It was a sunny day, like most other days in Southern California, and Nicole Smith smiled as she took in the ocean scene from her rooftop balcony. The sun, the gentle breeze, the rolling waves crashing on the shore sometimes seemed like a dream. In a way it was, but getting there took a whole lot of work and careful planning. Not to mention spunk.
“I grew up in Rhode Island - cold, damp, boring, stagnant, small. I jumped on a plane one day and came to California by myself,” she said.
The idea was to get away from it all for a couple of weeks, but one look at “warm, sunny, open, large and forever changing” California was all she needed. She knew she would live there. She actually knew it while she was still on the plane.
“My friends thought I was crazy when I told them, and they said I’d be back in a month. But I knew I would love California. I envisioned what I wanted, and I wouldn’t settle for anything less. I’m a determined person. Instead of saying, “I wish,” I said, “Get me on that plane.” And she always followed her instincts.
Nicole was 24 years old when she took that life-altering plane trip. At that time, her home was a tiny apartment in Rhode Island, and she worked as the office manager of a medical billing company. Fast forward ten years and Nicole, now 34, not only owns that beach-view home but has her own acupuncture practice called “The Pampered Porcupine Acupuncture, Inc. Wellness Center.”
“It’s all about mindset,” she says. “If you want something bad enough, and do what you need to do, and have the right attitude about it, you will have it every time. No exceptions.”
She’d been in the medical field from age 17, working after school and weekends to save money for college. She planned to become a doctor.
But fate stepped in again when she saw an ice skater doing jumps and spins at the Providence Civic Center. “I want to do that,” she said.
And Nicole, acknowledging her Type A personality, knew that just cruising around the edges of the rink would never do. She took lessons, skated hard and often, always pushing herself to the limit, so much so that her body hurt all the time. She already had hip, knee, back and neck injuries from running, aerobics, hockey and other sports, and she was looking for relief from the pain. Her coach suggested acupuncture and referred her to someone she knew.
On her second or third visit, she was feeling sick when she went to his office, in addition to suffering from the typical aches, pains, and other problems that had plagued her all of her life. Years of throat sprays and antibiotics had done little to relieve her throat problems.
“I went to the acupuncturist, expecting he would focus on the pain from my injuries, but instead he treated my sickness. He put needles in my hands, and he gave me herbal tea to drink,” she said. “He stimulated the needles strongly and then left them in for an hour. I thought he had forgotten me! I drove home with very sore hands, not knowing what to think.”
But Nicole woke up in the middle of the night and realized the congestion and sore throat were gone. Completely gone. She still gets chills and shivers when she remembers that.
“I had suffered my whole life with those symptoms, but this man fixed it with one treatment. It was a turning point for me,” she said. From being totally involved with traditional western medicine, she began to seriously consider alternative healing methods.
“I threw my stuff into storage and flew out with my books, my clothes and my cat…I bought an old Volkswagen Rabbit convertible, (because [I’d] had already decided if [I] was going to live in sunny California, [I] would only settle for a convertible..”
By then, Nicole had finished her undergraduate work and had a bachelor’s degree in biology, expecting to head off to medical school soon. But instead she enrolled in an acupuncture school in Watertown, Massachusetts where she completed two semesters, earning her way by working at a very successful acupuncturist’s office.
California still beckoned to her, and she knew it was time to move on. She quit her job that summer and got ready to start school in the fall in California.
“I threw my stuff into storage and flew out with my books, my clothes and my cat. When I got there, I bought an old Volkswagen Rabbit convertible, (because she had already decided if she was going to live in sunny California, she would only settle for a convertible), and I said, ‘Car, get me through school.’ “
Would it dare do any less? Not a chance. The little Rabbit buzzed along without any major problems until she finished her studies, graduating with a master’s degree in Oriental Medicine. Along the way, she received additional training in nutrition, sports medicine, internal medicine and degenerative diseases and became a board certified acupuncturist in California and nationally.
Oh, and in between work and classes, she found time to write a book! It’s titled, “Acupass, An Essential Guide of Study to Help Acupuncture Students Through Their Studies and Also Ready Them for Taking the Board Exams.” The book is still available by calling her office at 949-276-7222.
While she was in school, she drove into Whittier and found a nice place to stay, but it didn’t allow cats. The owners insisted on cleaning her room twice a week so Nicole would sneak her cat out in a towel on cleaning days. She soon moved to the home of a professor who rented rooms to students and didn’t mind cats. After about six months there, Nicole again trusted her instincts which were telling her it was time to buy something of her own.
“I bought the townhouse just before housing prices went way up,” she said. “It was only about six months after I had moved to California. I had always told myself I would buy my first home by the age of or before I turned 30, so I did.”
Just last year Nicole upgraded and purchased her second home, the one that she lives in now, located only eight minutes from her office. “It is certainly a dream home,” she says.
Nicole started her own practice four years ago, choosing the name, “The Pampered Porcupine” because many people are fearful of the needles used in acupuncture. The word “pampered” paired with “porcupine” tears down walls and makes people laugh,” she said. “I didn’t want a typical name, and I like to pamper my patients, so it was just right,” she said.
It took her four months to find exactly the right place for her office. She didn’t want to be in a strip mall, and she needed a location that was affordable but nice. Nicole finally found exactly what she wanted – space for three treatment rooms, an office and a waiting room. It had an old-fashioned Victorian look to it, with crown molding, raised panel doors and a fireplace in the waiting room – just as she’d envisioned it would be. The waiting room even has a waterfall urn for relaxation.
The acupuncture treatments, nutritional and lifestyle counseling and other services Nicole offers are intended to help patients without the use of drugs or surgeries, the idea being to strengthen their immune systems and enable their bodies to heal themselves naturally.
As her website says, “If you feel good, then good things come into your life. It’s never too late to turn your health around.”
And at Nicole’s clinic, you can feel pampered while you’re doing it.
Thank you Nicole, for sharing your Story with us.
Our Stories and pictures are the sole copyright of their Authors and may not be reprinted or used without their permission.© 2009 by Joyce Starr Macias and Story of My Life®