Why I am leaving Community Acupuncture--and (finally!) becoming a POCA Tech Sustainer

I’m quitting Community Acupuncture.

Not forever!--anyway, probably not. This election year has revealed some surprisingly aerodynamic pigs, so I don’t want to make any hard-and-fast promises. I can say that doing acupuncture of the non-community variety doesn’t interest me, and hasn’t, since I first started doing community acupuncture about nine years ago. This work has been my home and my salvation, and I love it.

But here’s the deal: my family is moving, again. My spouse has let go of her career dreams for Plan B. It’s going to be a good Plan B; we’re lucky. But moving is hard. Another exciting plot twist: the town in which the Plan B job exists is my hometown. My hometown has no community acupuncture clinic and therefore no job for me, unless I want to set up a clinic there, work my ass off for very little pay, as a solo acupuncturist, for who knows how long.  

Now, when you’re a diehard acupunk like myself, that last sentence sounds like a clarion call. I actually got a little frisson of excitement as I typed it. I love punking, and I actually really like starting new projects; starting a new clinic is the kind of challenge I enjoy (probably because of what a polyamorous friend refers to as the “new relationship energy” of a new job). I’ve done it twice, and I can do it again...and probably, eventually, I will. I’ll find myself peeking in the windows of shabby empty storefronts and guessing how many recliners could fit; my head will swivel toward any “FOR LEASE” sign I see; I’ll go to the library and check out NOLO Press books on lease negotiation, just in case. I’ll start scouring Craigslist for used recliners, and haunting the university surplus department for office furniture and filing cabinets, and I’ll wish we still had a pickup truck. I’ll re-read everything in the Best Practices forum. I’ll even pay to take the goddamn Nationals again so I can finally get my Michigan license.

But after the honeymoon comes the long haul. After launching two clinics and being an employee punk in two clinics, I know one thing about myself: I’m a good punk, but I’m not a superstar. I’m generally likeable, I think, but I’m not charismatic. It might take me a year or so to really get where I want to be--and where a clinic needs me to be--in terms of patient numbers. The outreach and promotional stuff is hard for me, and it’s hard to ask for help (though, having a child has given me a real crash course in total humility). I just don’t have the resources for the long haul right now.

Also, I really don’t want to do it as a solo punk. I may be a secret introvert, but I’m a born co-operator. Parallel play is my jam! I’m an okay boss--not great--and I think I’m an okay employee. But to be really invested, I want to co-own. And when there’s a long row to hoe, I prefer to be yoked with another ox or two (or three or…). I want to share the endless decisions, the scutwork, the setbacks and the day-to-day joys.

The thing is, and here’s the really hard part: I’ll start to meet people, neighbors and co-workers and friends, and get to know them, and their pain. I’ll see people on the bus, at the grocery store, the gym and the playground, and see that they are hurting. I’ll start to get regular headaches again myself, or fun new allergies, or throw my back out picking up my kid, or I’ll hear the black dog of depression snuffling under the door in the middle of a long Midwestern winter. I’ll wish there was a clinic we could all go to, and nap together, and rise up feeling a little bit better, with a little bit more capacity to make our lives and our worlds better.  

In the meantime, at least, there’s one acupuncture school I can recommend. And so I’m finally (finally!) committing to being a POCA Tech sustainer. Because eventually, even if I’m not the one to start it, I want there to be a POCA clinic in my hometown--and in all of our hometowns. Join me!