Growth cannot occur without change. After a five year, full-time teaching position at Saint Louis University (SLU), I have made the decision to change direction and start my own nutrition consulting business. In future blogs, I will discuss the challenges and thrills of this journey, but for now, I will reflect on the process of cleaning out my office of 5 years. As I box up textbooks, staplers, and pictures off my wall, I have run across a couple of items which have reminded me of many amazing individuals that have touched my life here at SLU. 1) An oversized eating spoon : Several years ago, a faculty member from the Occupational Therapy department noticed a disheartened look on my face as we passed in the hallway. After asking if I was ok, I shared with her that I had just returned from a weekend in Kentucky visiting my Aunt Mary who had Parkinson’s Disease. Aunt Mary had lost over 20 pounds and was looking more frail than ever. Due to the tremors caused by her disease, feeding herself had become almost impossible. My Aunt Mary was a determined lady, and fought hard to continue taking care of herself as much as she could. As an occupational therapist, this professor well understood Aunt Mary’s challenge and stopped what she was doing to equip me with the appropriate tools that would make eating easier for Aunt Mary. I left her office not only feeling hopeful, but so grateful for her expertise and genuine concern. 2) An old bicycle seat : I have been riding my bike (May) to work for almost 4 years now and I owe this great exercise, environmentally-friendly choice, and enjoyment to a colleague here in our nutrition department. Although he (and his wife) are inspiring people for so many reasons, his dedication to being physically active and challenging himself is so impressive. The best part about his dedication is his desire to inspire others to find their inner “athlete.” Whether he is emailing you information about the latest bike ride or helping someone change a bike tire, he is so supportive and encouraging and makes being active just “easier.” Even when the weather channel predicts a 50% chance of rain (or snow), I would always think to myself, would he ride in? It’s always almost a yes, and I am always glad I did too. 3) The Biliken : A bobblehead version of SLU’s mascot, the Billiken, bobbles next to me on my desk. In my opinion, the Billiken is both a cute and a slightly scary looking creature. I was given this Billiken by the SLU blogging team, and it reminds me to do something that “scares” me or pushes me out of my comfort zone everyday. When I was first asked to blog, I was admittedly nervous, I knew little about blogging and had a hard time believing people would want to read my thoughts. Now, I truly value the time I have to write and reflect through this blog. I credit both the Billiken and all of the other SLU individuals who have reminded me to take chances, follow my heart, and say yes to “scary” opportunities. 4) Candy wrappers : I first met this amazing lady when I was in grad school here at SLU. Just like all good administrative secretaries, she had a bowl of sweets on her desk for anyone to enjoy. The real sweetness about going into her office were our conversations. I have been eating candy from her jar for over 9 years, and I now consider her my St. Louis mom. I cannot say enough about her, but her selflessness, devotion as a friend, and her faith are inspiring. She is sweeter than any candy in that jar. 5) Letters from students: There were more days than I can count when I walked out of a classroom not happy with the way the class had gone. Blaming myself, I would question: Maybe I should have prepared more? Maybe I should have been more challenging? (the list goes on….). I would assume I am not alone and that all good teachers go through this self-evaluation. However, I am saving several heartfelt letters from students who have no idea how much I valued their expressions. A teacher will never know how many hearts and minds they have touched, but I am thankful for those students who let me know that I had. We all pack our bags at one time or another. Enjoy the process.
Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.