(This post is dedicated to Nora, the Queen of Pop Culture References and Video Links. With heartfelt apologies to Lady Gaga.)
Dear Acupuncture Profession,
I was so young when I met you; too young to know any better. That wasn’t so common then, back in the early 1990s, as it is now. In fact I think I was maybe the first of my kind: only twenty-two when I got accepted to acupuncture school, basically right out of college, naively in love with the idea of being an acupuncturist. I never had another profession before I had you — or, should I say, before you had me.
I believed everything you told me about yourself. You said you were serious; you said you were here to help people. And so, with stars in my eyes, I gave myself to you. For life. And unlike lots of other acupuncturists, for me, it’s always, only, ever been you; I’ve never had another profession to take me back if you and I didn’t work out. I never kept any other professions waiting in the wings, just in case. I believed in you that much.
But things got rocky for us right away. I won’t go into it all again, the dreary story of how I realized that you were expecting me to cut myself off from all the things and people that mattered to me in order to be with you. Also? You’re no good at math.
Now I hear you think I’m destructive: I’m rude, I’m demeaning, I’m aggressive, I’m a screamer. I might even be “relationally dead.” I hate to break it to you, but that’s what happens in relationships like ours. You have all these upper middle class aspirations and lofty ideals about how people are supposed to relate; I just, you know, don’t. But you created me. Once you started flashing all that easy federal loan money, promising careers and whatnot, who did you think you would attract? Are you really surprised you got a troubled girl from the wrong side of the tracks, who picks fights in public and doesn’t know how to act in polite company? Of course I’m going to ruin your image. I can’t help it; we’re caught in a bad romance.(Cue the chorus!)
You see, my love, you’re selling the romance of being a healer to people who don’t
realize what that romance will cost them. That’s how you support yourself; it’s why you’re still around. You’re taking the equivalent
of people’s life savings for a dream that most of the time, doesn’t materialize. You’re making promises that you don’t have
the slightest idea how to keep. You can say whatever you want, but in
the end, for so many of us, the only thing that’s real about our
relationship with you is our student loan debt.
And you know what that debt means? It means we can’t start over with
somebody else, some other profession. We’ve taken on so much debt that
we’re trapped. With you. We’re not going anywhere, because we can’t. Even though you might be getting very, very tired of us.
And unlike before, where we could maybe take the pressure off our
relationship with you by getting another job that would really support
us — so that we could keep seeing you on weekends, after hours, on the
side, whatever moments we could steal with you to keep the dream alive — in this economy, other
jobs are awfully hard to find. So you’re it, baby. You know that I want you. You know that I need you.
These days, there are so many more first-career acupuncturists than there used to be. Think of it this way: every year, you are potentially creating thousands more of me. Of course, I know that many new acupuncturists and current students don’t want to hear the truth about you. I’ve tried to tell them that you are a bad, bad date, but they won’t listen. They still believe that you really love them. Hell, they probably believe you love them for their minds.
You’ve been awfully lucky so far, you know. For years and years, the legions of acupuncturists who fail in practice have been quietly slinking away, blaming themselves rather than you, because that’s what people tend to do after bad romances. But one of the things I do to make myself feel better is to try to make sure that what happened to me doesn’t happen to other people. After you got through with me, I had a hard time taking care of myself out in the world. I spent years floundering, and I hate to see other people flounder. So I’ve inadvertently created a sort of support group for people whom you have, well, screwed. We’ve been comparing notes. There are a lot of us. We know what you’re up to. (…I want your love, and all your lovers’ revenge…)
This business about the First Professional Doctorate. It’s brought so much about our relationship out into the open, and no matter what happens next, I think that’s got to be a good thing. But what really bothers me about this — besides the fact that I had to hear from someone else that you were sneaking around, AND that we had this exact conversation two years ago (didn’t anybody ever tell you that no means no? And you wonder why I don’t trust you) — is that, baby, it shows just how much of an operator you are.
You’ve got a whole new generation of doe-eyed naifs in love with you, and you’re telling them that all you really want is to be able to take it to the next level with them. You want them to get the respect they deserve. You make it sound like “a bloated Masters’ degree” is something that somebody else did to them and to you — you, who only wants what’s best for them! For a decade and a half now I’ve been watching you quietly padding the requirements, so that every year the people who fell in love with you had to give you more and more of their money and time. It’s getting awkward for you to explain. This is a flamboyant solution to that problem, I’ll give you that. You know how to take it over the top.
But so do I, love.
The FPD, which you seem to want so much, requires consensus within the profession. And because of the way you have set things up, the profession includes me and all of my rude, loud, organized friends. It’s like you’re married to us, when all you really wanted was a fling. But you’ve done such a good job of making sure that no one can practice acupuncture unless they’re under your increasingly expensive umbrella. (Don’t even get me started on what you’ve done to NADA.) I’d venture to guess that none of us would be the least bit worried about your designs if there were any other way to legally practice acupuncture. Love, love, love, I want your love.
Your structure, the structure of the acupuncture profession, is very rigid; it doesn’t leave us many options. I’ve given you all of my money. I’ve done nothing else for fifteen years, so now I’m truly unemployable, with no other prospects. Based on my fifteen years of experience, I don’t agree with you about ANYTHING except the need for clean needles. I’m older and wiser, but I’m still caught in your trap; we share a future. Unless you do something about letting me out, I’m going to fight you over how that future should look; I’m going to fight you like a cornered, rabid rat. For the rest of my life. I’ve stayed with you this long, don’t doubt my stamina.
Sweetie, don’t you think it’s time for us to break up? We just don’t want the same things out of life.
Oh, I know you have mixed feelings. It’s not just that I gave you my money; sometimes you really like me, or at least you’d like to take credit for me. I get things done; I’m novel and exciting that way. Walk, walk, passion, baby — work it. Work and passion, that’s what I do like nobody else. Too bad the next line in the song is also true about me, from your point of view.
And after all these years, I don’t wanna be friends.
After all of the acupuncturists I’ve talked to who never practiced because they had too much debt even to START a business; after all of the acupuncturists I’ve met who failed because they did what they were taught to do by people who don’t have to do it for a living themselves; after hearing non stop for fifteen years that really, things are about! to get! so much better! as soon as more insurance covers acupuncture/HR 646 passes/we can call ourselves doctors…no, I don’t wanna be friends.
But, unless you do something about the ways I’m trapped, you and me could write our bad romance for years and years and years. Conflict doesn’t bother me, ugly doesn’t bother me. Sadly, I kind of like it. It feeds all the worst parts of me. Don’t mistake me for a good girl; the community acupuncture movement is how I re-route my rage. Love, love, love. This is what my love looks like. I don’t think you really want it.
I have a suggestion or two, if you’re listening. Don’t act like you’re the injured party here; it’s making people laugh. Don’t assume that WE assume good faith on your part — that’s pretty funny too. I know it’s painful, but you might want to start by admitting you’ve made some mistakes.