My friend asked, “Do you know where you are going? Did you visit the school?” I had to admit that I had never been to Gainesville, Florida before. In my mind, it would be a short 2-year course in acupuncture that would allow me to practice herbalism under a licensed practice act that would make me immune from being accused of “practicing medicine without a license.” As it turned out, my graduate program was a 5-year effort with unimaginable personal-growth, discovered deceptions, and life-changing surprises.
I made my way through the lazy streets of Gainesville to the Unitarian Church; the venue had been changed from the school being remodeled and readied for the influx of 26 new; only about 16 would complete the program. I wonder now how I found my way without GPS, which we did not have way-back-then? But somehow I did and showed up on-time to be instructed to sit in a circle with my new-found cohorts.
The director of the acupuncture school had attended my herbal apprenticeship program the year before with his wife and had invited me to attend promising that an acupuncture degree would widen my horizons. He was correct. But I had no idea at the time what the cost would be. Rather than the 2-year degree that was offered, it would take me over five years of traveling and life-changing upheaval to become a licensed acupuncturist.
I was sitting next to an attractive blond who was sporting a Diet Coke®; an absolute blasphemy in this crowd. The director made the usual introductory announcements and then asked each one of us to introduce ourselves and explain why we were there. Several new students described their amazing experiences and enlightening stories of how they had chosen to attend acupuncture school, and then it was Jayne’s turn.
Jayne un-apologetically explained that she was a nurse in Tallahassee some 3 hours away and that one of her co-workers told her that she was coming to acupuncture school just a week ago. She further explained that she had never heard of acupuncture and did not know anything about natural medicine, but it sounded like fun and here she was, ever-the-while taking sips from her Diet Coke®.
When it was made clear that I was commuting from several states away, Jayne offered to share her hotel room. Our first evening in Gainesville was spent on the side of state highway 301 drinking cheap white wine at the pool surrounded by a chain-link fence. We were at the Bambi Hotel just down the street from the gator-infested Santa Fe Swamp. We remained roommates for 3 more years and drank a lot more wine trying to get through acupuncture school. We did, however, find better accommodations after that first night.