I got an email last week from a lovely woman who was asking me about my path and how I moved through it and wound up doing what I’m doing. I like to share stories from my life if I feel like they are helpful and illustrative of how other human beings go through things. In general though, if it’s in your path, it is your path.
Whatever I have to offer, I always hope it is useful and provides hope. One of the things that I know to be true is that we should all be spending most of our time doing things that bring us joy. If most of how you spend your time causes you to be angry or sick or feel small or broke, it is a good idea to think about changing it. There will be struggle but if the focus is more joy and more purpose, you will make it and it will be glorious.
One of my teachers says this, "Life happens for you, not to you." You are going to read a story of how "bad" things happened and how things didn't work out. We all know this story. I needed every single experience I've ever had to get to where I am today. Each one was a piece on my yellow brick road.
This is the story of how I became an acupuncturist. It all started almost 11 years ago when I got dumped. Yes, we are starting with tragedy. It’s going to make the ending that much sweeter.
This was one of those devastating breakups. The kind that leaves you shocked and turned upside down. The kind where you don’t want to go to work, you just want to stay curled in the fetal position, and you cry every time someone asks you how you are.
This was someone that I had thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I was of a certain age where it seemed like all of my friends were getting married and this is the direction that I thought my life was headed. I was sorely mistaken.
He broke up with me a couple of days after Valentine’s Day and I was devastated. Absolute spot on perfect timing for a romantic comedown. I was living in San Francisco at the time. One would think it was a major city but all of sudden it became excruciatingly small. We had a tight knit social circle and it was pretty much guaranteed that if I left my house, I would see him at any event I went to.
The city officially wasn’t big enough for the both of us. I decided to take a trip to New York to clear my head and hang out with my girlfriends. New York had always been one of my favorite places to visit. The energy just lit me up and I could walk for hours and hours exploring block after block, always finding some cool piece of street art, a gorgeous boutique, or the perfect back garden to sip an afternoon cocktail.
This particular trip was a game changer. I arrived in early summer and was absolutely electrified. After a few months of moping around and endless tears, I felt renewed. The city felt vibrant, alive and sultry with heat. We didn’t have hot summer nights where I was from and they are my FAVORITE. There is endless promise in a steamy summer evening.
I caroused with my girls, shopped, ate, and received major inspiration. I was working for Louis Vuitton at the time and all of the women I knew in New York were also working in the fashion industry. “Do you think I could get a job here?” I asked one night. I was nervous about being a small fish in a very big pond. I had plenty of experience but self-doubt that it would translate in this city where the competition was much bigger and badder than where I was from.
My friends reassured me and a plan was born. It was a lightning quick, 100% positive, no doubts whatsoever decision. I was moving to New York! Game on! Funny enough, the FIRST person I saw when I walked off the plane to return home was my ex. He was not there to see me. It was just an extremely bizarre coincidence. If there was any clearer sign that I needed to leave immediately, that was it. I had big dreams to follow and I was outta there!
I arrived a couple of months later determined to “make it” in the fashion industry in New York. It had been my dream since age 12 to someday live there. I used the pain of the breakup as a catalyst to get me where I most wanted to be. It was high quality fuel for the fire. I hit the ground running HARD. I felt like I was working on my little piece of the American dream.
They say opportunity is when luck meets preparation. I was both very lucky and exceptionally prepared. I was ready for anything. My soul was charged up. I landed one job as a showroom sales assistant for Bill Blass. It was old world New York magic. The entire creative process was on display daily from initial sketches, to fabric selection to draping, to final product.
Everything happened in one office and it was thrilling to watch. Henry Kissinger’s wife and other seasoned socialites would come in to have couture gowns, suits or seasonal wardrobes made to order for them. It felt glamorous and fun like fashion should be.
Then, Prada called and offered me a job in their corporate office. Many warned me about the culture of the company but I didn’t listen. It was PRADA. What was a girl to do? I was seduced by feathers and lace and decorative animal pins. I left Bill Blass and entered a snake pit.
The first week I was there I worked a 12-hour day. I thought that must be unusual because it was a busy time of the season. Very soon I learned that working you to the bone was just their style.
The whole vibe was high alert stress and being yourself was not valued. Whenever someone from Italy came to visit, we had to remove every trace of our personality from our cubicles. No photos, tchotchkes, or evidence of being humans was allowed. Conversation always revolved around clubbing and reality TV.
I ran into my style idol in the bathroom one day. It was just me and Miuccia. I walked in, saw her and stopped short. She was washing her hands. My heart was pounding. I took a deep breath and said hello. She completely ignored me. I was officially unworthy of the courtesy of a human response. I was totally grossed out.
I became a sickly combo of incredibly bored, incredibly exhausted and incredibly frazzled. I felt like I was faking it all day every day and I hated it. This went on for months.
One day on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I went to the laundromat down the street and proceeded to have the first and only panic attack of my life. It wasn’t the laundromat; it was the excessive, pent-up stress. I felt like I was dying and tripping on acid at the same time. World turned upside down, cold sweat, racing heart, visual disturbances, magnified sound, the whole bit. I lived a half a block away and I had to call my roommate to come and escort me home.
I decided this was no way to live. But what now? I thought this was my dream and I went into complete existential crisis. I had wanted to work in the fashion industry for forever. I was completely lost, totally unhappy and felt really stuck.
Enter Jessica Simpson…on the cover of Elle magazine. I grabbed a copy to read on my way home from work and turned right to an article called Death By Stress. “Wow, that’s going to be me!” I thought. The article was all about your typical ambitious New York girl working in a marketing/PR firm. She’s tired but she can’t sleep, she has migraines, bad skin, a sugar addiction, she’s falling apart at the seams. Guess what her solution is? Drum roll please…acupuncture!!!
So this is where the magic happens. On a whim, I sent away for the course catalog for the acupuncture school mentioned in the article. My mind was blown. I read page after page of class descriptions, one more inspiring than the next. It all looked incredibly fascinating and so cool. The pistons were firing once again.
I checked in with myself and my intuition said YES. No hesitation. $80,000 in student loans for tuition? No problem. 4 years? Who cares? How will I support myself? I’ll figure it out. My gut said THIS IS IT. This was the lightning bolt that I was waiting for. This was the call of meaningful, soulful work. This was not a test. This was the real deal and I had found my way, my true path.
The enrollment deadline was 3 weeks away. I quit my job, hustled up, got my transcripts in, wrote a kick ass essay, aced my entrance interview, and went back to school. I never looked back, never doubted and fall deeper and deeper in love every day with this medicine.
Here I am today with you. I will celebrate the five-year anniversary of my practice in a couple of months. I am deeply honored to be of service to you. I am humbled by your trust and vulnerability. Because of you, I am able to live out a dream that I didn’t even know I had. I thank each and every one of you for that.
If you feel called to do something…anything…our world will benefit if you do it. There is only one of you and one expression of your unique gifts. You are stealing from the world by not allowing us to see your light. If you consider the ‘how’, you may get stopped in your tracks. Consider your soul’s happiness and you will figure it out. TRUST.