You’re studying what?

Kristen Smith

Kristen Smith

Read more about amazing multitasker and guest blogger Kristen Smith at the end of this post.

That’s generally the response I receive when I tell folks that I have ventured back to school to pursue a degree in dietetics. WHAT is dietetics, they ask, and HOW did you choose that?

The answer isn’t as simple as it should be. I’m not a traditional college student. I am married to soldier, mom to a very busy 4 year old, small business owner and an active volunteer. When I first made the decision to go back to school, I had been out of college for several years and pursued a career in marketing.

Then we PCS’d twice in one year (while I was pregnant, no less!). My husband found himself in an assignment with frequent, often unexpected, TDYs. We added our son to our family.

The career I had originally envisioned for myself when I excitedly declared my Marketing major just wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t just about the military moves. For our family, I felt I couldn’t give my infant son the childhood I wanted to provide if both my husband and I were in time-consuming, demanding jobs. So it was time to reevaluate.

Having made the decision that I needed a career change, I found myself at a complete loss. What did I want? Where would I find it? Is there a college that offers a degree that builds in flexibility, mobile career progression, on a topic that I found interesting?

Ummmmmmmm………not exactly.

I am a mind map, brain storm kind of thinker. So I sat down with a large white board and wrote down all the things that I was interested in: business, entrepreneurship, horses (I ride), photography, cooking, wellness, writing, languages, travel, etc.  In a different color (because I am visual learner), I listed what I needed out of career: flexibility with hours, the ability to telecommute or work from home, a variety of options for career progression, mobile, interpersonal.  Then, I thought about what would set up me up for success. My career would be more mobile and have more job security if it offered a national licensing (as opposed to state or local licensing). Generally, I would be looking at a higher earning potential (so better return on my time and financial investment), if it were a “professional” career requiring certification. A bonus would be if there were positions on Army bases. I wanted to be done with school and have a couple years working before my husband hit 20 years in the military and we might need to rely on my income.

So, yeah, I wasn’t looking for much.

I spent hours researching. I looked at schools and degree programs, average wages and professional requirements. In the end, I settled on something that made a tremendous amount of sense to people who knew me: Registered Dietitian. I already had a food/recipe blog. I love to write about food and travel. I enjoy talking to people about food and cooking. I thrive in positions that allow me to help others. It hit all my Need list and much of my Want. It took research and jumping through hoops to find a program I could complete. It has taken two years to complete the pre-reqs one at a time and throughout a PCS and a child at home.

While the road has been unexpected and rocky, I am making slow and steady progress toward my goals. I will be able to contribute to my family while maintaining the family and home life that is my number one priority. When my husband is ready to retire from active duty service, my

financial contribution will give him time to make a choice about what to do next. If the unimaginable should happen and he is injured or unable to stay in the military through 20 years, we have a safety net.

I am not pursuing a career I dreamed of as a little girl. The majority of my studying and homework takes place before breakfast, after bedtime or at Chick Fil A while my son plays. I only watch evening TV shows when they are dvr’d because that’s my study time. I am always tired.

But my slow crawl towards my goal is building the life I want for my family, the safety net my husband deserves. It turns out that I find nutritional studies endlessly fascinating. Food photography and creating new recipes makes my fingers itch to do more. Sourcing local food has led me to wonderful friendships with people who grow the food my family eats.

It may not be the life I envisioned back when I declared that marketing major, but it’s brought me to exactly where I should be.

200x200 buttonKristen Smith spends her days doing a passable impression of an octopus. With a four year old son, messy husband, 2 dogs and a horse, she picks up new hobbies compulsively and has trouble saying no to volunteer needs. In her spare time (mostly when she’s suffering from insomnia), she has built a successful small business marketing service KLSmith Creative, serves as the blog coordinator for Army Wife Network, and blogs about her search for balance and adventures in the kitchen at Authentic Plate.

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