Love Your Body Challenge Day 4: Purpose

In day 4 of the Love Your Body Challenge the goal is to determine your purpose. This is a hot topic in my life right now. It’s something I’ve been pondering for months now. I want the easy way out though. I want someone to come to me and say “Aimee your purpose is ______ and this is how you are going to make it happen.” Since this hasn’t occurred it’s up to me to figure it out. I’m hoping this activity gets me a little closer to realizing my purpose in this world.

Day 4 Mantra: “My existence is a miracle.  I am not here by accident.  My life has purpose and meaning, and that purpose and meaning is_______.”

My Mantra: My life has purpose and meaning, and that meaning is to be the best me I can be.

Of course I feel that one of the most important reasons I’m here is to be the best mother possible to Carlos. I am not perfect, but I do work hard every day to be the best mom I can be.

However, when I read this I instantly thought of my career or work purpose. When I was in high school I was adamant about becoming a cosmetologist. Even though my mom wanted me to go to college she didn’t dissuade me from pursuing my dreams. I was very interested in make up application, facials, cosmetic products, herbal remedies and ingredients in cosmetics. In my junior year of high school my mom took me to a cosmetology school in Boston for a tour and an informational session. I thought I was so serious about pursing this path until my friends all started applying to college and then as many teens are known to do I followed my friends. I applied to traditional colleges and declared I was going to major in Biology with the intention to go on to one day become a Dermatologist. Although I knew a dermatologist was a doctor I don’t think I fully understood that I, myself, would have to go to medical school.

I went to a small private Catholic college in Newport, Rhode Island for my first semester. One of my first orders of business was to denounce my aforementioned goals and study political science. I cannot even remember where that idea came from. I lasted only a semester at Salve Regina University. Not only did I not fit in to the socio-economic profile of the student body, I was not exactly a practicing Catholic. I stupidly transferred to another small private college for literally 4 days (long story for another day!) before ending up living at home and attending a local community college. While at community college I decided that I would study history. I went on to UMass Amherst where I graduated with degrees in History and Spanish with a concentration on Latin American studies. Whenever anyone asked what I wanted to do after college I replied, “join the Peace Corps.” Oh how young and idealistic I sounded!!

I honestly never even gave a career a second thought. I have worked consistently since I was 14 years old. Yet I never truly thought of myself as having a specific career. I wanted to travel and see the world. So I did what a lot of young people with little money and a philanthropic heart do…I joined the Peace Corps. I remember sitting in the office of the Peace Corps recruiter in Boston for my 3 hour long interview. He asked me if I had a preference in countries. Obviously I wanted to go to Latin America. However, he explained that since I had no specific skills I was most qualified to teach English and there were no English programs in Latin America. The only requirement to teach English in the Peace Corps is that you speak English! He sat back for a moment as if he was deep in thought and then he asked me very seriously if I knew how to bee keep. Um no?! He lamented that it was too bad I didn’t because Bolivia had a bee keeping program that was in need of volunteers. In the early days of my English teaching experience in Mozambique, where I eventually ended up serving as a Peace Corps volunteer, when I was frustrated and overwhelmed by dealing with the bureaucracy of the educational system I used to think, really how hard could it be to bee keep.

I was high school English as a Foreign Language teacher in the Peace Corps. This means I taught people to speak English rather than English literature. When I returned home to the U.S. I was daunted by the requirements to teach in the public schools and the lack of jobs for ESL teachers at that time was discouraging. While living in Mozambique I had become very interested in public health, the study of disease and educating people on how to prevent and treat illness.

I contemplated going to graduate school for a degree in public health. I had fleeting thoughts of becoming a nurse, but working in a hospital, dealing with bodily fluids and cleaning people was frightening. Plus I never thought of myself as someone who would work in healthcare. However, upon returning to the U.S. as a newlywed with an immigrant husband and very little money (Peace Corps is truly a volunteer agency!) post 9-11 as the economy was taking a swift turn for the worse, I quickly saw the benefits of becoming a nurse. At that time nursing jobs were plentiful and supported a decent living. After losing my job as a program director for a Department of Welfare supported teen parent education program to state budget cuts, I enrolled in a nursing pre-requisite class at a local community college. I went to nursing school at night and worked as a waitress, a nurse’s aid and even as a dispute resolution coordinator for my mother at the Better Business Bureau.

I got my Associate’s Degree in Nursing. The 2 year RN program (though it’s more like a 3 year program because of all the prerequisite courses you have to take) made more sense at the time because it was the least expensive, quickest option. I was growing anxious to buy a home and start a family at that time. Of course now I’m wondering if I should have just gone for the Bachelor’s Degree.

As a new nurse I decided to work on a general Medical-Surgical unit. I gained valuable experience working on the Med-Surg unit. It is fast paced and unpredictable. You see a little bit of everything from GI bleeds to COPD, appendectomies to chest tubes. It is on Med-Surg that you learn how to prioritize, organize and delegate. From Med-Surg I transferred to the cardiac unit. It was a new challenge and truth be told, one I never felt all that comfortable with. You must be able to think on your toes and act quickly, no second guessing yourself. Critical care is no place for a person who lacks confidence. I worked on the Intermediate Care (Cardiac) Unit for over a year, but eventually found my way to a more suitable position on the Psychiatric unit at the same hospital.

The longer I work within a westernized healthcare system the more I dislike what I do. I don’t regret my decision to become a nurse. I am so grateful for the lifestyle it affords me and my family. I love offering caring and compassion to others. Despite my fears about bedside nursing, I actually consider myself to be quite adept at basic patient care and find it enjoyable to help others in need.

I have come to a professional crossroads. For several years now my attention has turned towards diet, nutrition, spirituality and physical fitness as a means to change myself and become a healthier person in all aspects of mind, body and soul. As I’ve shifted my diet from almost entirely packaged and processed to a mostly plant based diet, I devour information about nutrition. When I took up running I also began to explore the idea of fitness for mental health as well as for improved vitality and physical health. I have only recently tapped into the healing powers of yoga and meditation in my life. I love the idea of spreading wellness holistically to those that are ill rather than simply medicating the symptoms.

Having been overweight since I was a child and having struggled for as long as I can remember with weight loss I would also love to inspire other’s to embark on their own weight loss journeys through sustainable dietary and lifestyle changes. I want to teach others how to eat healthy on a budget, develop a lasting fitness routine within the constraints of a busy lifestyle, prepare home cooked meals with little or no experience in the kitchen and introduce them to the idea of alternative therapies that might work in conjunction with western medicine to more effectively manage disease.

I get really excited whenever anyone wants to discuss nutrition with me. I get almost giddy if someone wants to talk running and fitness. I am all ears when I learn that someone uses alternative therapies along with western medicine. I truly want to be there for others struggling with weight loss because I’ve been there too. I want to inspire, encourage and motivate them to move forward.

I don’t know exactly what my purpose is, but I know that I’m not doing exactly what I’m meant to do. I’m not sure how to get to the place where I will finally be able to pursue my dreams. I know that I need to work on my own self-confidence. I also feel that I need to realize an end to my own weight loss journey before I can help others. Something has been holding me back, but I hope to be able to soon let go of my fears and move closer to finding my purpose.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt

9 thoughts on “Love Your Body Challenge Day 4: Purpose

  1. I absolutely love that quote, it’s so true! I think you would be great in a job where you got to help teach people about nutrition, exercise and weight loss. I truly find you to be a very inspirational person, and can’t think of anyone better for a job like that. I haven’t done much research on alternatives to western medicine, but I do find the idea of it very intriguing.

    • I love being a nurse Sam. I think the best part about the career is the variety. I just need to start putting my money where my mouth is and apply for other positions, go back to school or carve out an entirely different path for myself.

  2. An interesting post and funny how some people fall into their jobs. Someone planted the “lawyer” seed in my head in high school, and it just stuck, though I really knew very little about what it entailed in practice as to education and career paths.

    As an aside I’ve meant to comment for a day or two, but kind of ties in to this post, no idea if you’d be interested in sharing your thoughts, but ever since I heard about Peter Lanza’s statements (father of the Sandy Hook shooter), I’d been curious to see if you’d weigh in with opinions, given your job and the fact that you’re a mother. Something that’s been on my mind lately.

    Anyway, directly as to your post, have you considered any way to merge running/fitness with your current job (developing a kind of running program geared toward patients)? No idea how feasible that would be, but could be a good stepping stone. I’m assuming you’ve heard about programs set up for homeless individuals, for elementary school students, and for inmates (not all together! that could be a mess!) to get them into running, and the people who do it rave about it (both those who volunteer, and the participants). Just an idea!

    • Carina, I read Peter Lanza’s words and I’ve been trying to think of a way to express my feelings. I am working on a post about it.

      It’s funny that you mention merging my job with my love for fitness and nutrition. I actually approached my boss about starting a running program for the participants in our related out patient Partial Program which is a day program for people coping with a variety of mental disorders. She immediately squashed it with a dozen reasons why they can’t do it. I probably should’t have let it go that easily. Thanks for your other suggestions. I will give them a look.

  3. It’s funny, but I wish I would have studied home economics and marketing – I could have had a job at a food magazine or t.v. show! I actually loved being a legal secretary 20 years ago – attorneys then didn’t know how to type, I did dictation all day long – I felt I was important.

    Now? All the attorneys type, they have voice recognition software and we electronic file paper. My job is so boring most days that I end up making scratch pads. But I am stuck. I need this job because Tony doesn’t have one. Kind of stinks.

    • I still think you should have a TV show. Your personality comes through your blog so well, I can only imagine how great you would be on TV Biz! I’m feeling a bit stuck at the moment too. Change is difficult enough, but Orlando is laid off and it doesn’t seem like the right time to jeopardize my job.

  4. Aimee…as I told you yesterday…you are MEANT to inspire others and it will happen…not with nursing though. But I think slowly you will find what will allow you to merge your love of running/nutrition into a new career path. I can’t wait to see it happen.

  5. I really enjoyed reading this post, learning a bit more of your background, etc. I love what you wrote about purpose. I can relate so much to feeling like you’re not doing exactly what you’re meant to. I feel the same way. We both have such noble professions – nursing and teaching – but I’ve found, as it sounds like you have, that I’m not as fulfilled by it as I used to be. I still love my job, but I can see the direction it’s moving, and I know I won’t retire doing it. I also have a strong pull towards doing something where I can use my love of healthy living/fitness to motivate others. We should connect sometime for a brainstorming session.

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