I once worked as an editor, finding mistakes. I didn’t like having to look at things critically all day long. I think it’s a fun project, like a puzzle for some, and at times I felt that way. I just realized it wouldn’t enhance my personality to keep doing it for my entire career. I could relate to tales of editors storing booze in their desk drawer.
I liked the quiet privacy of the work space, low human interruption. It’s a very studious environment. My coworkers were intelligent, professional, and nice. It felt like a Mensa group to me, but I had just come from a totally different culture as a project coordinator in construction.
I asked myself around age 36, the famous question posed by poet, Mary Oliver, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild, precious life?”
When I stopped to think about it, I craved more human connection through my work. I wanted something that felt more personal and hands-on. I wanted to interface with others with the goal of better health, healing, and even wisdom. I was very drawn to holistic, whole health. At the very least, I hoped to reduce suffering.
I picked Chinese medicine to follow this inspiration. I had to go back to school.
I am a liberal arts person all the way and have a degree in journalism. I don’t disagree with science but I don’t live for it. What I am saying is, I was terrified to have to pass biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology. What did this have to do with living with the Dao?
It had to do with passing a lot of classes and practical skills and then board exams to earn a license with the Oregon Medical board. I had to get over my test anxiety. That was no magic trick, I just moved forward and endured discomfort and kept going.
Making change, for me, involved regular doses of humility and a steady diet of humble pie. I think patience is needed because the path is usually not without some obstacles. To change also asks us to leave behind an identity that we may have outgrown.
Change starts with listening to your thoughts when they stand out. One afternoon I was waiting in my pickup at a loading dock for tile to take to a job. “You don’t belong here,” popped in my mind. It didn’t feel mean; it felt true. I liked the work, the practical hands-on aspect. I liked the satisfaction of having an impact on structure. What I didn’t like was the work culture. As a woman, it was often, for lack of a better word, gross.
As an editor, I liked the culture- respectful and intelligent coworkers. I liked using my brain in a different way, very focused. It felt like it increased mental function and precision. However, I didn’t like the actual work.
Now, as an acupuncturist, I like the culture and the work.
I fit writing into whatever I am doing. During my Chinese medicine education, I wrote for a newsletter that included academic and community stories. Now I write articles for magazines and blogs about wellness. I also started a blog for fun to write and not have to worry if anyone wants to publish it.
My pathway was customer service to construction to editorial to Chinese medicine. I’ve been doing acupuncture for more than 10 years, the longest of anything. I would do it if I won the lottery. This career has offered me the most interesting personal and professional journey.
It takes a certain amount of audacity to switch careers. People say things to me like, “that seems like an odd leap to go from this to that.” I see what they are saying, but for me, it wasn’t odd at all. We can make all sorts of connections and follow-through if we are interested in doing so.
About our guest blogger
Mary Ann Petersen, LAc, is an acupuncturist, writer, nature-lover, and SUPer. Her work has been published in Take Root magazine, among others. You can find her on Twitter @bunkymap or her blog maryannpetersen.com.