and wondered if the dream you’re pursuing isn’t the right one?
I have. Two years ago, actually, almost exactly. I came to Olivet proud to be an English major. What could be better than four years spent doing my favorite things – reading and writing and analyzing to my heart’s content? I knew studying English was meant for me. I knew I was going to be the student with the kind of passion that would help me learn and grow and succeed. I knew pursuing my dream at my dream college was, well, a dream come true.
I loved my English classes. I loved reading classic literature like Beowulf and getting A’s on analysis papers that received both positive feedback and helpful constructive criticism. It only made me want to read and write more. I started another novel as part of NaNoWriMo (and actually had time to work on it). I read five of the seven Harry Potter books in a week in preparation for Part 1 of the seventh movie. I was introduced to Gulliver’s Travels. It was everything I’d known I wanted.
My goal was to publish my first novel before graduation.
I took an intro to psychology course the second semester of my freshman year, a gen-ed I didn’t need but wanted to take anyway. I loved that class: I spent hours studying for it to pull off the A- I knew I deserved. But I found myself suddenly torn between my love for English and my fascination with humanity, and how the brain worked, and how it affected the body. And by the end of that year, I faced severe discontentment. But I didn’t know why – and then, it didn’t matter.
After spending an entire summer reading almost constantly (I think I finished a total of 42 books in three months). At the time, that served as a reminder to me how much I loved what I was studying in school. I was going to be a writer! Not a teacher (like everyone always asked). A writer. Not a famous one, either. Just a published novelist. Even if it was just one book.
I returned to school in the fall restless. World literature bored me to tears (literally), and all of a sudden I could no longer focus on reading for hours just to keep up in my literature courses. I was the only English major in the general literature class (which I took just to fill space, and a literature minor) and proud of it. General physical science was hard to stay awake in, and it didn’t help that I wasn’t sleeping well.
The best part of my coursework that semester, after only a few weeks, was FACS 126 – Nutrition, Health, and Fitness. It was at 7:30 in the morning, but I didn’t need more than a few sips of coffee to get me ready to absorb the material. I loved it. But that’s not the only reason why things changed. There were other factors, other confusing demons to wrestle with.
Fed up with feeling so out of place at the place I wanted to be the most, I looked online at the course requirements for Olivet’s psychology majors. As much as that intrigued me, there was no spark. Something was still missing, crooked, wrong. So I took a walk around campus just to breathe in the early September air. I knew there was an answer waiting for me somewhere out there, an answer to a question I wasn’t even quite sure how to phrase.
What did I want to be? What did I want to do? How did I want to serve?
I wrestled with doubt and confusion for hours. And honestly, it came to the point where all I could think to do was slide into one of the shower stalls down the hall and let hot water splatter over my mangled existence. It was where I thought the best, and came up with the best ideas for my stories – and where I prayed the best, and the hardest, for the longest.
What am I supposed to be?
And then, for lack of any other solution: “God, what do YOU want me to be?”
I knew I couldn’t give up English as a major field of study. I was too attached to it, too dedicated to everything I knew it could still offer me. No matter what happened, I knew I still wanted to write. I knew that was always going to be part of my life no matter what was about to change.
A lot of confusing thoughts went through my head that night. But something became very clear to me in the stillness – something I wanted to run from, to avoid, but knew I couldn’t. I was meant for something more, more than writing a book or analyzing someone else’s story. There was something else I wanted – but also something else God knew I needed.
At one point during my freshman year, I was sitting in the cafeteria with my roommate before our other friends showed up to join us like they always did. A girl we didn’t know came up to us and asked if she could sit with us; we said yes. And during our awkward small talk, I found out she was on the track team, lived in Parrot Hall and was a dietetics major.
I remember a pang of jealousy hitting me hard in the chest, but I ignored it then.
All my life I’d wanted to know more – about everything, pretty much. I loved school and learning and feeling smart, even if I wasn’t all that intelligent in retrospect. But more than anything I wanted to know more about nutrition, the field my mom had been a part of since before I was born. I remember asking her questions, embarrassed of my curiosity but willing to sacrifice that for even a small slice of higher knowledge. In high school I chose nutrition topics for my sophomore speeches and read nutrition articles in my spare time. But I couldn’t understand or justify my reasoning. I just thought it was “normal” to be curious.
At 19, I was tired of everyone assuming that just because I was “good” at writing meant I was going to study English and become a writer (and do that, only that, for the rest of my life). But up until that point, I’d been afraid to face the truth, and to admit even to myself what I really wanted – what I wanted more than ANYTHING. I took a leap of faith though. I marched over to the registrar’s office and declared a major in dietetics without intending to look back as I walked out.
But the secretary called out to me, as I pushed through the door, “Your mom will be so proud!”
I looked back. And that scared me.
My decision to double-major was not an easy one by any means, and I have faced a multitude of struggles since it was officially entered into the computer that morning. But I didn’t do it for someone else, or to prove a point, or to make someone proud. I did it for me.
The thing about dreams is, people are going to look at you and tell you they’re not going to work out. They’ll tell you your dreams aren’t right for you, or aren’t right for you now, or that you might want to choose something more “realistic,” just in case.
But if you love something, like I love dietetics, why on Earth would you let your dream die?
My passion for nutrition gathers it strength solely from its roots. No one ever told me I should study nutrition like my mom or that I would be good at teaching people how to eat right when I “grew up.” So the decision to choose my own path down a difficult road was mine, and still is mine. I don’t understand chemistry. I am not good at making small talk with sick people in hospitals. And really, some people might look attractive in a lab coat, but I’m just not one of them.
But I love what I’m studying more than I’ve loved anything I’ve ever been taught, because it combines everything I love into one close-to-bursting package. I am not only fascinated with nutrition – I literally hunger for it. But then, clinging to my “old life,” I get to turn around and write about health and fitness, too. I’m doing everything I ever wanted to do. I’m teaching people about what it means to live a healthy life, the ways I know how. I don’t have any more hidden dreams (well, not ones I’ll share here, anyway). And I’m not even a college graduate yet.
People will tell you you’re not good enough to be what you’ve always wanted to be. Things will happen that will threaten that small light of hope that reminds you why you’re still standing where you are, working toward a goal, pursuing your greatest desires of all – the ones you share with God.
You’ll mess up. You’ll lose people you care about. But you won’t lie down and give up. You won’t let anyone turn out that light, because it’s yours.
Why did I really become a dietetics major?
Because I knew it would teach me what it means to fight for what I believe God has planned for me. I knew it would show me firsthand what it meant to take a risk and follow Him with every ounce of strength I had left.
I don’t have any strength left. But I’m still going after what I won’t ever let die.
These are the tales of a wounded college solider, standing up and facing her battles with determination no one will ever break apart.
She won’t lose.