I’m a relatively new acupuncturist and new blogger, so I want to begin with a description of how I became an acupuncturist. In my opinion, acupuncture as a profession is kind of intense and crazy, so I thought sharing my story would help people understand more about who I am and why I do what I do.
My career has taken a circuitous path. I began college thinking about a career in business and finance, and started with a major in economics. After taking some electives in philosophy, I fell in love with the subject and added philosophy as a second major, eventually switching to a minor in economics. Other passions emerged after I graduated, and my path continued to turn. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at this point, but I needed work and started taking whatever I could get. After a handful of dead-end, entry-level clerical jobs and various jobs in hi-tech, I ended up doing tech support at Apple.
Working at Apple turned out to be a godsend. I started in 2003, two years after the iPod was introduced. The culture and community at Apple was unlike anything I had experienced before. Everyone was dedicated, authentic, positive, and aspirational. Excellence and creativity were truly celebrated, and I had never been surrounded by so much talent and diversity. The company had a dream and a mission, and I felt like we were really going places, pushing the envelope of what was possible while working to change the world.
I feel truly blessed for my time at Apple. From the beginning, I figured it would be incredibly difficult to move up in the company simply because the talent level and drive for achievement was so pervasive. I thought I would have a hard time competing for the small handful of opportunities that arose. As it turns out, I did pretty well. The competition was tough, but I managed to catch the attention of enough of the right people and took advantage of the opportunities I was given. This led to several promotions over the years. By 2007, I had moved up to a middle manager position in AppleCare, the customer service and technical support division of Apple. The work was challenging and demanding, and I was performing well.
In 2007, my path turned again. I had a sort of spiritual awakening that represents a pivot point in my life. In a sense, the life I had been living ended, and my new life began. I’ve shared this experience with many people, and there’s a lot of detail I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say, after many years of meditation and spiritual study, I experienced a profound shift in my sense of self, in the nature of my reality, and in my sense of purpose. Among the changes that began taking place, a few things stand out. First, I sensed my time at Apple was coming to an end. I didn’t know what would happen next, but I felt like many of my values shifted, and Apple wasn’t the place for me any longer. This realization led me to reflect on my time at Apple and conclude that, for much of my time there, I really hadn’t given my best.
During different periods at Apple, I experienced some personal setbacks and emotional difficulties. I went through a difficult break-up and move, which affected my performance. There were times I disagreed with leadership or my managers on how we ought to do things. When this happened, instead of being a good soldier and doing my job, I sometimes sulked or stewed childishly and dragged my feet.
Sensing I had not given Apple everything they paid for, and that they had supported me through difficult times, I resolved to pay Apple back what it was owed. During my final days at Apple, I would focus on giving my best in the hope of repaying my debt.
What happened next was striking. As soon as I set aside my ego and focused on giving back to an organization that had given me so much, my experience shifted. My working relationships with coworkers improved. I was asked to participate in more projects and was given more responsibility. My influence grew, and my overall enjoyment of the job increased to a level I hadn’t experienced before. I began to truly love my job, and, after a while, I thought I might not leave after all. I received another promotion, a raise and some bonuses, and thought I had discovered the secret to success.
These positive times continued on for a few more years until about 2011. We experienced a change in leadership at that time, and the demands of the job increased significantly. I still really enjoyed the work, had tons of freedom to focus on what I wanted to, and was working with an amazing group of people. However, after the shift I experienced earlier, my passion for spiritual study and exploration had grown dramatically, and I now felt like my life was out of balance. One day, over lunch with a good friend and coworker, the issue came into focus. My attitude toward the job had soured due to my frustrations with where my energies were focused, and my friend asked me what I wanted. In a moment, I realized I wanted to place my spiritual endeavors at the center of my vocation, not on the periphery where I engaged with them in my spare time. Upon hearing this, my friend said it sounded like I needed to leave Apple, and I had to agree.
So that was that. A part of me had known this was true, that I needed to leave, but another part of me was trying not to acknowledge it. I had a lot of ambition at Apple, a lot I wanted to accomplish, and working there offered real financial security. In the end, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stay in a vocation that didn’t align with my calling. It feels a little strange to suggest I have a calling, but, I have to admit, there’s no better way to describe it. I knew leaving would be difficult, but I felt like I had no choice.
As soon as I realized what was happening, I informed my managers I would be transitioning out. They were incredibly gracious and supportive. They made arrangements to transition my responsibilities to other people on the team, and I finished work at Apple on Thanksgiving, 2011.
I’ve shared this story with many people, and I’ve been told that leaving Apple took courage. I do my best to graciously accept the compliment, but I find the word courage doesn’t exactly describe my experience. When I had my luncthime conversation with my friend about placing my spirituallity at the center of my vocation, the issue was settled. It didn’t matter whether I liked where this would lead. I truly felt like I had no choice; I was being led in a new direction and had to follow.
So what’s the pearl of wisdom or big takeaway from this story? My career has taken a lot of twists and turns. At the major junctures or turning points, I’ve found myself guided by my passions. Certain activities really call to me, and, much of the time, these aren’t activities conventional wisdom would suggest you ought to pursue. You’re not supposed to quit a good-paying job with a reputable tech company to find your calling. However, my experience at Apple has been instrumental in guiding me on my path. I’ve learned to set aside my own small concerns to seek what is best for my community, and to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. I’ve also learned the best path for me isn’t always the one I have in mind. I’ve become willing to accept guidance in different forms and trust that I’m on the right path.
Looking back at what I’ve written, I realize this post is really about how I left my previous career to find my calling. Acupuncture was still not on my radar as a potential vocation when I left Apple in 2011, but I was firmly on a new path. How I became an acupuncturist is another chapter in the story. If you’ve found this intereresting so far, I hope you’ll continue reading part two to hear how my story unfolds.