What I learned in my first year of being a Registered Dietitian

A year ago today, I passed my examination to become a registered dietitian. If you are on the path to become a RD or are familiar with careers that require a registration examination, then you know how incredibly stressful and monumental the day can be. Anything and everything you have learned about nutrition over four years of college and an intense, nearly year-long “internship” can be on this test.

To say that it is a milestone is an understatement.

Now that I have arrived at my 1 year anniversary of achieving my dream, I realize that the past year has been full a lot of highs and lows. Almost every new RD that I have spoken to has gone through similar experiences as me, and yet when faced with difficult times and looking for some moral support I found that the online space is surprisingly lacking for new dietetic professionals. I know that there must be so many more new RD’s out there who are going through what I went through. I want to share my story in the hopes that it helps a struggling RD know that they are not alone.

When I finished the exam, I remember feeling disbelief for a good 10 minutes, followed by sheer, uncontainable joy. This is it. It was finally over. Those little credentials that I had worked so hard to have after my name were finally mine. I was now Rita K. Saeed, RDN!! The first few weeks went by in a blur of celebration and the satisfaction of signing off every email with my new credentials, regardless of the recipient. I was lucky enough to find a job as a clinical dietitian shortly after I passed the exam (not what I wanted, but let’s be real) and still in grad school, so my time went by in a busy blur.

After graduating later that year and settling down into my job, I found myself falling into a predictable pattern. Wake up, go to work, see the same kinds of difficult patients, educate someone who doesn’t really care about what you have to say, calculate formulas, check the time, get out from work 5000 hours later, go home and find ways to de-stress and relax- and then realize that I have to do it all over again tomorrow.

I got so caught up in working towards a goal, that when life finally settled down, I kept finding myself asking the same question- now what? Wasn’t the whole point of following my passion and becoming a registered dietitian to not have exactly the kind of life I was now living?

You’re a registered dietitian, you’ve achieved your lifelong dream and worked SO hard to get here, so then why doesn’t it feel right?

What no one tells us while we’re still in school is that even though the internship is meant to show us what working in different fields of nutrition is like so that we can find what we are interested in, it is still SO hard to transition from student to employee.

The point of arrival is lonely and hard, and leaves you feeling like you did something wrong.

Through the past year, I’ve had a lot of moments where I felt like I followed the wrong path, or that I wasn’t worthy to hold the title of being a RDN. I’ve questioned myself over and over on whether it all wasn’t just a waste of time because my career does not feel anything like what I imagined it to be.

If that is how you feel right now- like you’re stuck, like you don’t know what to do, or that you’ve wasting so many years of your life following a career that maybe wasn’t meant for you. Or that you don’t even know WHAT you want to do- I want you to know that it is completely normal. You are not alone. We all know that it is only the beginning of our career and we will find the path in time. But that doesn’t make it easier.

What does make it easier is being kind to yourself. Telling yourself that it is okay to feel this way.

I am nowhere near where I want to be, and I’m still struggling in finding my path. I won’t claim to have figured it out yet, but being kind to myself has made it so much easier.

Trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.