How did I get here? (Part One)

Bryan’s recent mention of the David Byrne perennially-relevant lyrics “How did I get here?” reached me in a very personal way. Recently, I have found myself complaining to Farrell on an almost-nightly basis about the frustrations of my current job. (And Lisa P, that’s AFTER self-censorship whittles things down…) Anyway, I decided that for my post this week I would take you all along with me while I remind myself why it was exactly that I chose the profession I did and how I got here in the first place. There are things I love about medicine. But then there’s the rest. (Cedric, are you with me?)


I was 18 years old and just finishing my first year at Goddard college in Vermont (Vermont, hell yeah!) when I felt called (but not by Jesus — it was a feminine, earthy spirituality — quite the contrary, but thanks anyway) to relocate to the great Southwest, and to pursue some sort of holistic, enlightened existence. Those of you who have been 18 will recall how loosely formed such plans can be at that age.


I packed my 1986 Toyota Tercel with all my belongings, which consisted mostly of homemade Frank Zappa and Can tapes, candleholders of various shapes and sizes, and some Starhawk and Margot Adler books, and drove into the sunset with my girlfriend, Romni. After several months of camping and odd jobs, we decided to take a break at Romni’s sister’s house in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


We were also completely out of money and needed a place to crash and recuperate. Ashley was Romni’s little sister, studying dance at UNM. We slept on her living room floor for several weeks until we found an apartment of our own nearby. In the meantime, I had started a job at a little coffeehouse down the street called E.J.’s, and had made some friends who were studying massage therapy.


I had become fascinated with alternative medicine during high school, at least in part because of its anti-establishment vibe. I read about herbs, became a vegetarian, and avoided doctors. I fancied myself a feminist, and I remember a feeling of general mistrust about any institution that was founded and fostered by men, prominent examples being the American government and the American Medical Association.


So, of course, I was thrilled to learn that there was an actual school that could educate me in the finer points of polarity therapy and herbal infusions. I enrolled for the following semester, my tuition bankrolled by my dubious but supportive grandparents. (My grandfather was a nuclear physicist, and my grandmother a mathematician, so I can only imagine the leap of faith involved there. Anyway, it was only a thousand dollars for the whole year. This was 1989.)


I loved the massage school. It turns out that it was a well respected institution, still in business and setting the standard for education of massage therapists in the U.S. I learned about anatomy, which I adored. I studied a variety of other modalities of healing like homeopathy, hydrotherapy, and nutrition. It was an immensely satisfying year for me, so much so that once it was over, I applied immediately to another program to study clinical herbal medicine. This too proved to be tremendously satisfying. My teacher was a skilled biochemist and was able to articulate the metabolic and physiologic mechanisms of the herbs we studied. He was a super cynical and smart aging hippie/biker guy, with commentary galore about you-name-it (think Michael Moore as an extremely crass, pack-a-day smoking herbalist. And is it odd that the herbalist himself shares the name Michael Moore? Cause that is his real name.) He had an amazing breadth and depth of knowledge about herbal medicine, and is even now widely regarded as the expert in his field of the medicinal properties of plants of the Southwest. He guided our class of 30 people on month-long caravans through the region. We would listen to lectures in the field, harvest plants, and make tinctures and infusions at campgrounds by candlelight. It was so fun, and up until then, the process of becoming a healer remained idyllic and filled with potential.


Towards the end of that year studying herbs, I started to realize that it wasn’t possible really, in this modern world, to function even as an massage therapist or an herbalist without some foundational understanding of normal physiology. More glaringly, it disturbed me that I could miss an important diagnosis of say, hypothyroidism, or worse, cancer, while trying to treat someone’s fatigue. So, I decided with unanticipated excitement, to complete my undergraduate degree and apply to medical school. I thought about naturopathic medical school, or a school for Oriental Medicine, with acupuncture and herbal training, and ultimately decided that plain old western medical school would be the most straightforward (and conveniently, believe it or not, the cheapest). Instead of feeling like I was selling out, it thrilled me to think that I would be infiltrating the establishment, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, to upend things once and for all. Plus, my grandparents would get a kick out of it.


I studied and studied and got straight A’s in all my pre med courses. This was thrilling, and quite surprising. (I had failed high school chemistry and had to retake it secondary to a few poorly planned acid trips in 11th grade.) When I applied to medical school, amazingly, I was accepted without delay. At that point, I truly felt as thought I had been called to this particular profession. (Mormons among us can maybe relate to this feeling.) I was instilled with a deep sense of purpose and excitement about what lay ahead.


So this is all sounding pretty preordained, like some kind of Oprah- (maybe Andrew Weil-) sponsored success story. But stay tuned folks, there is more to come, and some of it ain’t pretty. Second installment to follow, so as to keep you enticed and guessing a little longer (and to allow me to get some sleep after another long day of annoyances).

See you next week!



13 responses to “How did I get here? (Part One)”

  1. andrea says:

    How could you leave me hanging like that? This is worse than waiting for the next installment of “Mary Worth”…urg.
    Your recollections brought me right back to my inspired? misguided? youth? Is age 20 our youth now? (sorry Nathan) When else do we chain ourselves to old growth trees or let an acid trip dictate the next year of our life? and sleep on floors and work in coffeshops? I should have taken my Nostalgecid 1 hour before reading your post…though I am loving the nostalgia.
    And wondering what has happened to the romantic and wonderful feeling of a calling now that we are older?
    You got me thinking though and thank you.

  2. trix — i love that i’ve known you for a good five years and even knew the vague outline of this story but still found so many fun and surprising details. i can’t wait to see what comes next. want to switch me out for monday?

  3. PB says:

    I love that you were “called” to the Southwest from Vermont. I am a believer in such voices–be them earthy or ethereal, often echoing from our mostly ignored intuition or subconscious or connective “river”. The fact that you listened, that you followed your own breadcrumbs, that is so rare. You can see that about you at a glance actually, this wholeness, someone who hears from herself what most people need to hear from religion or Oprah or whatever siren lures loudest. The sign of a true healer. That was my problem as a young woman–too much church, not enough leaps (or acid). Wonderful post, next week . . .

  4. Rachel says:

    Who can wait that long?!

    Great beginning, Trix. I love learning more about you, and how you’ve come to your current life by a circuitous path–one that in retrospect makes perfect sense.

  5. bryan says:

    #3: I vote for Tom Cruise and his voodoo. He may be able to save you from invisible fire if you’re ever in a race car accident.

    #4: How many weeks do we have to wait? Trixie is on a three-week rotation. I vote she works something out with Cedric …

  6. Rachel says:

    Delayed gratification, phooey.

  7. PB says:

    Hey, Bryan, don’t be dissing TC, just for the record, I may still be the only human being on the planet who still thinks Tom is just a little cute. He may believe in voodoo, he may have an arranged marriage, he may even be tred the manic fineline, but such pretty eyes . . .
    Besides, were you making a random Talehega (sp?) Nights reference or am I just too deep?

  8. PB says:

    Sorry Trixie to sully your comments list with tangents on crazy celebrities.

  9. bryan says:

    It was all about the Talladega Nights. Can’t get enough of that movie.

  10. PB says:

    Clearly I did not get enough to know how to spell it.

  11. trixie says:

    hi friends,
    thanks for your comments about this post. honestly i am not sure where i am headed with it, except for where i am, which i guess will be explained next week. i was thinking about swapping out with cedric for his spot next wednesday, but i haven’t asked him yet. ah yes, nostalgicid. if only it were on formulary at my hospital. i could use a dose as well.

  12. Anonymous says:

    search engine internet search engine…

  13. […] Best of Trixie Honeycups: “How did I get here (Part 1)” […]