Guest Post from Michael Kalebich:
Hello again, everyone, and thanks for stopping by!
This time I ABSOLUTELY promise to give you much more of the details you have been EVER so patient for! We're going to start at the beginning, of how I got started at the Worst Job In POCA/CA.
Sometime in the afternoon during October 2015, I sat in my car having a phonecall. I remember that it was the kind of cool day that happens as Summer becomes fall, because, as I tend to, not long into the phonecall I got up out of my car and started walking around the house I was staying at. I'm a bit of a pace-er overall on the phone, but was especially nervous about this one in particular. The phonecall was an interview for a job at a POCA clinic in the midwest, and while still at the level of introductions, the person I was interviewing with(who would become my new boss at the WJIP/CA) talked about how their big plan in mind for the clinic was to turn it into a “Multidisciplinary Wellness Center!”
Yeah, that phonecall sucked.
But, I wanted to get that job, and so I swallowed my gag-reflex and interviewed to the best of my ability. I did well enough that they wanted to follow up soon with an in-person interview at the clinic, and by the time that was over I'd accepted the job. During the eight-hour car ride home as I drove down long stretches of road through the middle of the night through and about two states, I played “Stayin' Alive” on repeat, largely in an effort to keep myself from tumbling too deeply into a yawning depression that I felt creeping up to me as my mind started to process what I'd may have just gotten myself into.
Now, you may be asking, “Well, if you knew from the start it was going to be such an awful experience, why'd you do it? Why not just find somewhere else to go?” and, to that I can only thank you for asking the PERFECT question! Because, you see, that's not *really* where it all started for me and the WJIP/CA. Yes, that was *technically* when my association with the clinic started, but it doesn't really cover it adequately. Where it all *really* started was back in acupuncture school.
Acupuncture school(or, as I prefer, ack-skool) was a time in my life full of suffering and pain. For one, I almost died before the end of my first semester from a severe anemic event. The reason was because I'm American, and so therefore had really sketchy healthcare during my twenties, and subsequently hadn't been going to the doctor when I should have been. Halfway through my first semester at acupuncture school, I went to the hospital for what I thought was a cold that wasn't responding to antibiotics, but actually LOL NOPE you need to figure out your power-of-attorney now, Mr. Twenty-Three year-old because you have, like, NO blood left in you at this point!
Needless to say, I didn't die, but things didn't improve that much. I was able to get back in shape blood-count wise, but my health was still pretty poor, and I still didn't have the cash to keep following up with my doctors like I should have been. I have Crohn's disease, and that can be a challenging diagnosis by virtue of the fact that Crohn's is localized in the GI tract, but can affect other places in the body in other ways by virtue of being an auto-immune condition. My legs were awfully swollen almost all of the time, I literally had to walk around at ack-skool with a cane for a while after I tried to pick things back up again the semester following the hospitalization. The pain was literally indescribable, and for a solid year during the worst of it I barely walked without a limp. On top of the health-issues, I had about five addresses total for the duration of the three-and-a-half years I spent
at acupuncture school, and obviously this all I meant I wasn't able to work. This was of course WELL in addition to the usual “eccentricities” people have to deal with ack-skool, so it was all just BARRELS of fun, let me tell ya'…
I could keep going, but that's a story that has been told at greater length already by much more talented individuals than myself. And, there is only one really, really important detail in all of this that I need you to understand in order to wrap this back in to the WJIP/CA; and the reason I sucked it up through a sucky interview.
There was just one, singular reason I stuck out acupuncture school and board-exams all the way through, one only: POCA. And, the idea that one day I could get to punk(not “practice”, “punk”) at a POCA clinic that was dedicated to the mission of getting acupuncture to as many people who could use it as possible. That was the only lifeline that could stand up to all of the pain, all of the craziness, all of the loading-unloading-reloading all of my handful of possessions into and out of my car again and again that I did while in acupuncture school. That was the only thing could make it all something bearable. It was about a six-hour round-trip drive up to my school in Chicago from the suburbs where I lived(which I made every time I went to class for all but about five months of said three-and-a-half years total). Especially towards the end(I discovered POCA initially about halfway through my program), all that sustained me during my painful, burnt-out rides back home was my MP3 player and dreaming of what it'd be like spending whatever time I might have left by then treating lots, and Lots, and LOTS of ordinary people. (*SPOILER- the job I have now was definitely worth all of it.)
But, just having a hard run of acupuncture school wasn't the only reason I was willing to hold my nose and leap into what I knew would be a “temporary” position. By now, I think you can understand what I really, really wanted upon graduating, and just *maybe* a few of you can guess what I encountered out there in The Real World when I tried to get it-
Got an idea yet?
That's right, it was ACUPUNCTURE LICENSE REGULATIONS!!!!
And, the fact that each state is practically its own feudal-realm when it comes to them; especially on the coasts(which have at least a couple of clinics on them). As I was getting close to graduation, I'd been volunteering for just about a year-ish in Membership Circle, and was getting ready to head out to POCAFest 2015 in Rhode Island. Just before, in anticipation of meeting clinic owners there who may or may not be looking to hire people, I sent out some emails and looked into state regs as to where I could work. I started with the “Jobs Posting” section of the website, and one by one just about every prospect that might seem to have existed turned out to be states I couldn't work in. I actually had to TURN DOWN a job offer or two from reputable BDCs. When I actually got to POCAFest, one person seemed so excited to have found what could be a decent possible hire I
could've swore they were going to throw me in their trunk before I could leave. (In an effort to allay concerns for a moment that I might have crawled completely up my own ass here, I want to emphasize that 2015 was a time when POCATech was very much still new and a bit uncertain in places. I think the first cohort had started only briefly before RI 2015 POCAFest, and so possible decent acupuncturists who were already installed in the culture and work of POCA perhaps had a bit more “sheen” at that time.)
So, yeah, upon graduating ack-skool with six months(and counting!) before student-loan payments were to start, in yet another unstable living situation that the fuse was running out on, and no work history for the past four years because my health was so screwed up, and an absolutely hell-bent desire to somehow find a way some-HOW to a good POCA clinic, you had better believe that I was ready to beg, borrow, and steal to get the CA experience I thought I needed. Now, yes, of course I tried sending some applications out to more Midwestern clinics. Again though, there aren't quite as many clinics in those parts, and by extension, not as many BDCs. Given the somewhat “Strict Time-Table” I was working with, and given the fact that the three months I spent beforehand of my “grace period” before loan payback would start chasing what felt like red-herrings was making me feel EXTRA stupid, yeah, I heard of an opportunity in a state I could work in that was close enough to grab onto and went for it. I could have MAYBE tried to find a way to stick a bit longer at looking for other clinics in states I could actually work in that might be hiring, but again, again, time didn't seem to be on side for a couple of reasons.
That's the reason why I pushed forward despite within seconds of the first phonecall with my soon-to-be new boss knowing that the job was NOT what I wanted.But, there's soemthing else to this tangent-bordering-on-sequel that I just coughed up. When I start getting into the weird stuff(and TRUST me, it's gonna get pretty David-Fucking-Lynch up in
this Motherfucker), I want you to keep in mind everything I've just said here. I want you to have this close by and easily referenceable. Because when the barn finally does start to roast and you might ask yourself, “Really, really? REALLY?!?!”, and you'll wonder why it is that this dweeb stayed(other than the fact that I was stuck in a lease with my apartment), and why he didn't stand up for himself/the clinic/the patients/Reason, or otherwise try to “Do More”, I want you to remember this part. Also, we're going to re-visit it at the end, and it's going to make more clear why this sprawling mess actually DOES highlight the theme of this drive. Why it is, ultimately, about Continuing To Believe.
The other song that I was really feeling following that long car-ride home back to Illinois after my in-person interview, was one I'd been listening to a lot by Golden Earring, with the line,
“Where am I to go now that I've gone too far?”
Well, I think it's time we start getting into what exactly too-far was…
But that is for NEXT WEEK!! Stay tuned! and Stay posted for more membership Drive Action!! Woo!