The journey continues! Check out my blog, https://firstcomesselflove.com/ for additional blog posts about growing up and self-discovery.
In my previous post, I discussed the auspicious nature of connecting with a dietitian who was involved in the same nutrition article as me, back when I was an outpatient pediatric dietitian in a hospital in the Bronx. Here I want to expand on another aspect of this “coincidence” or, more accurately, “G-d wink” (I don’t believe in coincidences).
As I continue to build up my nutrition private practice and apply to part-time nutrition jobs, I am experiencing what an entrepreneurial life feels like.
Having worked full time as an outpatient pediatric dietitian in a hospital clinic for the past six years, I had stability. I knew I would get a paycheck every two weeks, and I knew the approximate amount (there was slight variability based on the exact amount they took out for taxes, union, pension, etc).
Working for myself in my own private practice, I do not have a financial safety net. As I noticed when I was building up my private practice in NY this past year, I could spend tens of hours on distributing business cards, networking, and blogging—all for which I would be getting zero dollars. That is why I liked having a private practice on the side in NY, and why I am looking for additional part-time nutrition-related work now.
Having a private practice and owning your own business is in its very nature unpredictable. I remember those days as a kid when I would be thrilled to have a snow day and miss school, and, later on, I would hear that for my dad, that meant his patient show rate was pretty bad and he would incur a financial loss.
Having your own business is like being a farmer, even if your income is not at all crop- or food-related. Your sustenance depends on G-d. In the olden days, as evidenced in the Bible, and in particularly the second paragraph of the Shema prayer (taken from the book of Devarim aka Deuteronomy), the amount of rainfall would determine whether or not a farmer’s crops would be successful and give him income. And the amount of rainfall was dependent on G-d. That is how the prayer for dew and rain came about.
Today rainfall still impacts our crops and the income of farmers just as it always has, it’s just that our society is less agriculturally-focused and most people’s income is not tied to rainfall and crop success.
But that doesn’t mean that the model is any different. Being an entrepreneur means your income is dependent on forces outside yourself. It means having to ride the waves of uncertainty. It means being able to have faith during times of lull. And on the flip side, it means rejoicing to the utmost in times of success.
I think people have to have a strong stomach to be entrepreneurs. I don’t know how much of my profession will continue to be entrepreneurial, and how much will be a more structured salary-based job, but I do know that I am growing a lot by pursuing my private practice. It stretches me in a way that no 9-to-5 ever could. And when moments like this morning’s phone call happen and I receive opportunities, I open my mouth wide, tilt my head up toward the sky, and taste the sweet flavor of blessed rain. “If all the raindrops were networking opportunities and new clients, Oh what a rain it would be!…”
In my last blog post, I spoke about the leap of faith I took with moving to Atlanta. Today I would like to relay a very special moment that I had, one that made me more confident in having taken that leap of faith.
Every time we visited this community in Atlanta, my heart sang. The people in the synagogue were so welcoming, the trees were so abundant, and I loved the meals, hikes, and conversations I shared with my cousins who live here. Something in my heart was pulling me to Atlanta. I felt that great things were waiting for me there, even though I didn’t know exactly what they were, and I had trepidation about the fact that neither my husband nor I had jobs there (I have my nutrition private practice here, but that takes a while to build up!).
Thank G-d, as I had hoped, we have been meeting more and more lovely, warm people in Atlanta, and enjoying the beautiful, healing nature—the park with hiking trails in our backyard (literally!), and the pool which allows me to finally once again swim on a regular basis!
But job hunting is never easy, and there have been days when I have felt less than hopeful.
Today I had one of the moments which injected me with hope. A positive connection that came completely out of the blue in the most unexpected of ways.
I was sorting through some nutrition and wellness papers to organize them into their respective file folders, when I came upon an article in which I was interviewed by WebMD. I was actually interviewed a second time by the same journalist two years later, and each time I was quite excited that I got to be published in a health and wellness magazine—a childhood dream of mine!
I had been interviewed as Jacobi Medical Center’s outpatient pediatric dietitian who helped to spearhead the community garden for the family weight management group I led. In seeing this article, I remembered that I had not yet emailed this journalist to let her know that I had left Jacobi and moved to Atlanta.
I decided that now was as good of a time as ever to shoot her an email and let her know that I was no longer at Jacobi to do these interviews. Then I thought, may as well call her first, since explaining it over the phone would be a much more effective way to reintroduce myself and catch her up.
I dialed her number and lo and behold she picked up! I reminded her of our previous connection and caught her up on my move. It turns out that the woman who did the recipe portion of the articles for which I was interviewed lives in Atlanta and is very well-connected. In fact, WebMD is based in Atlanta.
There is a saying regarding Joseph going down to Egypt that G-d gave the refuah (cure), before He gave the makah (affliction). I stared at a copy of the first WebMD article for which I was interviewed. The name of this woman, the dietitian who worked on the recipes for the article, was listed right below that of the journalist who interviewed me and authored the article.
In the spring of 2014, and then again in the summer of 2016, I was literally on the same page as a dietitian who would later serve as a resource for me in a city hundreds of miles away in which I didn’t even know I would one day be living.
No matter what comes of my connection with this dietitian in Atlanta, I am grateful.
It seems G-d knew all along where I would be headed, and He connected me more than 3 years ago to a source of assistance in this future reality.
Or another way to put it—it was at that time that G-d planted the seeds (pun very much intended, as these were interviews about vegetables we grew in the community garden ;)).
Where we last left off, I was discussing my possible move to Atlanta and my related job search, as well as the emotions it evoked. Well, here we are, about 3 months later, at almost the end of July! Wow, how time has flown! Part of the reason why I haven’t written is because my husband and I did in fact move to Atlanta a month ago, and the packing, and unpacking, and more unpacking, has taken up a lot of my time and energy. Another reason, which is in fact the bigger reason, is because I have been blogging on my other, new blog dedicated to my second book on self-love and relationships.
In any case, this morning I write to you with a thorough update regarding my transition to Atlanta. I often tell people the reason why we moved to Atlanta from NY is for: a lower cost of living, in an area with a vibrant Jewish community, with warmer weather than NY. Atlanta was further attractive to us because I have cousins who live here (those with whom my beloved father was very close!).
And while these reasons are for sure true, there is an underlying deeper reason that propelled me to take the plunge that I do not mention.
In New York, I had a full-time nutrition job that I liked (for the most part) that provided a good salary and benefits (healthcare!!), along with a growing private practice. My mom is in NY as is most of my extended family, and my brother is only a 1.5 hour train ride from NYC.
I left my secure job, my family, and my friends, to move to Atlanta this summer. And while the above reasons were the foundation for why we came, I couldn’t have followed through without the deeper motivation which lied beneath. And that was: I wanted to take the risk of breaking out of comfort and security that I likely should have taken years ago.
In the epilogue of my second book on self-love and dating, I relate that I think if I had lived outside of the hustle and bustle of NYC as a young professional in my twenties, it would have helped me to become more grounded and gain the strength to face the emotional difficulties I was bearing. That, along with continuing with a good therapist!
As I said in my previous blog post here, I like the routine, the predictable, the familiar. That is why applying for my first dietitian job was so destabilizing for me, and that is also why I never had the gumption to step off of the path that I and my family had paved for me since I was a kid—that is, getting a good education and then pursuing a solid career in my field of choice.
I never took into consideration the possibility that my father would suddenly pass away when I was 21 (thus the nature of things that are sudden and traumatic), and when it happened, I didn’t know how to integrate that into my preexisting plan of young adulthood.
Over time, I integrated this new reality more and more. But it took a year to finally face it, and then many more years to continue to work on the emotional repercussions (it is a lifelong process).
Moving to Atlanta represented to me that leap of faith that I deep down wanted to take in my twenties, but couldn’t since I did not have the resources, self-awareness, or emotional wherewithal.
They say everything happens for a reason, and I know I should not live in regret for not having taken that leap of faith sooner. I simply have gratitude to the journey of my twenties for bolstering the courageous decision I made this summer.
It is my hope and prayer that those finding themselves in difficult situations can find their way out. And know, that in many cases, taking the steps you need toward a better life will involve some act of faith. And just because all the pieces of the puzzle aren’t in perfect place, that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. Listen to your heart, trust its message, and take constructive steps toward what your ideal life feels to be.
This morning in toying with the idea of moving to Atlanta, I searched and applied for jobs there. Whether or not we move (and it is a serious consideration!), this process of looking back and listing my accomplishments of the past six years is a very life-affirming one! And it reminds me of when I was applying for my first job as a dietitian six years ago. In fact, this morning while I was searching for an old resume of mine for the description of my food service-related positions in college, I came across tens, if not hundreds, of emails from 2011, when I forwarded myself job applications from various websites.
It seems that this past couple of weeks is all about blasts from the past. First it was in hearing stories about my father as a medical student, then it was about my college graduation and its cosmic connection to my father’s death. This week, it is about my search for my first dietitian job.
Looking at all the job application information I sent myself back in early 2011, I was reminded of how stressful that whole job application process was. Applying for one’s first job is very hard, since many employers are seeking someone with more experience—but how can we get any if no one first hires us?
As someone who likes knowing what their future holds and works hard to achieve their ambitions, this period was very tough for me. The following questions stormed my mind: Where will I end up? How can I know if I am working hard enough in the application process? Will I end up in a job that deep down I don’t want, but need to take in order to gain more experience in the field?
In applying for my first job, I was full of feelings of inadequacy and fear of the unknown. It was all very destabilizing for me and my heightened negative self-talk reflected that. I do not deal with transitions very well. I like stability; I like being on the ball! And, as I discuss in my new book, First Comes Self-Love, Then Comes Marriage, instead of fully facing the intensity of the negative emotions, I escaped into unhealthy relationships to distract myself and seek out instant gratification. Unfortunately, in that scenario, and in others to come, momentary pleasures led to lifelong regrets.
After I landed my first job as a dietitian, my primary piece of advice to others in the job hunt was to give themselves that which I had overlooked: self-care. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in order to face the discomfort of the uncertainty of my reality, I would have had to counter it with self-compassion. To watch some of my favorite movies, indulge in more mind-centering yoga and meditation, eat some of my favorite foods. I needed to be kinder to myself when the world around me felt more chaotic than ever.
Visiting my in-laws always triggers strong feelings of missing my father. It pains me so deeply to think that my child will be held by my father-in-law, but not by my own father; that my child won’t meet my dad—and get to know the humble and sweet, intelligent, and sensitive man that he was. In fact, this very morning, it being the 4th time we are staying with my husband’s parents in LA LA land (i.e. LA), it concretized in my mind that my next writing project could be to write about my father and compile all the lovely stories that family, friends, and former patients had to say about him. I am not surprised that this idea came to me while visiting my in-laws—as I said, it is here that I feel my father’s absence the most and miss him most acutely.
And the only thing that will ameliorate the pain of my children not knowing my father would be to write up a text describing who he was and what he meant to those with whom he was closest. In fact, I could even see myself devoting a whole room to my dad in our future home with pictures of him hanging on the wall; it’s kind of shrine-like, I know, but it just feels like the next best thing.
But I would be remiss to end this writing here, for I had another revelation this morning, albeit perhaps less major.
Our April visits to LA also coincide with my father-in-law’s birthday—as if I need another jab in the proverbial chest that surrounds the gaping hole that is the loss of my father. Thinking about this, I pitied myself and my situation even more. But then, this morning, for the first time I realized that my father is in fact with me during this time.
You see, four days out of the year in the Jewish calendar, there is a custom to light a memorial candle and recite Yizkor, a prayer for family members who have passed on. And guess what? My father-in-law’s Hebrew birthday coincides with one of these days! So when my father-in-law gathers his friends in his home to celebrate, the pain of missing my father is slightly abated by the presence of the lit memorial candle in the corner of the room, which symbolizes my father’s soul, and the Yizkor prayer that I recite for him that day. From this I know deep in my heart that my father is indeed there with me.
This morning I was looking for a picture to post of me and my dad on my Instagram account. While I once briefly referenced my father on my page, I never posted a picture of him, nor did I fully explain the enormous influence that he had on my decision to become a nutritionist.
My Instagram account: gila_health_and_wellness, is an interesting breed indeed. It is an account dedicated to healthy living, but since I had no desire to create a solely personal Instagram account, it sometimes contains pictures about personal quirks/passions of mine that are, dare I say, not at all related to nutrition (Oh my!).
Being that I have black-and-white thinking, this is constantly itching at me. Are there people who begin to follow me and then stop because my feed is not solely about nutrition and exercise? I mean, I chose the name for my professional business to be “Gila Health and Wellness” several years ago with the intention of including more than just nutrition and physical activity. I wanted to include other topics such as mindfulness and emotional well-being, which are not strictly nutrition- and exercise-related.
But as I broaden my definition more and more of what “health and wellness” means to me, I continue to wonder if I am making a mistake in spreading my net so wide.
But, alas, I digress. And only time will tell if the unique fusion that is my professional image on Instagram, which in every way mirrors my person, catches and keeps the attention of others.
In my efforts to find more people who would be interested in what I express on my Instagram account (i.e. garner more followers), I realized this morning that I have yet to post a picture of me and my dad (my inspiration for becoming a nutritionist) on my Instagram page.
And I realized today that I don’t have any digital pictures of me and my father.
I created my current Gmail account in 2007, the year after my father died, so I wouldn’t have any there. I created my Facebook account in the summer of 2006, 3 months before my father suddenly passed away, so nothing there either.
I didn’t get a smart phone until 2013, which means that I wasn’t digitally chronicling my life until around that time. I mean, I had started to, but not nearly as heavily as the present time.
And, here I am two for two, for I have digressed yet again! For the intention of this post was not to write about how much more digitally inclined I have become (together with the rest of the world!). Rather, I wanted to express that this is the second time that I am intensely realizing that I do not have easy access to pictures of me and my father.
The first time, it was about five years ago, when I reflected on how I had no pictures with him, let alone of him, in my apartment.
And being that I have often struggled with feelings of abandonment after losing my father, I couldn’t help but notice that not having pictures with or of him, was probably both a symptom and a driver of my intense feelings of abandonment and loneliness.
I think I knew subconsciously that seeing pictures of my dad would make me miss him even more, and I created a reality where not seeing my father’s face for months on end was normal.
But, as I concluded then, I recognize today that this may not be the best approach.
And so, setting aside my strong desire to successfully build my brand based in part on my unique, painful experiences, which are, in fact, not so unique at all, since many can relate to them—setting aside my selfish professional pursuits for one moment, I can acknowledge, once again, that there are times that I rarely see a physical image of my father; and it’s weird.