Sunday, January 5, 2014

"I don't know what it is, but you gotta do it."

Ten and a half years ago, I graduated naturopathic school. Great job, congratulations, here's your diploma, now get back to work and study your ass off for boards. Five weeks later, I had successfully filled in approximately 900 little circles on papers that would determine whether or not I would be eligible to get a license to practice or not. A few weeks after that, I found out that, yes, I had passed my board exams. Thrilled, to say the least.

But now what? You have your diploma, you now have your license, you have the title...what are you gonna do with it? And suddenly I became fearful for the future. I could complete medical school...but what of it? My bluff was called, and I blinked. Big time.

As it happened, Mr. Man and I had moved from Puddletown to the Chicago area after I completed my board exams. I'd unwittingly landed in the backyard of a chiropractic school that offered an accelerated program for health care pros like myself. It looked interesting. I visited the school on one of their "be a student for a day" programs. The day of the program was gray, rainy, cold, and dismal. The closer I got to the school, the drearier it seemed to get...used car lots, potholed roads, and nothing inviting. The entire day felt wrong. I felt magnetically repelled from the school, as if some huge force were trying to push me away. I came home and told Mr. Man that I couldn't see myself making that drive and going to school there at all.

But apparently I couldn't see myself using my degree right off, either. Despite what so much of my body, mind, and psyche was telling me (and there was no mistaking how wrong I felt about it), I decided to avoid the future, and retreated back into school.

And ten years ago today, on the first day of school, began the worst and most painful year of my life. I drove to school, singing a song that echoed my uncertainty but hope that this was perhaps the best path forward. Then I felt that hope collapse like the industrial dissonance and clamor at the end of the song, just as I pulled into the school parking lot for this first day of school. 2004 was a year that drove me to drink (but only on weekends), that contributed to some major adrenal fatigue (that I overcame years later, though not without effort), and that I would gladly erase from my life if given the option. I learned how cruel some instructors and fellow students can be. I learned how awful it feels to be devoting all your time and energy to a program you don't really believe in, yet one that will be significantly determining your identity, income, reputation, and mindset for the rest of your life. I learned how painful it can be to push forward when it seems that everyone has you in their crosshairs, to eliminate, to ridicule, or to shun. I learned the constant static that you feel when you had a vision for your life, but you chose a path that runs counter to it in many ways. And ever since, I've been trying to push the negative aspects of 2004 out of my brain and take what good I could from it. I've been mostly successful at winnowing the bad from the good, and I am definitely excellent at what I do, but my expertise came at a tremendous psychic and physical cost.

And 2005 wasn't much better.

So here's to having no year worse than 2004, and having every year being exponentially better and more fulfilling somehow. Because I've put in my time in hell...and it's time to turn my back on it. (Despite the fact that, yes, I did just commemorate it very unsubtly.)

No comments: