Career Change: How Did I Get Here?

Today is February 16th, 2012, and tomorow I will begin a natural/vegetarian/healing foods culinary program at The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts, here in Austin, TX. I find myself on the doorstep of leaving my 10-year career in human resources, reflecting on how I arrived at this amazing turning point in my life…

Early Signs

As a child, I loved to watch cooking shows on public TV. The sounds, the physicality, and the vitality were very attractive. Chefs were always very excited about their work and the pleasure it could bring them and their guests.

My mom got me my first cookbook when I was fairly young. It had a plastic set of measuring spoons which I still use today. I had some cooking successes, and many failures.

Below: These spoons have been used in my kitchens for the past 20 years or so.

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Key People

My parents always instilled in me this idea that I could do anything I wanted to do. Also, I was naturally curious, and they never discouraged my desire to learn. If I showed interest in art, they bought me art supplies. If I was into cooking that year, they got me cookbooks. I was very fortunate to have their support.

I remember grocery shopping every week with my mother. The produce aisle was always a festival of wonders – bananas, purple eggplants, round grapes, and leafy lettuces.

I had a girlfriend in graduate school who shopped and worked at a food co-operative, and that was my first experience with such a place. Hemp soap, granola, bulk foods, almond milk, etc. were all completely new to me. The co-op was an earthy, welcoming place, without the pretentiousness of a big box supermarket. We also shopped at ethnic groceries, where my mind was further expanded by the sight of foods from around the world.

I met my wife several years ago and she opened my eyes to a new array of natural foods. It was at this time that I first heard the term “organic” and I began to revitalize my excitement about food and it’s health-promoting qualities. Since then, one of my favorite activities has been reading about health. I find it exciting to learn about how people have healed themselves using food or how they have reduced their risk factors for disease.

Below: A sample of my library of books on food and health.

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Critical Events

A number of events in my life brought me and loved ones into contact with practitioners of Western medicine and I began to notice that the doctors’ knowledge was limited and their ability to attend to my needs was inadequate. I observed that people have an innate ability to heal themselves and take control of their own well being. These observations have been particularly strong in the past several years.

Almost exactly one year ago (February 2011), I took a personality test at work. My test results showed that I was different from the others in my office. As an ISFP, I realized that I was not a Thinker who makes decisions based on cold facts, I am a Feeler who must do work that is emotionally gratifying. I was not a Judger who feels safest with consistency and closure, I am a Perceiver who thrives on ambiguity, change, and flexibility. This put some of the feelings I had been having into a new context – I truly wanted to explore a new career path for myself. (I wrote a blog post about this process.)

In May 2011, I began exploring the possibility of enrolling in a bachelor’s program in nutrition. I had several conversations with professors and academic advisers. I was excited about the prospect of a career where I could help people and share one of my true passions, healthy eating.

It was during this time that I was going through some difficulties in my personal life which were challenging my conception of what I wanted. I was beginning to get conflicting messages about what was best for me, and much of those messages were coming from within myself. I was beginning to get more in touch with what I really wanted from life, instead of what I thought others wanted or what I thought society would view as conventional.

In August 2011, to continue my exploration, I contacted The Natural Epicurean to learn about their program. I was immediately attracted to their blend of culinary training and wellness education. I quickly realized that as a Sensor who loves to take in information using my senses, the academic/scientific focus of a program in nutrition would not be as fulfilling as culinary education. I loved the sights, smells, and immediacy of food. I love “food people” and talking about health with others. What’s more, I began to realize that the field of dietetics is filled with the influence of Western medical thought, which I have become increasingly skeptical of over the past several years.

A Decision

Six months ago, I made the decision to enroll in culinary school. Shortly thereafter, I notified my employer of the decision, and everyone has been very supportive. It has been a long six months waiting for this time to come.

Now I am just a day away from changing my life. It was not a hasty decision, but the result of a series of events that brought me here. I am thankful that I have the resources to make this happen for myself, and the support from people all along the way. This blog will continue to be a touchstone for me to reflect on this journey and to share it with others.

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11 thoughts on “Career Change: How Did I Get Here?

  1. For a Feeler type, you certainly conducted some intense analysis, Mike. Surely your balance (love the lemon on spoon image) of thoughtfulness and diligence will serve you well, and therefore benefit all who enjoy the fruits of your labor.

  2. Mike….amazing how we have worked together 5 years and I never really knew this about you. Good luck today at your orientation — open your mind and your heart to the changes that are about to happen for you…I look foward to future posts and learning about your new experiences. I find the sadest thing is when you ask a child “where does food come from” and they reply “HEB”…..

  3. Mike:

    Just a quick word to say that I wish you well (in the fullest sense of that word). You will be missed.
    Best regards!

  4. Mike,
    Good for you!!!! I work in HR in a UT System University (I was on the conference call with you on others yesterday when you made the announcement. I too have an interest in cooking and natural foods. I applaud you for launching out and following your passion. Good luck!

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