Evolution, Revisited

It all started with a sign—a literal sign on the wall, not some encrypted message from the cosmos (as much as I love those slippery types of universal signals).

Sort of like this, only less digital.

Sort of like this, only less digital and GPS-y. (Photo taken somewhere along the Washingston state coast line.)

There I was in a downtown Starbucks, waiting at the end of a messy countertop for the barista to call my name. I was regretting my impulsive decision to try a piece of their banana bread (which was terrible) and feeling even more guilty about my calculated resolution to toss it—barely nibbled—in the garbage can when I saw it: a picture of corn tacked up on the Community Message Board.

Also sort of like this, only with corn.

Also sort of like this, only with corn. (Photo taken in beautiful San Francisco.)

Inexplicably enchanted by this black and white photo of rustic maize ears, I examined the poster more closely and peered at the logo in the bottom corner. A school? Could it be true? Was this really a possibility? My heart began to flutter and chirp with excitement, much to the chagrin of my less-than-impressed Rational Mind. “Remember, Dana—this is corn we are looking at”, it sniffed haughtily, while my heart did interpretive dances and gleeful cartwheels all the same. At that moment, an approximation of my name broke through my trance as it rang out from the end of the messy countertop. I took my Vanilla Rooibos tea from the barista and headed back to the Harbour without giving another thought to that sign.

A few weeks later, a subtle stirring in my heart prompted me to my laptop, where I Googled the logo I had seen on the poster: Pacific Rim College. There, I discovered their Holistic Nutrition Program. I was gripped with an overwhelming sense of curiosity. My heart and head wrestled with each other as I scrolled through the course descriptions and program information, each of them vying for the prize of my attention and, of course, my ultimate confidence.


Heart: Look at this! A whole course in Ayurvedic Medicine! And several courses in Holistic Cooking! OMG OMG OMG!!! [general rejoicing and celebrating]

Head: [non-plussed] Please. Give me a break! Dana—Listen to me. Why would you ever want to go back to school? You’ve already done six years and two degrees at university. And you became a horrible shadow of yourself while you were completing your Master’s Degree. Isn’t that enough? [figurative arms crossed in defiance]

Heart: [undeterred] But check this out! Herbal Medicine courses! Student clinics! An entire course on vegetarianism and veganism! This is totally up our alley!

Head: Seriously, Heart? Grow up already. It’s too risky. And how much does it cost?

Heart: [suddenly deflated] Oh. It’s a three year program and costs around $27,000. Never mind. You win, Head. I hate you.


Knowing that the Holistic Nutrition program would eat three years out of my lifetime and cause significant damage to my sensitive financial landscape (“New Lawn: Please Keep Off”), I shelved the idea of becoming a Holistic Nutritionist in my “If I Ever Win the Lottery” file and kept on keeping on at the harbour. Oh, well.

A visual representation of my delicate financial landscape.

A visual representation of my delicate financial landscape.

My heart is a pretty sneaky bastard, though, so one day I found myself “casually” mentioning the program to Marty. It was the first time I had ever given an out-loud voice to this crazy notion, and as soon as I “nonchalantly” told him about this program, I experienced a surge of adrenaline chorusing through my body. HOLISTIC NUTRITION, YES!! (Picture choirs of angels, cherubs, and silver-lined clouds.) As if on cue, my Rational Mind muscled its way into the situation and immediately took control:


Head: Yeah, love. I found this program on the internet that costs $27,000. [significant pause for effect] There are no scholarships or bursaries available, so I’d have to pay for the whole thing out of pocket. [pursed lips, pause] Or I could take out $30,000 worth of student loans… you know, with textbooks and all. [sideways glance] And it would take 3 years to complete. But other than that, it looks okay.


Rainbow veggie sushi roll... why not?

Rainbow veggie sushi roll… A random photo, yes, but why not?

The world stood still as I waited for Marty’s response. I didn’t dare breathe, lest my exhalation sway his thoughts out of my favour. After what seemed like ages but was probably more like 3 seconds, Marty expressed unwavering support. To my great relief, he confessed his suspicions that I would want to go back to school for something, eventually, and he was interested in seeing me pursue the holistic pathway, even if we had to budget and scrimp to our teeth to make it happen.


Heart: Haha! TRUE LOVE CONQUERS ALL! Woot woot!

Head: I have irrationally strong thoughts of anger and resentment toward you, Heart.


A visual representation of how it felt to have Marty support my wacky idea.

A visual representation of how it felt to have Marty support my wacky, going-back-to-school idea.

Since then, I have looked into a number of different Holistic Nutrition programs, ranging from 11-month courses in Vancouver to 18-month options in San Diego. (I ended up nixing the 3-year course at Pacific Rim pretty early on, once I discovered that 2012 was the inaugural year of their program, that there were still significant vacancies in their teaching staff, and that most other schools offer similar graduating credentials after only 1 year of study.) Every school offers a slightly different spin on the generic “Holistic Health” foundation, but I used a killer combo of heart-driven intuition and head-driven logistics to narrow the choices down.


My final two contestants (say in Chris Harrison, Bachelor-style voice) were both located in Vancouver—the Big-To-Me-City. Both options take 11 months to complete, and both of them have similar course profiles. I was in Vancouver during Marty’s aforementioned Artist Residency, and I used the opportunity to visit both of the schools on site and to let my gut make the final decision. I visited one of the schools on a Monday and felt alright. I noticed that my Rational Mind was doing a lot of the talking, though: “I could make this work”, “It seems decent enough”, “The owner seems professional”. The next day, I visited the other school and experienced a full-body explosion of joy! My heart was about to explode with ecstasy, and even my stodgy Rational Mind got in on the excitement. “What a great instructor!”, “I see myself belonging here!”, “This course seems so comprehensive!”

How it felt when I visited the second school. Starfish jump!!

How it felt when I visited the second school. Starfish jump!! (Photo taken– obviously– on historic Route 66, California leg)

Ultimately, there was no contest between the two institutions– one of them gave me a tentative feeling of ‘meh?’ (not even a definitive ‘meh’.) and the other one felt like I had come home. (Even saying that ‘coming home’ part to my mom got me all choked up, so I took it as a good sign.) That’s my big news, though (sorry for the month wait): I am going to go back to school! And I’m going to pursue certification as a Holistic Nutritionist!

In case you were wondering, the tunnel to heaven is located in Port Townsend, WA. You're welcome!

In case you were wondering, the tunnel to heaven is located in Port Townsend, WA. You’re welcome!

I don’t know why this new direction in life came as such a shock to me—me who has more photos of salad than of scenery; me who fawns over beets and has an ongoing love affair with quinoa; me who can’t resist buying bundles of rainbow carrots whenever I see them (and who exclaims “How beautiful!” every single time I slice open a purple one lengthwise); me who has relished every aspect of our Elimination Diet, including the initial food restrictions and even my pesky food sensitivities!; me who loves to cook and make everything from scratch; me who converted to the Cult of Raw Kraut and is now actively recruiting new members; me who bemoans getting off track every harbour season but is determined to fit in my ‘off-season jeans’ every autumn. My passion for whole foods is fairly obvious when I think about it this way, but who knew I would flip the switch of passion and consider turning it into a career? I think I know what I want to be when I grow up now, and I couldn’t be happier! 🙂

A few of my favourite things: lighthouses and homemade (garlic-free) guacamole. Heaven!

A few of my favourite things: lighthouses and homemade (garlic-free) guacamole. Heaven! (Photo taken along the Oregon coastline.)

Obviously, I wasn't going to publish this post without including a photo of kale. Who do you think I am?

Obviously, I wasn’t going to publish this post without including a photo of kale. Who do you think I am?

34 responses

  1. oh my gosh, Oh My Gosh, OH MY GOSH!

    I’m so happy for you [picture me doing the Snoopy Happy Dance]. You will never, ever, as long as you live, regret this wonderful decision. It’s something you will use every single day of your life, and something that will provide you with the opportunity to make a positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing impact on the lives of others.

    I’m absolutely tickled pink for you!

    • Thanks so much for the beautiful comment, Laurie! I am grinning from ear to ear reading it, and it’s totally keeping my fire of excitement stoked. 🙂 I’ve always been drawn to the ‘helping’ professions, and the holistic nutrition pathway feels like a perfect fit. Yay for new directions!

    • Thanks, Mary. It’s always amused me that Pacific Northwesterners plant kale as an ornamental plant throughout the winter, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t my fave vegetable. Kale + me = BFF.

      Disclosure: I still need to apply for the school, but I can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be accepted. Obviously, I’ll be writing all about it when it comes closer to My First Day of School. Hooray! 🙂

    • Thanks, Dean! It feels like a great fit and yes, I’d be looking at starting this fall. There’s a whole lot of logistics to figure out before then (i.e. the whole living in Vancouver for 11 months thing), but whatevs– I’m sure it will all work out in the end!)

    • What a wonderful expression, Lisa– I never thought about the heart speaking loudly enough for our ears to hear. It definitely did in this case, though. I’ve been walking on air ever since I visited that school, and every time I think about being a student again, I’m over the moon. 🙂

  2. This IS perfect for you! I felt it all the way through: the way it made your heart sing, fear of getting to attached to the idea, hoping for – then loving – your husband’s support and approval…not to mention your love of nutrition. You always have seen it as a saving grace! Good for you!

    • Appreciate the wonderful comment, Cindy. I was completely afraid of committing to the idea too intensely before I ran it past my significant other– I couldn’t have dealt with the colossal disappointment if he was staunchly against it (for whatever reason). I needn’t have worried, though. Marty is pretty awesome. 🙂

  3. Dana, I am SO happy for you!!! This is the most wonderful news EVER! I am so thrilled that you listened to your heart’s desire AND that Marty supports you so whole-heartedly. Can’t wait to hear how this goes. High five!

    • YEAH! Thanks, Kathy! I don’t think I’ve ever used so many exclamation points in my life– one per paragraph (or sentence) just doesn’t seem to cut it. (!!!!!!!!!!!)

      I can’t wait to see this chapter of my life unfold. It feels 100% different from when I was pursuing my Master’s Degree (which was a pure struggle), and I’m so passionate about whole food nutrition to begin with. Can’t wait to have some solid credentials behind me so I can support THE WHOLE WORLD in becoming the most radiant, healthful individuals they can be. 🙂

      So nice to be able to share this wonderful news with my online friends!

  4. Before I get into the serious stuff, thank you for the random rainbow roll pic. I can’t stop laughing and I can’t even figure out why. Also? YAYAYaYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYYAY! Seems like exactly the type of study that suits you!

    • Thanks, Tori! This program (AND random pics of rainbow sushi rolls) are right up my alley. My phone is around 95% photos of meals I’ve made/eaten/seen. The other 5% are pictures of loved ones. Mostly Marty. 🙂

      PS: Why can I see a gorgeous avatar of you on other people’s blogs but not on mine? You’re only showing up as a geometric pattern here, but I know for a fact you’re rocking a sublime avatar elsewhere! What gives?

  5. Wheeeeeeee – YAY!!! Going back to school = Pure, Delightful Genius

    I’ve been reading another blogger for months who’s a holistic nutritionist. She recently moved from the western part of Canada to Montreal (I think…). She has kickin’ low-allergy recipes (today is a 5-ingredient chocolate pudding made out of NAVY BEANS) and Capital G-orgeous photos of her food. I know you don’t *need* another blog to read, but she might be a good resource along your journey (if you’re not already familiar with her work): http://www.healthfulpursuit.com

    I’m ecstatic for you to continue taking steps along this new pathway and I’m so grateful to you for sharing your passion and determination with the Great Blue Nowhere so we (read: I) can partake vicariously. Your excitement is positively contagious! Now go get it, lady!! ❤

    • YES! Thanks so much for the link, Michelle! (Awkward moment: that fabulous lady graduated from the school that made me go ‘meh’? Hers was a different campus in a different city, though, so she probably had a great experience. Plus: we’re all different!)

      I am beyond excited to pursue this path and share whatever knowledge I gain with anyone who will listen/read. I don’t know when, exactly, I turned a profound corner in my relationship with food, but it feels good to be on the other side of the wall and loving the bounty that nourishes my body. 🙂

      (On a side note: I think I’ll need to start karate lessons or something. I’ve got loads of excited energy bursting inside of me. Maybe I’ll run a marathon! Or cycle up a mountain! OR WRESTLE A CACTUS! YES!!!!)

  6. Yay!! You know what? This makes a lot of sense! You are super passionate about this stuff, which will carry into a career! Exciting doesn’t even begin to describe it!
    So. Many. Questions. This fall? Where will you live? And Marty? Will he move over to van?
    I’m also not surprised he’s supporting you – he is such a good man.

    • I have so many questions, too! I will either live with my mom for the duration of the program, coming home every few weeks to be with my man, or we will try to find a super cheap bachelor suite for 6 months where we can live together before he has to come back to Vic for the harbour season. Who knows? I have a hard time being apart from him for too long, and 11 months would definitely be a LONG TIME, so we’ll try to find something that allows us to be together without breaking the bank. 🙂

    • YES!! My theme word for 2013 is “Alignment”, and I feel that this course will be a great way for me to align my interests and passions with my (soon-to-be) professional practices. Can’t wait!

  7. How exciting! I’m so happy for you. Even my heart is doing somersaults of joy. I’m glad you found an outlet for your passion. Woo Hoo!!

    P.S. Apart from avocados, what else do you put in your garlic free guacamole?

    • Thanks for the heart somersaults, Nic– I appreciate them! My guac is super easy and quick to make. I slather it on just about everything: 1 avo, juice of 1/2 lemon (or 1 lemon if it’s smaller/less juicy), sea salt to taste, a dash of red hot chili flakes, and a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped up. I mash everything up with a fork and go to town! Simple but effective. 🙂

  8. Oooooh!!

    My heart is doing starfish jumps for you!! And selfishly for me — more awesome Dana food posts for me!

    (still crazy about holy shiitake stew)

    Also, wow — thank you for marathon reading and commenting on my blogs prior posts!

    • No worries! I love that your posts are short, sweet, and to the point. I feel like it would be a shame to miss one. 🙂

      Thanks also for the excitement about my newfound career direction! The energy is contagious, no? I just ordered my official transcripts so I can start putting the application package together, and by god– I can’t wait!! (Trying to log in to my old university account after 7 years of inactivity was an exercise in patience, but once I figured out my username and password again, all was well.)

  9. *Happy Dance* I am SO excited for you, Dana!! I’m one of those people who can’t decide what she wants to be when she grows up, so it’s thrilling to see someone find her way. Yay, Dana!! 😀

    • YES! Thanks so much, Robin! Who knows if this direction will be the end-all ‘trunk’ of my career path or simply a smaller branch on my tree of life. In any case, I am STOKED to travel this new path and can’t wait to share everything I learn. 🙂

  10. Oh, WOW! How exciting, Dana! Did the thought of doing this really never occur to you before that moment in Starbucks? It does seem like an obvious, natural step for you. 🙂 You will be an amazing student with so much knowledge already going into it!

    I’m eager to hear about your experiences going through the program. Years ago (after finishing undergrad), I actually considered doing a similar program since I would spend so much time researching food and nutrition in my spare time. I thought it would be good to validate this knowledge with a degree. However, I ended up getting involved in the tech industry (a completely different path) and found out that I actually love it and haven’t considered going back to school since. So, yeah, I’m definitely curious to hear about your experience.

    • I had always been interested in nutrition, Christina, but the thought of going back to school for ANYTHING put me right off. I hated doing my Master’s Degree back in 2004-06, and I figured anything that might bring me back into that toxic sort of environment/mindframe simply wasn’t worth it. (At the time, I had no idea that holistic programs even existed. I was imagining going back to university labs with a bunch of 18-year old party kids and working my way up to a 4-Year Dietetics Degree. Not my idea of a great time.) Thankfully, I now know that I can do the program in 1 year, with people my own age for the most part, and that the focus will be a holistic one, not a calorie-counting, meal-planning one. Can’t wait to share my experiences!

    • Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Dany! I appreciate the support and am looking forward to taking this new path.
      Say hi to Edmonton for me– I grew up in Alberta (Calgary) and miss the gigantic skies there. (Don’t miss the freezing cold, but Alberta has many wonderful things going for it otherwise.)

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