I have created a brief series of articles going into more depth with my personal story – focusing on those parts that relate most to my teaching on the site. The reasons for this go beyond pure narcissism! Stories are powerful in connecting people – and in doing that – they can help us feel less lonely, less weird, less afraid. I know that learning more about my teachers and colleagues, seeing the commonalities in our stories, as well as honoring the differences, helped me as I was coming into my own as a practitioner.
Enjoy, and feel free to ask questions on the Deepest Health network!
I spent the majority of my youth moving between Arizona and Idaho, with a couple of visits to other Western states.
I excelled academically from a young age, which afforded me some educational opportunities others didn’t get – most notably access to computers and programming at a time when that was uncommon. I spent a lot of time outside, otherwise I fit the mold of the GenX latchkey kid and grew up fairly fast.
I struck out on my own, for the most part, at 16 and traveled around the Western US, playing guitar and spending time absorbing music, observing nature, uh, expanding my mind. I was effectively homeless during this time, and there was significant hardship, but I also learned a great deal about myself and was able to get a sense of where I might like to live when I grew up. Then, at age 19, I became a parent – not a planned event. This obviously altered the trajectory of my life a great deal.
Having a child meant I needed to hustle to figure out how I was going to make a living.
Traveling around the US absorbing the universe wasn’t going to support a family (BUMMER). I began the process of trying to enter the workforce as a young parent with few marketable skills. Early in this period, I was fortunate to run into a community college tabling event by chance, and for the first time began to see higher education as a viable option. I enrolled at a great local community college in 1998. I wouldn’t leave higher education until I graduated from medical school in 2009. If I could figure out a way to stay in higher education, getting degree after degree, I would happily do so.
In college, I initially had absolutely no idea what I wanted to pursue and I bounced around a lot while completing general education requirements. But, it was the biological sciences that hooked me first and for the first part of my college experience – particularly once I transferred to Oregon State University (NOT THE DUCKS). I spent time as a park ranger, worked in a fish virology lab, and began to consider a career in marine biology or oceanography. I still have a deep love for the biological sciences and fantasize about going back to school and continuing that track.
In my second year at University, I took a course that pulled together faculty and ideas from the biological sciences and Philosophy. The course involved the students and professors traveling to the Silver Valley in Idaho, the location of a Superfund environmental cleanup site resulting from unregulated mining operations in the early 1900s. We learned about the science of the damage and the cleanup, as well as engaging with environmental ethics and legal reasoning. It was a life changer for me, and I would straddle disciplines for the remainder of my educational career.
Intersections are where it’s at.
I got two BS degrees, one in Biology and one in Philosophy. The longer I was at University, the more I focused on Philosophy, and through some undergraduate teaching opportunities, began to see myself as a future Philosophy professor, focused on environmental ethics and philosophy of science. I was accepted, without funding, to a Philosophy PhD program at Purdue University. But, upon arrival, I found that the department did not suit me, and my financial situation was too precarious for me to manage.
I returned home to Oregon and plotted my next steps.
During this period, I ran across some advertising from National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR. Their ND program looked like something that my then girlfriend, and now wife, Amanda Barp might be interested in. She was in her own period of post-college seeking. By the time the info arrived, however, she’d already chosen massage school locally.
On reading the information NUNM belatedly sent, I felt that spark of recognition – that ineffable sense of knowing that this was part of my path. I went to a “student for a day” experience and that’s where I met Heiner Fruehauf. I had a very powerful energetic experience during his lecture, and in investigating his work further, decided to go to school there the following fall. I was accepted, and we began our process of moving to the “big city” of Portland, OR.
In the next article, I’ll dig into my medical school experience and the early days of my clinical practice. Thanks for indulging me with reading my story!