Out of the Office

Since Marie is slammed with graduate school coursework this week, she asked if I would write a post. Since I have been through the exact program that Marie is currently part of, I figured I’d share my story.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a]have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Do you see a coincidence as mere chance or as something else? I choose to see a coincidence as something else. I choose to see it as something I call “a God thing.”

I was never a “great” student.

Sure, I was a good student. I loved learning as much as possible about subjects I found particularly interesting, something that continues to this day. All through elementary school and middle school, I found school to be easy. In high school, however, things changed. The subjects became tougher. College was slowly creeping up on me, and I felt like I was in competition with my classmates, both academically and socially. Long story short, I was terrified of failing. Failing with my grades, failing socially, just failing in general. I don’t hide the fact that I struggled with massive anxiety throughout my time in high school, although many tell me 8 years out that they had no clue I was “afraid” of school. I don’t think I was ever ashamed that I was so anxious that the mere thought of getting out of my car would send me into panic mode.

One day, my gracious mother had had enough. She opened the phone book, and found a wonderful counselor who helped make school bearable again.  Around the same time, I had to make adjustments to my school-life so that I would not fall behind. When I explained my situation, several of my amazing teachers shared stories and encouragement that helped me when I just wanted to hide in a dark room. They certainly did not have to share such personal information with a student. His plan was just getting started.

God thing.

By the grace of God, my anxiety mellowed out. My grades were not near as catastrophic as I believed they were, and I headed the University of Alabama, where I spent 4.5 glorious years cheering on the Crimson Tide. I started at UA as a nursing major, but discovered mid-way through undergrad that earning a BSN from UA simply was not in the plan for me. After many tears were shed, I decided to look ahead. The first two years for nursing and nutrition majors require the same coursework (minus a few college-specific courses). I knew a few friends from high school who were nutrition majors, and I remember asking one of them to explain the program to me. I figured I’d give it a shot, especially since I had spent the last two years taking such lovely courses as organic chemistry and anatomy and physiology, and I would only be one semester behind. After meeting with some wonderful professors in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, I became a nutrition major.

Low and behold, nutrition was a better fit than nursing, y’all. It was in His plan from the start.

God thing.

Fall 2011. I was about to graduate from UA with my degree in food and nutrition. I knew my next step was to obtain a position in a dietetic internship so I could complete 1200 hours of supervised practice so that I could sit for the RD exam (board exam for dietitians). This should be easy, right? Wrong. As it turns out, positions in these internships are limited and are highly competitive (with a 50% match rate). My grades were good, but I was far from the top of my class.  My extracurricular activities were numerous, though, so I figured I had a shot. As I searched for programs in the south, I briefly scanned over the state of Mississippi. I saw there was a combined internship/graduate program at the University of Southern Mississippi. That was the only program in Mississippi I focused on (there are actually two other dietetic internships in MS…as I later learned. I somehow blocked them out). I figured I would apply to USM on a whim, as well as to programs in Georgia and Tennessee.

Fast-forward to April 1, 2012, 6:00 pm. With my heard pounding, I pull up the site that tells me if I got an internship, and if so, where I would be headed. I was SHOCKED to see “THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI.” I immediately felt a connection, and I knew this was part of His plan.

Anxious mess to dietetic intern? Okay!

God thing.

So, I moved to Mississippi. Never in a MILLION years would I have believed you if you told me I would move to Mississippi.

You know how when you begin on a roller coaster, it starts out flat, then it peaks with a huge hill and possibly a few upside down flips before flattening out again? Yep. The internship was a roller coaster. Research. Papers. Care plans. Executive summaries. Business plans. Meal plans. Kitchen diagrams. Presentations.  Case studies. Lesson plans. Calculations. Areas including clinical, food service, pediatrics, renal, food bank, WIC, child nutrition, long-term care. If it has to do with nutrition, you name it? I have probably done it.

As it turns out, it was one of the best years of my life, and in May 2013, I was RD eligible with half of my Master’s degree completed.

Along the way, I picked up some AMAZING friends. We cried together, laughed together, and learned together, and I cherish their friendship to this day.

Let’s recap. Anxious mess to dietetic intern to RD-eligible? Even better.

God thing.

To speed things up, I passed my RD exam on the first try (with a migraine and an ear infection, no less), and began working at the University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile, AL. I am blessed to work in a facility where my voice as the nutrition expert is truly respected, and I have learned more in the last two years than in all of my prior schooling. I know not everyone hits the mark on their very first job, but y’all, I certainly did.  I even managed to finish that Master’s degree along the way.

Looking back at the whole picture, I am amazed at how my plan unfolded. There was a time that I never expected to finish high school, let alone graduate school. It can be done. There were many times I wanted to quit. God never left me alone. Even in my most anxious times, He was there, showing me the plan He had for me. One of these days I’m going to figure out that my plan is futile, because His plan will ALWAYS prevail.

Anxious mess to MS, RD, LD? #godthing

Melissa Hughey


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