Archive for March, 2011


“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Before today I thought I understood Howard Thurman’s quote. I was wrong. Up until today my understanding was (at best) half-way there. I was still asking what the world needs (health providers, obesity conquered, quality nutrition, etc.). I had no idea what would make me come alive. True, I would be changing lives by being in the health and wellness industry; however, considering the fact that at 5’7″ and 206 pounds I’m obese, I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever come alive and taken ownership of what I want to do for a living during my time spent working in spas, health clubs and participating in weight-loss competitions. Sure I dropped weight and had more energy. And it felt like I was happier than ever; how-ev-er, the idea of what to do for work (personal trainer, wellness consultant, life coach, doctor, chiropractor, nutritionist, etc.) continued to elude me. And I spent time researching each of those career options. I visited campuses, talked to advisors, worked in the health industry, talked with life coaches and personal trainers. Nothing seemed right. But I sure knew what didn’t make me come alive – working in other people’s non-life-changing businesses.

My husband (and best friend of 12 years) could tell that I was unhappy. He knows how I am when I’m not sure of what I which direction I want to go next. And this question of what to do for work, what makes me come alive, isn’t a new question. I’ve struggled with it since I was 16 and applying to colleges. As a result, I transferred schools five times in as many years before graduating with 160 credits from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2005 with a “Bachelor of Business Administration in Management with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship and a minor in finance”. It’s not a degree I take pride in. It’s not a degree I enjoyed earning. It my $45,000 piece of paper. And it feels so very hollow.

Needless to say, my husband knew I would never be happy until I discovered my work. (I’m not a person who will simply settle for a meaningless job that pays the bills. I just can’t do it. I’ve tried. Multiple times. It isn’t for me.) A few months ago he encouraged me to go all out and find my work. He encouraged me to keep looking, researching, figuring it out. “Go anywhere,” he said. “Don’t just look in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Find the best program for what you want to do and go do it.”

First, I looked into interior design programs. I. LOVE. INTERIOR DESIGN. I found programs all over the world that were remarkably fabulous. But I don’t want to be the ring-leader of a contractor-based circus competing for jobs, constantly marketing my services, bowing to the restrictions of my clients and always being focused on making a person’s collection of material goods look impressive. That said, out of this interior design program research I discovered several ideas: 1) I. LOVE. INTERIOR. DECORATING. I do not love interior design. There’s a difference. Many colleges do not offer programs in interior decorating…although some do. 2) I do not want to professionally study interior decorating. I want to keep it as my hobby. 3) Arizona State University (ASU) has a top interior design program, along with a lot of other amazing, innovative degrees. And warm winters!

Second, I looked into Global Health at ASU. And it looks like an incredible program! The ASU Global Health website had me at hello. So much so that Brian (my husband) and I have planned a trip down to Tempe and I’ll be visiting the program soon. We’ll see. Initially I thought, OMG! This IS the program for me! It pulls from SO many different directions, is focused on culture and people and prevention (instead of disease) and has research projects focused on obesity and has global internship opportunities and it would take me all that long to finish and I could start this fall (if I get in) and on and on and on. But, right now, what’s scary for me is that the master’s program is VERY new and so the School of Human Evolution and Social Change (LOVE that name!!!) has no information on where their graduates end up after completing the program. (Side note, ASU’s mascot is a Sun Devil…love that too!) I’m also not sure what type of work the students do as they’re going through the Global Health program. It might not be for me. But it might. I’m still quite intrigued. Most importantly, I felt an immediate connection to ASU and know I need to visit it in person.

Third, I’ve rediscovered my passion for writing. It IS what makes me come alive. Writing makes me experience emotion more so than anything else I’ve done. That is what makes me come alive. That is where I want to spend my time. Sharing and pulling together incredibly powerful stories. THAT IS WHAT MAKES ME COME ALIVE. Today I read a story I wrote in fifth-grade about my grandmother’s struggle with cancer. And I cried. HARD. If my fifth-grade writing can do that to me now, 18 years later; if my fifth-grade writing can make me feel THAT much emotion, can make me feel THAT ALIVE, then you can damn-well bet that I’m going to do everything I can to develop my writing and story-telling skills! Hello, ASU Creative Writing Department, ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, and the Pursuit of Ownership!

Mr. Thurman, you’re a genius.
And Mr. Hefty, you’re the greatest!