By Dr. Kelly Jennings, The Source for Healing
Illustrated by Annie Dwyer Internicola
There are two stories that have most defined my present life: my choice of career and my choice of husband. Both decisions were great leaps of faith. I didn’t know much about naturopathic or Chinese medicine. And I certainly didn’t know much about my husband. (I’d met him twice before committing; I’ll share more on that another time.) But in each of these life-changing moments, saying yes was immediate, undeniable and irresistible.
When you arrive at these moments of choosing—where a force of gravity pulls you in, and your heart is beating out of your chest and you say yes—you can bet you’ve found your work.
What is the work? In my life, it’s breathtaking! Hard! It’s the universe conspiring to make me evolve. Demanding all. Breaking down assumptions and preconceived notions. Knocking me down and building me back up—to a stronger and better version of myself. Making me more human, less in my head and more in my heart. Disorienting. And reorienting.
My choice of career began with a semester abroad. For five months I was in Ecuador, studying ecology and anthropology.
While there, I:
✘ Won the Ecuadorian national triathlon.
✘ Came down with mono and believed for several days that I might be sent home in a body bag.
✘ Traveled the country by bus with excruciating sciatic nerve pain.
✘ Lived on bread and popcorn.
✘ Became host to several rare strains of parasites.
✘ Received an extraordinary healing from a shaman in the jungle.
✘ Got sick again, to the point where my whole body was swollen.
✘ I came home from that experience with migraines, parasites, gas and bloating and extreme fatigue. A conventional medical doctor told me “there is nothing we can do.”
And so I set out on a path to figure it out for myself. I tried holistic medicine, changed diets and began probiotics, supplements and acupuncture. And got well enough to go back to college my senior year.
It took four more years of searching, first a start in neuroscience at UCSF, then a job as a clinical research associate at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, to realize that I wanted to be with people, hear their stories, help them get better and try to figure out the root causes of their illnesses. And in the process, heal myself.
It was the gift of being unwell that brought me to naturopathic medicine—and the grace of yes that let me know this was my calling.
My own health crisis was the seed. Our path, like any true journey, is a continual arriving, a constant learning about what makes us well and what makes us ill, on all levels. What we yearn for, what we crave. What we need—physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually—to feel well. And it is a continual surrender to the Great Mystery of life.
And this path of being a practitioner is one that for me is all in, where I get to sit with people, feel them, learn about them, hear of their suffering, hear their celebrations and understand where they feel blocked, lonely or misunderstood. And then to formulate a plan together, without exact instructions on what will work.
It is a journey of togetherness. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard.
What matters most is a commitment to listening and a commitment to staying curious. To being human with another human being. Creating and leaning into the space in between, being with someone where they are and leaning into discomfort. The more I can open to this space, the more the person in front of me opens to this space, and the more we support and transform each other.
Yes, I get transformed too. Because this is the work.
What about you? How have your choices defined and transformed you? What have you found out about yourself? What is the work of your life, and how is it evolving you?
Please share the story of your yes with us. The world wants to hear you.
Feel free to contact me at The Source for Healing.