I am exhausted. I am worn out. But I am not finished; I have a dream to chase.
Why am I wearing myself out to pursue a fairly vague dream? It’s a loaded question, but certainly not a load of B. S. (not the way you’re thinking, anyway).
If you don’t know my story, you’re not alone. Not many do; I don’t talk about it much. And why should I need to, now that I’ve graduated from college with a degree in English? The possibilities are endless – right? I can do whatever I want, now that I can wave that diploma around. Right? As long as I change the name of my blog (again) and apply for every editing job I can find on LinkedIn – RIGHT?
Sorry – wrong. I’m not quite finished yet. With college, I mean.
Have I confused you yet? Good. That was my intention. It’s called a lead. And now I expand on the vagueness of my previous statements. That might just leave you more confused, but that births the opportunity for you to start a conversation with me about it. If you want to. But you probably won’t.
Let me start by admitting something to whoever happens to stumble upon this post: it has taken me a very, very long time to put it together and adequately prepare it for your eyes. And I don’t use adjectives like ‘very’ too often anymore. That’s why I haven’t posted since January (you’re heartbroken, I know). It takes time to process truth before you can write about it. And what I’m about to ‘talk’ about, it isn’t even the whole story. The world isn’t quite ready for that nonsense (and, as long as we’re being honest, neither am I).
Notice my use of the universal ‘we.’ I’m inviting you into my circle, temporarily. Sit around this figurative campfire with me while I tell you at least a fraction of my story. It’s not that interesting, but even though I don’t have a nice plot twist or a tear-jerking ending for you yet, every story does start with a beginning, and I at least know that well enough to tweak it, type it up and share it with you.
Whether you read it or not, that’s up to you. I’ll never know. That’s the beauty behind the Internet: if you know me, and read about my life, and want to judge me for what I say, you never have to do it to my face. If you don’t know me, and still want to judge me, and choose to comment and let me know so, I can just ignore you.
My story starts with a friend I met online.
Calm down, it’s not what you’re thinking. After finishing high school a semester early and sitting through half a semester of community college gen eds (snore), I realized (or at that point my mom reminded me) I still needed to find a roommate to live with once I left for ‘real’ college in the fall. I (naturally) hopped onto my university’s Class of 2014 Facebook group and hovered over the discussion boards, zeroing in on the one created for other girls to post about searching for roommates. So I posted, too – and a few people messaged me to start conversations, hoping we’d be compatible. Only one conversation lasted more than a few days, and that fellow novel-writing, Gilmore Girls-loving future Olivetian would become and remain my roommate for the next three years of my life.
Living with her was life-changing, and even after deciding to ‘separate’ and live apart for a year, I still consider her a friend I would not still be here without. It was hard living with her at first, though, watching her fall in love with her core education courses, hearing the plans she had for her life, knowing she was going to be a great teacher and realizing I didn’t know if I could be a great writer, or a great anything. I loved her; I still do. But then, I hated that she had such a vibrant, solid dream.
For years I wanted to study nutrition, but the excuses always outweighed the reasons. I didn’t want to be my mother’s shadow. I didn’t want people telling me I couldn’t do it because I’m terrible at math and science. Most of all, I didn’t want anyone to look at me and wonder why ‘such a good writer’ was giving up her dream of becoming a novelist to study dietetics.
First of all, who says I’ve given up on that dream? Of course I haven’t. I still work on my current book as often as I can, when all the priorities that fall before that one have been crossed off the list. Second of all, stop saying I’m a good writer. Either you’re a writer or you’re not, and it’s no secret that I’m a writer (honestly, just Google me. I’m not being vain; I’m being honest). The problem with my author’s ambition is that, for years, that’s all I thought I could do. The only thing anyone ever said was, “I can’t wait until you publish your first book.” Really, I could. Wait, I mean. Publishing a novel seemed too easy to me, too probable. Most significantly, the idea of publishing my work didn’t scare me. It excited me, but it didn’t frighten me. And that’s why I found myself so restless, so hungry for something more.
A dream isn’t worth fighting for if it doesn’t absolutely terrify you. I figured that out the moment I walked into the registrar’s office and declared a second major. It was a big deal then, because even doing that threw me so far outside my comfort zone it made me dizzy. While I shivered out there in the unfamiliar air of the unknown, though, I decided I didn’t want to stay curled up in the boundaries the world had set for me so long ago. I wanted to stay in the unfamiliar darkness and breathe in that air until it became part of my new safe haven. I didn’t want to crawl back into boredom; not yet.
I stood up and decided to face what scared me – then, and many, many times after that. That didn’t mean my dream was any less frightening. If anything, the deeper I ventured into the unknown, the more often I found myself afraid. But it became something more than that; in a way, it gave me a sense of thrill I’d never known I’d deprived myself of for so long.
In becoming a dietetics major, I established a dangerous – and exhilarating – relationship with fear. I had to, or I knew I would never make it over the hurdles of the undergraduate dietetics program that appeared one by one before my watering eyes.
If you’re going to judge me, now might be when you’d start.
Declaring a major in dietetics at a four-year university is exactly like the meme that appropriately follows this sentence.
I realized very quickly (there goes my uncharacteristic use of ‘very’ again) that declaring a major in dietetics was quite literally like changing my name to Katniss. CALM DOWN, I am not comparing my former dietetics program to surviving the Hunger Games or any affiliated persons to President Snow. They are not trying to kill off their tributes (I mean students). In fact, they want as many majors to make it out alive as possible – and for good reasons. Kudos to them for that.
But in all seriousness (okay, I can’t actually ever be serious for more than a paragraph, I’m sorry), I had to fight battle after battle if I had any hope of making it to graduation having earned two degrees. Scroll back up to the first few paragraphs of this post. Are you with me now? The ugly truth is, I fought for my dream, I became a tribute in a sea of dreamers just as capable (or incapable) of reaching for similar goals as I was, and I did not succeed. In all essence, I, at least temporarily, failed.
Now you understand why I can’t compare declaring a dietetics major to the Hunger Games, because if they were synonymous, I’d be – you guessed it – dead.
The difference between the Hunger Games and the standard four years it takes to earn a Bachelor of Science in dietetics is that you don’t have to quit once your time is up. And you certainly don’t have to wait for everyone else to drop out (a.k.a., die) before you can call yourself a victor. I did not walk across that stage this past weekend to receive a degree in dietetics, but by no means have I given up on that dream. Instead, I’m choosing to spend thousands of extra dollars to finish the 14 credit hours that now stand between me and a B. S. degree.
But why? WHY spend so much extra time, energy, money – all things I do not possess in excess – on finishing a second degree when I already have one?
That’s why they call it a dream. Not only is it potentially mortifying, almost like a nightmare in disguise; it doesn’t always align with the most basic logical thought processes. In retrospect, it makes absolutely no sense for me to do what I’m doing over the next six months: finishing the degree I started two and a half years ago. After all I’ve been through, the only thing that would make sense would be to quit.
However, you have to know this: I do not quit. Ever.
It took me three tries to pass general chemistry; I did not quit.
I barely knew how to boil water my first semester in a foods class; it was embarrassing, but I did not quit.
Standing in front of a room full of people I knew hated me, presenting a semester’s worth of research I did not choose to conduct, telling as much of my story as I knew and remembered myself, I struggled. I had just found out a significant influential figure in my life had died and I had to somehow pretend it was okay so I could carry out the task I said I’d do.
I wanted to, but I did not quit.
When things fell apart, I did not quit.
And I won’t quit now, even though textbooks are expensive and math is hard and I’ll probably break a hundred test tubes in the next month.
It’s my dream. If my dream hasn’t given up on me, why should I give up on it?
There is a crowd of people out there shaking their heads, saying I’m out of my mind for thinking I can still stride down the same path as before my life turned into a hurricane. Yes, the Internet is a beautiful thing. Anyone who thinks I’m going to quit, I can just ignore.
For all those out there who think I’m not going to keep chasing after what I hunger for, there are a thousand more who know I will. For all those out there who think I’m going to fail, I know how you feel. There have been times I regretted making the decision to pursue dietetics as a career. There have been times I was deathly afraid to fail. But I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve proven myself wrong. With every failure comes another chance to succeed.
In December, I’ll have my degree. And that will be enough for me to consider myself a victor in this real-life Hunger Games.
I changed my mind: I like this metaphor. I think I’ll stick with it, or die trying.