I’m excited to announce that I am enrolled in this fall’s Culinary Program and Wine Certification at Minnesota State and Technical College in Moorhead, MN.

In a week, I will reduce my hours at work, attend class full time, and continue to write.

Before I found boys, before there were puppies, and before I found the perfect shell on Sanibel Island, my first love was food.  After there was food, my second love became writing.  It took 27 years to put my first loves together.

I’m not sure I’ll ever become a restaurant chef or if there’s enough time in my life to own a food truck.  But for now, I will do what I should have done three years ago.  Study food.

On Friday, I learned that I got the last seat in next year’s culinary arts program.  But first, I had to survive M State’s orientation Hunger Games from hell.

I submitted my application a week before the Fall deadline.  Two days before the deadline, I arrived at the school for a tour and discovered there were two spots in the program left.  Admissions also informed me that they needed my high school transcripts.  Even though I had submitted transcripts from my undergraduate and Masters degree work, they could not admit me without my high school transcripts.  I stifled panic and tried to politely cut the tour short so I could attain these transcripts at the end of a day at the end of a week, the day before the deadline.

On the day of the deadline, I noticed my online status stated “admitted.”

“Great!” I thought, assuming I got one of the remaining program spots.  I called the school to verify and an individual assured me that I got into the program.  When I inquired about the next steps in the process, she transferred me to someone who didn’t return my call for another day.  When we finally connected, she told me that I had not in fact nabbed a spot and could not register for classes online.  Staff members kept instructing me to follow the process outlined in my acceptance letter, which I still have not received.  I was to register for an orientation session, activate my student number, and complete the online orientation.  Once I arrived at the real orientation, spots would be distributed on a first come, first serve basis.

I began to sweat.  Then I took an early lunch at 9:30 a.m.

I was able to register for the last session of the last orientation of the summer.  I tried to make peace with the reality that yes, I applied for the program last minute and that if I was admitted with such impossible odds, I would have truly chosen the correct path.

That Friday, I arrived at orientation 15-minutes early.

After the first session of students had begun to register for classes, I stood in line to reach the first table.  20-minutes later, I received a packet containing the day’s checklist indicating that before I could register for classes, I had to complete an arithmetic assessment and scavenger hunt.

My anxiety started to bubble to the surface, and I realized that I could be at orientation for hours before I would find out if I was actually admitted to the culinary program.  I asked a staff member if the two, remaining seats had already been filled. After all, I was using PTO to attend orientation and if the program was full, I really needed to go back to work.  No one was able to confirm if the program was full.  Instead, I was directed to try to complete my assessment and scavenger hunt as quickly as possible.

The first order of business was taking an arithmetic assessment.  I joined a packed room of students sweating over computers.  We all knew we faced the same reality as we frantically clicked through our placement tests, waited in more lines, and raced through stations from which we were supposed to absorb important information.  Information that duplicated that which was covered in the online orientation.  It felt like a mindf#$@.

My online arithmetic assessment involved mathematical procedures I hadn’t seen since middle school.  “Least common denominator,” I thought, as I tried to add and subtract fractions.  When the questions progressed to multiplying fractions and long division with decimals, I blanked.  A young man jumped into the seat next to me and attacked his assessment as though struck by the hammer of Thor.  I stopped worrying about calculating correct answers and followed suit.

I might have completely lost my cool, if not for the kind young man who made me laugh while waiting in line at the financial aid station.  We were instructed to visit six more stations in the order listed.  This had us running from one end of the building to the other.  I tried my best to smile and take deep breaths as I waited in lines to listen to staff to tell me about the bookstore, student activities, counseling services, and other aspects of school that could soon become obsolete.

Finally, I made it to the registration station.  After another 20 minutes, a staff member congratulated me on attaining the last seat in the upcoming year’s program.  I watched them remove the culinary program’s registration sign-up sheet as they helped me register for classes.  Most of them were full and they said they didn’t maintain waiting lists.  Instead, I was encouraged to check the schedules for openings each hour for the next week and a half.  “Would you like to take sociology, instead?  Or what about history?” asked the advisor.  I took more deep breaths, instead registering for my first Wine Certification elective.

Moral of the story?  Do whatever you can to apply to anything as early as possible.  If you are like me and have a midnight revelation that inspires you to apply for culinary school at the eleventh hour, remember to breathe.  Be assertive by asking a lot of questions so you aren’t at someone else’s mercy to communicate pertinent information.  Maybe you’ll luck out and the process will be efficient.  And maybe you’ll have to play by someone else’s rules in their version of the Hunger Games.

I am very grateful that I start classes in a week.  I am also grateful that I will get into the classes that I need, after all.  My heart goes out to anyone who wasn’t admitted into the program this year, and I can only hope I emerged a victor without being too much of an a@!hole.

From church secretary to herbalism, from herbalism counseling, from counseling to corporate, and from corporate to culinary.  I’m returning to my first love which could end in opportunity or failure.  May the odds be ever in my favor.

Or something like that.