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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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!
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! 🙂