Hi! I’m Jacquie, a 20-something student living in Washington D.C. I love to bake, primarily cookies, and write so one day the sweetest thing was born.
I didn’t go to college the traditional way. I went to Elon University for my first two years.
I was on a pre-physical therapy track after years of dancing and I knew I wanted to work with kids. Then I decided to switch my second semester of sophomore year to Public Communication to work in special events. While I still loved science, I didn’t think I could work with kids like that everyday- I’m the kind of person who would get too attached to her patients.
However, during those 2 years, I also developed an eating disorder and by the time I went home for the summer after sophomore year, I hit rock bottom. I was barely 100# (I’m 5’6”) and would either only eat about 400 calories or eat more and throw it up. I was depressed, anxious all the time, and what didn’t help is I also was hyperthryoid since my body was so stressed. Hyperthyroidism and an eating disorder don’t mix very well.
I stayed home the next year with my parents (who saved my life), went to therapy (up to 3 times a week at some points), and started a part-time job at my local Great Harvest. For those of you who don’t live near one, Great Harvest is a national chain of bread bakeries, but their principles and the way each franchise is run, they give a truly neighbor-like feel.
It may sound weird that someone recovering from an eating disorder would work at a bread bakery and it may have been, but baking was therapeutic for me. During that time, I slowly moved throughout the store in a nurturing environment and it couldn’t have been a better job for me to have at the time. I also started finding my love in baking cookies- something I had done since I was young- and playing with different recipes and flavor combinations until I found my own. While it’s definitely nowhere in sight yet, I have a few “clients” I bake for still today and send care packages across the country in decorated boxes.
From there, I actually went to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY for Baking and Pastry. I had a blast with new friends who shared the same passion I did and who were still supportive of my recovery. However, halfway through the program, I had to stop. I went to NYC for my externship, where we work in a restaurant for 5 months. I was working at Gramercy Tavern- a dream come true- with a fabulous chef. Unfortunately, I emotionally couldn’t take it. Working in a restaurant, especially one of that caliber, is very hard work and I was working 12-14 hours a day. The hours didn’t bother me, but my whole life revolved around food and not on my own schedule. Class I could deal with (at only 5-6 hours a day at set times), but my life was me either eating or baking and plating desserts and at that point in my recovery, I couldn’t handle it. My chef was amazing about it and I still talk to her to this day. I don’t regret the experience- I only regret not being able to finish. Maybe one day…?
So after a month I stopped my program, but still had a lease with my roommates for another 5 months. My parents said I could come home and I considered it, but being the stubborn person I am, I really wanted to try to make NYC work so it was onto plan B: get another internship/job and reapply to school. I ended up working at The Wedding Library, a wedding planner, and learned a lot. I got back into therapy (which i had been out of for a few months by that time) and started to find my footing again. I will never forget NYC and will tell anyone that I found myself there.
I got into American University in D.C to finish up my bachelor’s degree in Public Communication. But first, I had to get there. I finished my lease in NYC, but now like I said I loved it and found my footing there, but mentally I was still struggling. I was still using bad behaviors, but kept them a secret. My parents didn’t know that and had agreed to let me go to a French Immersion program in Paris that summer.
I went- duh! But it was very hard at first. While it was my third time in Paris and I know French, travelling alone is hard and this was the first time in years that I honestly couldn’t use any bad behaviors. I had to eat because of all the walking I was doing and to attend some classes and I couldn’t purge (I never purged around people and I was living in a homestay plus with their old buildings and piping, I didn’t want to risk an embarrassing situation). Well it may sound cheesy, but I found my heart in Paris.
After a tough first week, I made the city my own. I found the vendors I loved going to at the markets and made friends with them along with others in my classes. I was content and by the time I had to come home at the end of the summer, I was happy to come back, but would have been fine if I hadn’t.
So now, I’ve been in D.C. for about a year and a half- the same amount of time I’ve been free from my eating disorder. I was able to end therapy this past July and have found a solid group of friends here. I graduate in May (finally!) with a B.A. in Public Communication and a minor in Business Administration. I’d love to do events or PR for a health firm or the entertainment/fashion industry. I know those are two opposites, but I’ve also tried to combine them this past semester in an independent study which this blog has followed (see my Project Body Love page). I feel like the fashion industry can send more positive body image messages which in turn can help my health-related cause that I’m active in- eating disorders advocacy. I’ve worked with the Wellness Director at AU and his planning of Body Awareness Week 2010 and am now in the process of looking for research grants and possible graduate programs to continue in this field.
I’d also love to one day have my own cookie business, remember the flavors and care packages? But one step at a time, right? I have goals and dreams and we’ll just see what happens…
WHEW!!! that was long- I’m sorry! But there’s my story (and I’m sticking to it!). Email me if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org