Every Wrong Turn Leads to Something Right

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Believe it or not, working in the health and fitness world wasn't always my dream. Sure, I enjoyed playing sports and being active as a kid and teen. I even worked out regularly when I moved to college. But it was simply something I had enjoyed—a way to stay in shape. I didn't plan to make it a career. I actually started my undergraduate studies in art and design, first attending school for architecture, then transferring to an art school, and later switching schools a third time to double major in architecture and interior design and be closer to home.

But when my own health, fitness and weight became an issue during college, I knew something had to change.

All I ever wanted was to be an architect. It was how I had envisioned my future for as long as I could remember. So I worked hard in high school to gain acceptance into some of the country's top architecture programs and when I did, I knew my life was going to be perfect. "This is it! This is all I ever wanted!" My hard work was paying off with good grades and academic scholarships. But despite those early successes, things just didn't feel right.

I spent three years at three different schools, two of which were top-ranked design programs. But I was unhappy, depressed and unfulfilled. Architecture was tough, no doubt about it, so tough that my own well-being always took the backseat. I would stay awake for several days straight to keep up with my heavy course load. Most often, I'd survive on three to four hours of sleep each night. I didn't have time to cook—or the money to eat as healthfully as I would have liked. Quick meals, cafeteria food, and late night runs to convenience marts provided more than enough calories and I quickly put on the freshman 15—and then a few more. I was an emotional wreck, stressed out and homesick all the time. I turned to food for comfort, eating when I was up against deadlines or just plain up late at night—which was pretty much all the time. I'd have to make tough choices between whether I should sleep for another hour (for a grand total of five hours!) or wake up and go for a run. My erratic exercise program wasn't enough to keep me fit or prevent the pounds from piling on. Something had to give. "Just two more years" I'd think, "then I can focus on getting healthy again and put this college stress behind me." Those were the only thoughts that kept me going day after day.

At the same time, I did a lot of soul searching. Was it normal to feel like this? Is this really going to make me happy in the end? Here I was, in the middle of my college career, at the best school, the world at my fingertips. It was exactly what I had planned and worked so hard for, yet I hated every minute of it.

After much turmoil and second thoughts, I decided to change my life—now. No longer satisfied with my health, fitness or weight loss so low on my own priority list, I made a radical change. I changed my major (to health promotion and education) and started looking forward to a new career path that I had never considered before, one where I could make health and fitness a number one priority for myself—and to help others do the same. Most people probably thought I was nuts. Most people probably wouldn't have done the same thing, especially after such a large investment of time and money toward something else. But I'm not most people. I realized that I had to do what was best for me and carve my own path. And today I have what the best job in the world at a company that helps so many people realize their full potential. More importantly, I'm happy and satisfied with my day's work.

Last week I was honored when my former college program interviewed me for a story they posted on the homepage of their website. I got to talk about my work at SparkPeople, how we help so many people, and the steps that led me to where I am today. It was the first time in a long time that I took a moment to reflect on what I had learned during that convoluted journey, which was filled with ups, plenty of downs, and quite a few directional changes.

It taught me to trust myself. I learned that my body and mind will signal loud and clear when things are right (or wrong), but that you'll miss those signs if you aren't looking for them. I learned that happiness doesn't come from a coveted diploma, a lucrative career, or by doing what you think others want—or expect—you to do. And I learned that we all make mistakes—sometimes big, drawn out and expensive ones! But every choice we do make leads us to where we are now and makes us stronger and wiser.

Sometimes the path you should take isn't clear at first. Sometimes you make a few wrong turns, get lost or turned around along the way. But when you listen to the person who knows you best—that's you!—you'll always come out okay.

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You ain't joking - architecture is such an elitist field, have to be part of the "good ole boy" network...I've known too many talented people attempt in that field, including my brother in law and also the daughter of one of my friends, as well as a penpal from overseas in a different country... all of them have expressed similar feelings to yours and all have attended at different times, different schools, probably in the range of 30 years apart, and none of them know each other.

But...you are now an architect of another sort - of building your own fitness back up, helping others build their new dreams of a fitter and healthier lifestyle - architect of dreams that are fulfilled!! So, hey, far as I'm concerned, you didn't 'fail' as an architect. You just re-channeled into a different architectural path - one that is more emotionally satisfying to your sou and more beneficial to the lives of others who are impacted by your example and your help! Buildings come and buildings go, but happy lives are forever!! Report
Good advice. I am now happy with my life. I wasn't dissatisfied, but now i no longer live to work, i work in order to live. what i do outside of my 9-5 is WAY more important. Report
I'm 46 and still don't know what I want to do when I grow up! Report
A great blog, Nicole. I'm sure many others wish they had listened to that inner voice! Report
Had I listened to my inner voice in college, I would have been a nurse. Instead I went into International Business, and haven't once used my major. Now I'm going to be going to nursing school.

Thank you for helping us. You're an inspiration to us all to get on track and see it through. Report
I am in the process of making changes because I finally listened to my inner voice screaming that I was in a bad situation and needed a different career. It is hard but my family sees that I am stepping up to the plate to make it and they are supporting me. Report
All turns on the journey of life is your destiny. Report
great job. Learning to trust your gut instincts is the best skill ever. Report
Wow, I could have written the first part myself! I'm going through a major quarter-life career crisis right now. Trying to figure out what my next steps are to be. Thanks for writing this. It's really nice to hear that people come out on the other side happy! Report
As a UC architecture grad so much of this article sounded familiar. I did the late nights, trips to skyline and gained the freshman..... more than 15. But at some point I realized that I had to put me first. I still graduated with honors, but I graduated college at the same weight I was when I graduated high school.

I am glad you found a path that is right for you and that article is something you can be very proud of! Report
It is great you figured it out before investing any more time and money. I finished my degree and a few years later ended up going back and getting another one which I used. If it doesn't "feel right" it is time to take a close look at where you are going Report
Have to agree, just follow what is best for you. Report
This is inspiring. I almost have the same story, about 3, 4 years ago. Being a programmer, it was like a dream came true as I enjoyed writing computer codes, trying to get my application works like what users needed. But with all the heavy workload, came home too late and too tired (even stayed one night at office!) and not quite a friendly work-environment, everything in my life felt too mess-up. When I first joined the company, I still able to did quick workouts. But as the stress level getting higher, working hours getting longer, I wasn't able to find the time and strength. Fortunately, I got a better offer to work at other place. Even though my current job is not quite what I wanted as a programmer, a 180deg difference but I learned new, interesting things, meet more people and the environment is nicer. Colleagues came from different countries, seems to be meeting lots of foreigners and learned their cultures without needing to travel aboard :D Report
How inspirational Report
You continue to be an inspiration to me. You always post a blog when I need help staying focused. I love reading every word because each word/sentence/paragraph reminds me to find the positive in my "wrong turns." Each new day brings many opportunities to discover ways to be the best I can be. Thank you for being such a marvelous role model for me and all the people in your life. Report
Great article on finding the right path. You just have to try the best you can if things need to change hopefully we're flexible to go with the change. I'm so glad for you Nicole that you found your way and in turn you are able to help so many. I for one am very thank-ful you made the choice you did. I love your workout DVDs!!!!! Report
VERY WISE. Thanks for sharing! Report
congratulations on listening to your heart! Report
I totally agree ! Life has a strange way of turning out. I never thought I'd end up working in fitness and yet, the chubby kid who was always picked last whenever teams were chosen now works part time at a gym as an instructor. In short, I've become a GYM TEACHER for adults !! LOL !!!

Yes, wrong turns indeed have a way of turning into successes.

Wonderful blog !

soooo soooo true..... I definately have had a few bumps in my "road" and a few wrong turns, but it was all a learning experience and a road well traveled! Report
Great testimony! I agree about the choice to be free and happy versus making the most money. Yes, we need to have education and income, but what good is it if it causes us to not maintain our physical & mental systems properly! Report
Didn't Monte Python have a skit where they said over and over: "Architects, Architects" in their crazy Brit English?

Off the tangent. I've changed jobs so many times it would make anyone's head spin. Because my job was never "me". I'm still trying to figure out where my heart truly wants me to go. It's never too late. Thanks Coach Nicole for sharing your story. Life will doubtless change again so keep your heart open to the future. Report
I'm glad ur doing what you want. My two oldest sons went to Engineering School at COLUMBIA University in New York City and they both talked about how few women were in the engineering and architect programs except for the Asians. Report
Thank you for sharing this! I was trained to do one thing but recently have decided to follow my heart to a more creative path. It's so helpful to read about other people who did that, and that it worked out great! Report
Thank you for sharing your story and following your heart to change your major. You have made a big difference in my life and many others. Report
Sometimes one has to change direction to find yourself. My son started college majoring in Art, and he is very good. He left for about a year and decided he wanted to go into Physics. I think this will make him happy because it is something he thought about and really wants to do. At the same time he can always sit around and draw or paint to relax. Good job on picking a path you can live with. Report
So very true. If only I'd learned that too instead of blindly following the drs and stuff. yes, I think its time to quite blowin off the femal intuition. Report
It took a lot of courage for you to follow your heart and not your head. Thank you for following your heart and making such a difference in my life and so many others here on Sparkpeople! You ARE the architecture for many of us building new and healthy lives. Rock on Nicole!!! Report
This is so interesting. I recently went for a career goal that is different from before but luckily I didn't have to change my major. I changed mostly because of stress of school. Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if you continued with architecture? Do you miss the artsy-ness? Report
I enjoyed reading you're blog. I was luck, I wanted to be a nurse since the age of 5 when I went into hospital to have a tosillectomy. I left senior high school to start my training at the age of 17! Over the years I have gained more qualifications and am now proud to say I am an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and a Family and Child Health Nurse. I am currently on leave without pay and have moved to another country where my husband works. My son took 6 years at University, changing his study path several times and finished with first class honours in Political Science and Asian Studies. He now has a fullfilling job with the State Government working in the area of child protection as an investigator. My daughter has done youth Worker training, did 18 months Psychology at university, and is currently a shift mananger at a McDonalds restaurant. She is in the process of looking at going back to university and doing a social work degree. I have fully supported my children in the decisions as you said we can not see into the future and it is important to follow our heart. Report
Great story...thx for sharing! Report
I have to agree with so many of the comments. Just the title along say it all. Report
Thank you so much for sharing your story! Report
Wow-what a great article and great blog. Thanks, Nicole, for encouraging us all in following our hearts and listening to our bodies. It's a hard thing to do! Report
Great blog and article. I see integrity and a peace within you Nicole - Thanks for doing what you have done and for the new things you will do for others in your lifetime... ;-)

There is such truth to learn in this for students finding their way. Many today go through life randomly and are not looking for the right path but the most lucrative or easiest path for fulfillment - that doesn't usually work. I have raised 4 children who have switched majors before finding the right one and then jobs they have found were not always in the major path but an off path - life is interesting...
Thanks SP for the blog today! Report
Thanks for sharing - I'm going to do the same and share with my nearly 21 year old daughter who moved across the country cause she didn't know what she wants to do in life and without commitments she could. Now she's decided she's moving home - but still doesn't know. Reading this hopefully she'll realize it's ok, but start doing something and who knows where it will lead you! Report
Loved your story. Makes me realize that I am on the right track of going after a new career change into Nursing, not for the money, but because this is where God is leading me. Yesterday was my last day of my old job and today is the beginning of a brand new chapter in my life.. Thank you for the confirmation that I am going in the right direction. Report
I really enjoyed reading your blog. How many of us have been standing at the crossroads hoping someone else will make the decision for us. No, not you...you took the bull by the horns and found a career you love and you're helping so many others along the way. That's is awe inspiring. Thank-you so much for writing. The title itself is a good thing to remember. I too had a tough decision to make recently and now I'm excited for the one I chose. Life is good and you help to make it better.

Paula Report
The title left me confused and interested in finding out what it meant.

Cool story. Love that you found your "place". Report
I have just recently retired from 38 years of nursing, and I understand your conflict and wanting to change your career goal. I am embarking on a new one myself, and your blog was such an inspiration to me. It's so scary to make such a big change in one's life, and reading your story was God's way of motivating me.
Thank you. Report
Thanks for sharing! Report
I really enjoyed reading your story! And it is so true that sometimes our paths aren't clear at first. I am sort of in that place right now, I know certain things that I want, but I don't see a way of actually getting to them. But some day my path will seem so obvious I'll wonder why I never saw it before. Report
The title alone says it all--thank you!!! Report
I totally empathize. Most of my weight was gained while sitting at a computer working on papers or studying. I wouldn't cook; I would eat junk. Report
Thanks for sharing your story. I admire your courage to search for the "right path". My husband had several career changes, doing well in whatever he did, but was searching for the "right" thing. We encouraged our kids to choose a career that was satisfying to them. Our younger son planned to be a German teacher, went to Germany, became a forrester and is very happy and satisfied. Report
I too followed my heart a few years ago and left a job I wasn't happy in for another. I now earn half as much as I did then, but boy, do I love my job now - and I'm healthier too!!! Report
This is exactly how I felt until I switched my thesis topic and my advisor; I was so miserable with what I was doing I was thinking about quitting because I hated what I used to love so much about my Master's program and Sociology. But instead I switched advisors and topics and I'm MUCH happier and almost done my thesis now!
Thanks for sharing your story. It's encouraging to hear and it helps me feel like I made the right choice too :) Report
Wow! Nicole, you're so awesome! It takes a lot of guts to follow your heart, and I'm so happy for you that you did.

I believe life does guide us in the way we should go, if we just listen to that inner voice that's trying to guide us. Personally, I believe it's the Holy Spirit of God - I've seen Him work in my life in various ways, too. When you follow your heart (or listen to God), you will be fulfilled in every aspect of your life.

It's a tough, soul-searching job to find your purpose in life on this earth, but it sure is worth it!

Happiness always,
H :) Report
What a great choice you made.We needed you more anyway. Report
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