Reflections on Work and School: What I learned in NYC

It’s the end of my first year at Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. It’s been a whirlwind. How did this year go by so fast? I want to reflect on this past year, but to do that I need to reflect on my first 3 years, post-college.

Some of my friends in grad school have commented on how much I constantly challenge assumptions and question what it is that I want to get out of grad school (and life). So, I want to open you up to some insight on how my brain works. I constantly reassess what it is that I’m doing. Because of this, I never let myself go too far down a path once I realize it’s not leading me where I want to go. (That doesn’t mean I’m a quitter. Far from it. I think you can sometimes reframe the current task-at-hand to fit your goals. Shift the world, don’t shift your gaze. Hehe.)

After graduating college in May 2010, I moved to NYC. I knew that I wanted to go to grad school, but I thought taking 3 years between undergrad and grad school to gain work experience in my field would help affirm my interests in agriculture and nutrition… and fully prepare me for my studies. I’m very glad I took that time. I learned a lot about myself in those 3 years. Some monumental things I did in NYC:

  • I learned how to escape without running away… through the discovery of many awesome green spaces and parks in the concrete jungle… and my Sunday night walks.
  • I learned how to survive in NYC on an AmeriCorps stipend and SNAP benefits (food stamps).
  • I became a personal trainer.
  • I became more outgoing and confident.
  • I learned to deadlift… and changed my butt forever. Haha.
  • I learned how to cook chicken, beef, duck, ostrich, and other tasty, sustainably raised, local meats. Also artichokes, beets, fennel, kale, Brussels sprouts, and so many other vegetables.
  • I met so many awesome people that had a huge impact on my outlook on work, school, and life.
  • I know I did tons of other things, but I’m not going to list my entire resume in this blog post (but can I put that thing about my deadlifts on my resume? I’m pretty proud of it…)

I think the ultimate question I want to ask myself about those 3 years of my life is: Did I accomplish what I wanted to in NYC? Subsequently… Did I learn what I wanted? Did I meet and spend time with people that I wanted to be with? Did I experience the things that I wanted to do? The answer to all those questions is yes.

  • I wanted to figure out what fields of work are most interesting to me. The answer: urban agriculture, exercise, and nutrition!
  • I wanted to know what work environment best suits my personality… which is a mix between office work and hands-on creation of ideas or teaching, adequate time for lunch and physical activity, a good supervisor who understands the value of discussion and collaboration… among others.
  • I wanted to gain important life skills and take advantage of all the opportunities the big city has to offer: confidence, time-management, work-life balance, exercise science & program design, dance & choreography, composting in the city, and so much more.
  • I wanted to achieve peace with food, meat included.
  • I wanted to spend time with my friends from college and make new friends that I could laugh with, commiserate with, eat with, drink with, cook with, dance with, exercise with…
  • I wanted to make a difference in the world. Contribute something positive and unique.
Adventures with cooking… artichokes!

Reflecting on all the positive experiences and skills that I gained in NYC, those 3 years were crucial to my personal and professional development. I do need to place a caveat on this… NYC was not the love of my life. I was pretty miserable for my first 1-2 years there. It’s an overwhelming city, and it’s very easy for your values and dreams to get swallowed up in the crowd of 8 million people. I had to constantly remind myself who I was, where I came from, and why I was there. It would have been so easy for me to have stayed there, building my business as a personal trainer and getting lost in someone else’s dream. But I suppose that could happen to anyone, anywhere in the world. NYC is just a place where money and power are very  loud, and it’s hard to find a quiet space to hear yourself think.

Artichokes and friends
Artichokes and friends

Just remember: it’s your life (your time, your money, your body, your brain). Don’t waste it.

So… as I tend to end my blog posts with an “assignment” or question for you, here it is: reflect on the past 3 years of your life. What monumental things did you do and learn, personally and professionally? Did you accomplish what you wanted to? Did you learn what you wanted? Did you make friends and spend time with people that you wanted to be with? Did you experience the things that you wanted to do? Feel free to post it in the comments!

Balance the Chaos.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Lou says:

    Hey Chelsea! Awesome post! Just curious – how did you achieve peace with meat? I’m still struggling with this one. Also I totally get what you’re saying about NYC. After a while I just really couldn’t take it anymore. It feels so good to be away from that chaotic energy :)

    1. Chelsea says:

      Lou, thanks! Great question, something I could write an entire blog post (or book) on… To find peace with meat, it took some “growing up” on my part. I had to realize what my values were in contrast to the standards and values set by other people that I unnecessarily applied to my life and my eating habits. I thought I had to fit a standard label of “vegetarian” or “vegan” or even “pescetarian.” But I realized that these labels placed restrictions on my eating that I didn’t necessarily believe in. Over the years I have developed my values and moral standards with food and meat. My main reasons for choosing the meats/animal products that I do are 1) reduced impact on the environment and 2) personal taste preference (and sometimes cultural importance) 3) acute and chronic affects on my body. Basically, that means that I choose local meats that I can discuss farming practices with the farmer. I choose meats that I like the taste of (chicken, not turkey; ostrich, not beef). I choose organic yogurt and hard cheese because I notice that non-organic and soft cheese causes an inflammatory & bloating response in my body. Knowing what my reasons are for eating the animal products that I do has brought me a long way towards finding peace with meat. That’s the short response. Hope this helps!

      1. Chelsea says:

        And I think, most importantly, for peace with food in general… I realize that these standards I set and values that I have cannot be met in all circumstances. We live in a world where we do have choices. Some of them may not be the best for our health, environment, etc., but they are there and sometimes they are delicious and enjoyable. Live your life! Don’t set such hard and fast limitations on yourself that you forget to enjoy food with friends!

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