with Sara Vaccariello
by Aileen Kyoko Haugh
On Monday morning a bustling line forms at the doorway of Café Regular. You might spot Sara Vaccariello making her way through the line. Sara moves with a effortless "everything will be alright" rhythm. On a sunny afternoon, I arrive at Sara’s apartment. The positive Qi is everywhere. Sara just opened her own acupuncture practice and is relishing every moment of her life.
Let’s backtrack to the beginning – Sara tells me she was born a Colorado mountain girl, albeit in the Denver suburbs. “I grew up in a beige house next to a cream house and everyone had a basketball hoop and a dog. I longed to meet other people.” she explained to me as we settled into her sunlit living room. And I understand that longing for something else other than the sameness of everything around you. While in college she satisfied this longing by living in Granada, Spain. Sara gushed about the harmonious and simple lifestyle the Spanish embrace. After one year, she was desperately searching for ways to stay in Spain permanently. “I was all set to teach English and then get a visa or bartend. I didn’t care about finishing my degree. But I got sense knocked into me by my mother." And so she finished her degree and ended up in finance in New York. Sara slowly realized after working her way up the ladder that her world consisted of little besides the corporate life. “I needed to get to know the city a little bit. So I started to do yoga because I thought oh its cool and it’s a thing and New York’s doing it, so I should too. That’s how I will become a New Yorker.”
As Sara continued to practice yoga, she realized it was becoming more than “a thing” to her. She took a teacher training to deepen her practice. “That was the beginning of my transition. I knew that corporate life wasn’t for me and I wanted to do something that was more. I thought that yoga has got to be a bridge to something.” One day at work, Sara happened to be taking a breather by the water cooler when a coworker started raving about acupuncture. Nonetheless, she made an impression on Sara and after a magical trip hiking Machu Picchu, Sara made her first acupuncture appointment. Initially, Sara was seeing the acupuncturist to help her with her runners aches and pains but started to notice other changes happening to her body: “I realized I was sleeping better, had more energy and no headaches. My anxiety was so different. It started to entirely change my life. The lens through which I saw things started to shift.
I was skeptical for a moment. How did acupuncture really change her whole life?: “Think of an onion and how when you peel away the layers you get to the core of the vegetable. I was peeling away layers of who I thought I was and what I stood for and what I wanted to do. My finance job was being peeled away and all these different layers...... I was exposing myself to myself, who I really was. I think that’s a really vulnerable thing for people to go through. As a society, we are excellent at pushing that down, being type A and a hamster on a wheel. While I was doing acupuncture, all those things were coming up. The best part of my week was when I was going to acupuncture and I would not change my plans for anything. It was a self-caring experience. I would go home and take a bath or read a book afterwards.”
Needless to say, I was listening in awe. Sara saw the acupuncturist punctually at 6 PM on Mondays for almost three years. After a year, she began to explore what was involved in actually becoming an acupuncturist. When she learned it would take four years and a master’s degree, she paused and let it sit for a bit. Finally her acupuncturist intervened: “Sara, can you please just apply already. You have been asking me for over a year. You would be great at it.” Sara was still not convinced she was ready to leave her comfortable life to leap into the unknown. Then something happened that woke up every nerve and sense in her body, a bad break up: “I don’t want to say that it was a blessing because it was really bad and I would never wish that upon anyone but in a way it was the final push to go to acupuncture school. I had nothing to lose because I was at rock bottom. So I applied in the Fall of 2012 and started school.” Sara admitted she was terrified of the loans and the commitment: “I trusted myself and I knew I was resilient enough to find a way somehow.” Thankfully for Sara, this led her to the most gratifying calling of her life. She found signs that reassured her that she had made the right decision. “I can speak about it all day.” Sara laughed. “My goal is to help people go down the path to their optimal health. I am just the facilitator. I don’t do magic. I just help people uncover truer points of themselves.”
Sara is now a licensed acupuncturist living out her dream. I asked her who she likes to treat. She smiled and said: “I can treat anyone. I love treating athletes, performing artists or even boom operators who have to hold a boom mic for hours. For artists their craft is exposing themselves and being vulnerable. I find that when I work with them they are that much more willing to go deeper into their energetic field. There are also the stressed finance people who work crazy hours on Wall Street. I know what that feels like and I can help them.” Sara gave me the three main reasons that someone should seek acupuncture: stress, physical pain or problems that a western doctor can’t seem to fix.
Sara calls Café Regular her lifeline. She laughs gently as she repositions herself on her cushion filled couch: “Everyone who is there is amazing. Its interesting because… I know them but I don’t know them. It’s nice to say hi to them and have that brief moment of a familiar face and coffee. And it’s such a lovely and cute café. I arrived at acupuncture school every day with a CR cup and everyone was like “who’s coffee is that .. oh it’s Sara’s.. it says Café Regular.” It got me through studying for the boards and school for the past two years."
I asked Sara for her favorite quote. She exclaimed enthusiastically: “Today you are you. No one is youer than you." Seeing that I am a sucker for Dr. Suess, Sara obliged: “Whatever is YOU go be YOU. It’s okay to be YOU. Then Sara added her own spin: "We are fortunately living in a city that welcomes us all. You are welcomed to be unique. Go be you." Excellent advice Sara! Hear that Regulars? Go be YOU..and then tell us about it so we can spotlight you!