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Let’s be honest. Depending on how many “short straws” are handed to you, grad school and the CF experience may be some of the most difficult years of your life. Mine definitely were. If you have any sort of hobbies or dreams aside from studying the larynx or writing IEPs you may be tempted to push those passions to the backburner and let ‘em burn out faster than you can say “puh-tuh-kuh.” I’m here to tell you from experience — DON’T QUIT! Even though it appears dim now, there is a glimmer of hope in the distance. That light at the end of the tunnel is the glorious flexibility available to all who choose the career path of Speech-Language Pathologist. You have the power to create your own unique and fulfilling future that includes ALL of your dreams!

MY STORY

During my first year of grad school, I started a blog called The Macro Experiment about my love for fitness and flexible dieting. This nutrition strategy optimizes body composition by manipulating macronutrient intake (carb/protein/fat); essentially you can eat whatever you want as long as you hit your “macro” numbers for the day, ultimately leading to muscle gain/fat loss. With this method, I was able to overcome a lifetime of  personal struggle with severe caloric restriction and body image/food issues… it completely revolutionized my life and set a fire in my heart to help others!

“Eat,Lift, Thrive” by Sohee Lee. Check out this recommended book for further information on macros!

I never monetized products or services from my blog, I simply wanted to give quality information to others for free because it was so fun! I had a blast creating recipes, parody songs, DIY macro guides, and other resources posted to my blog and various social media platforms, and I was able to connect with thousands of people all over the world! I recently left my full-time position in the school system and turned my “side hustle” into a full-time career. Although I do not work full-time on my own blog, I am the Head of Avatar Eats at AvatarNutrition.com, a company that provides custom macronutrient based nutrition plans and macro resources. I wake up every day and do what I love to do most — create healthy recipes, style food photoshoots, make fun recipe videos, and collaborate with an amazing team of like-minded individuals with the mission of changing the world! This has also allowed me to branch out into other areas of interest in speech therapy, at my own pace (PRN for the win!).

Your career as an SLP can truly be whatever you want it to be and on your own terms. I encourage you to continue in your hobbies and passions aside from SLP work. Whether you’d like to keep your “side hustle” part time or go all-in, it’s really up to you! Take it from me, anything is possible if you keep at it! Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

BE CONSISTENT

Whatever it is that you love to do, take a little time every day to work towards small goals in that area. Whether it’s finishing up an oil painting, writing a fun pop song or adding a few stitches to a new shirt design you’ve created, just commit and execute. Those consistent and small steps will add up over time and one day you will look back in amazement!

Ask yourself these questions: What do you enjoy most in life? What brings you the greatest sense of fulfillment? Do more of THAT!

I remember taking photos of protein bars right before class or during a study break as quick “protein bar reviews” on my instagram account. It may have looked a little crazy from my classmates’ perspectives to see me breaking up pieces of protein bars and snapping away, but there was no shame in my game. I made a specific effort to take five minutes and post at least once a day to my page. Over just a few years my following grew from 0 to over 90,000 people all thanks to consistency, authenticity and passion.

BE PATIENT

As the old saying goes, all good things take time. Don’t expect your side project to blow up overnight, but at the same time don’t sell yourself short and give up. I worked in the school system as a full-time SLP for two years before I was able to make the jump to full-time side gig. During my school job, I spent many weekends and weeknights creating content, answering questions, and growing the blog. It sounds like a lot of work, but it actually brought me a huge sense of fulfillment and joy. So be patient with yourself and enjoy the process. Hard work will always pays off, it just takes time!

HAVE FUN

Most importantly, have FUN with it! You only get one life, and it would be a shame to spend it feeling trapped or unhappy. So dust off that old guitar and write down that melody line that’s been stuck in your head! Play around with different ingredients and create new recipes! Whatever you are passionate about, keep doing it — just for fun! Even if it doesn’t make you a dime, continue to do what makes you happy. I originally moved to Nashville to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter (before I pursued speech pathology), but I ended up burning myself out trying so hard to be the next Taylor Swift. I set my expectations unrealistically high and ended up disappointed. My focus switched from having fun to forcing success, which doesn’t work. Ask yourself these questions: What do you enjoy most in life? What brings you the greatest sense of fulfillment? Do more of THAT! If you want to eventually grow a business from that passion, have fun during the process and it will happen naturally, without feeling forced.

So keep at it my fellow speechies! Whether you’d like to stay a full-time speech pathologist or transition to something else and go part-time with SLP work, never stop doing the things in life that bring you the most joy. As an SLP, the future is truly wide open for you to fill with whatever you choose!

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