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Dropping Out, Round I

Why did you drop out of college?

I have been asked this countless times. Plain and simple, I realized I wanted to be a Massage Therapist. Clemson University did not have a program for that.

But I'll admit, in the beginning I followed the crowd. As much as I used to love blaming it on my parents for pushing me to go to a four-year school or my friends and teachers with the "everyone HAS to go to college" attitude, I can't. I mean yeah, I had been relatively brainwashed but in the end I ultimately made the decision to attend Clemson.

I quickly learned however that when life has other plans for you it makes sure you know of it. This is how life told me what's up.

I can vividly remember being at freshman orientation, walking in a crowd with my new friend Mary. She asked me what I wanted to do and I told her I would like to be a Massage Therapist. At the time, however I just kind of brushed the idea off because I had not really convinced myself of it yet. So I signed up to study Language & International Health. It was basically Spanish plus Public (preventative) Health. I felt comfortable with Spanish after a visit to Spain during high school and preventative health was a topic I loved.

I was lucky to have two Public Health classes with Professor Welsh, who quickly became my favorite despite the mass of information he was always throwing at us. It was a lot, but it was fascinating. I literally kept his power point notes and still have them to this day.

Professor Welsh was the

"get off your butt and stop making excuses for your health"

type of guy. He promoted living a healthy lifestyle over the medical care system, but always acknowledged that the medical care system is still necessary.

Welsh was always stressing to us how much stress contributed to health problems. He would say,

"Stress is the #1 contributor to health issues."

His classes seemed to be structured to make us understand this. Including a project where we all were directed to pick a disease, explain the symptoms, diagnoses, cure, and the cause. One by one my classmates got up to present. After a while I began to notice a pattern. Stress & behavioral patterns were always the main part of the cause. (Aside from heredity, which Welsh said was 10% of the cause.) This was true even in my presentation.

I chose to do my project on Lupus. This was a touchy subject because my best friend Kara's mom, Laurie had recently passed away after a long battle beginning with Lupus at a young age and ending with Cancer in her forties. I thought that I would like to know more about it. What I found out was that even if a person were genetically predisposed to a disease, it was stress on the body that allowed the disease to show itself.

Each project was the same. The common factor was that the immune system was suppressed, something was off balance in the body and the disease was allowed to take over. Stress was the most common thread in all of this.

This haunted me. I'm thinking, how can we fix this? What can I do to help? Why are we not aware?

So then I remembered weeks back in our Health 298 class when Welsh was deep in one of his stress lectures. He said something that has been replaying in my mind for years. He said

"If every person were required by their health insurance plan to have one massage per month, the world would be a much happier, healthier place."

I have never forgotten that, and most likely never will.

The last few months of that school year I remember spending hours on the phone with my mom just trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I kept saying

"there is something else that I am supposed to be doing, I just can't figure out what it is."

What I did know is that I would not find it in Clemson. So I made the decision to leave after finishing out freshman year.

I am forever grateful to Professor Welsh for giving me the confidence I needed to pursue what I love. He made me realize that there was so much more to massage than I thought and that I really could help people if I chose to make it my career. It also became clear to me that I wanted to do something in honor of Laurie, who lost her life at such a young age. I wanted to do something with my life to prevent that from happening to anyone else. Preventative health would be my tribute to her. My future was slowing beginning to make sense to me and show itself.

Looking back, the decision was a turning point in my life and truly the first time that I made a decision without worrying about what anyone else would think. It was the first time I was not afraid to take control of my life. All I had to do now was trust myself.



Kerin Nicole BowenComment