“What made you decide to become an acupuncturist?”
A lot of my colleagues love to share their stories, the journeys that led them on the path of becoming an acupuncturist. Sometimes it has to do with their own healing through Chinese medicine, or the illness of a loved one. Sometimes it’s a spiritual calling to help others. Sometimes it’s just a natural progression of being a kombucha-swilling hippie who breaks out in hives at the thought of an office job.
The truth is, I have always HATED being asked this question. I usually deflect it and change the subject, while silently thinking, “Do you ask your accountant what made her decide to become a bean counter?”
But...I started to wonder WHY I always felt vexed when someone asks me this question.
Some of it has to do with the fact that I tend to be a little private, and I try hard to maintain good boundaries with patients. Your session is about YOU, and I don’t want to spend our time talking about me. Some of it has been that I really don’t have a dramatic story of profound healing and messages from my guides to go forth and heal the world, so what’s there to tell?
Well, here it is, friends....here’s the story.
What I REALLY wanted to be was a damn DOCTOR.
The first answer I ever had as a child to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was DOCTOR. My mother started nursing school when I was about 3 years old, and I can remember pouring over her textbooks for the years she was in school. The family joke was that she never had to have the birds and the bees conversation with me, because I had gotten hold of one of her OB/GYN books and looked up at her and said in horror, “OH. That’s where babies come from.”
Despite my passion for medicine and having started studying anatomy & physiology before kindergarten, it would turn out that medical school wasn’t in the cards for me, for a variety of reasons. I tried to make peace with it, and even though I had shifted my focus and completed undergrad school in an entirely different field, that drive and desire never totally left me. I tried a number of different things to try and quench that thirst. I completed my training as an Emergency Medical technician at Northeastern University. I took classes in psychology at UMass Boston, exploring the idea of becoming a therapist. Finally I gave it one last all out, and enrolled in the post-baccalaureate pre-med program at Harvard University.
You guys, I failed Physics.
I’ve never worked so hard and failed so miserably at anything in my entire life. It was clear to me that medical school wasn’t happening for me.
I was about 27 at this point, and was totally floundering. I considered joining the Marines. I took the exam to become a firefighter. I became a manager at the restaurant I had been waitressing at, and sunk into a bit of a self loathing, aimless depression.
Restaurant management is a tough job as it is, but it’s made all the more difficult when the head chef regularly goes on cocaine fueled tirades that terrify the staff. One night, his temper tantrum was aimed at me. It was a Saturday night and the place was packed. I forget what set him off, but he absolutely exploded. He tore off his apron, threw it on the ground, and stormed out, leaving me to man the saute station in a suit and heels for the rest of the dinner rush.
The next day, he gave me a half-hearted apology and a gift certificate to the shiatsu school clinic down the street. I didn’t buy his act for a second, but the shiatsu session was AMAZING. On the way out, I picked up a brochure for a year long class in Ayurvedic medicine that they were hosting. I signed up and fell immediately in LOVE. A year later, having completed the program, there was just one problem...there were no licensing standards for Ayurveda in the U.S., so if I actually wanted to be a practitioner, I’d have to get a license in something else.
As I weighed my options, I settled on acupuncture school. Although the New England School of Acupuncture was nearby, I didn’t love their curriculum. I had also just gone through some major personal upheaval. I found myself on the outs with all 3 of my best friends, and broke up with my boyfriend, who then proceeded to stalk me. Time to get the hell outta Dodge. I quickly settled on Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and packed my bags. See ya later Boston, San Diego here I come!
PCOM was an incredible experience and I’m SO glad I chose their program, but Southern California just wasn’t for me. Not enough foul weather and traffic, I guess! I came back to Boston 2 days after my last exam, and nearly 20 years later, here I am, with a thriving acupuncture clinic on the South Shore. Today, I’m grateful that I’m NOT an MD, because I have so much joy and freedom by NOT being being a practitioner entrenched in the mainstream medical model. Every single day I walk into my clinic, I get to create exactly the life I want, the way I want to.
So, there you have it. Failing physics and having a screaming match with a narcissistic cocaine addicted chef is what made me decide to become an acupuncturist.
Allison Blaisdell, MSTOM, Lic.Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist in private practice at Fitchburg Acupuncture, and also at Massachusetts General Hospital. She offers Acupuncture, Hypnosis, Nutritional Response Testing, and Frequency Specific Microcurrent, as well as online holistic health coaching and consultation. Her mission is to educate and empower her patients to achieve their best possible health.