Today I finally used my groupon for a massage at a swanky salon near my apartment.
All day I looked forward to having all the knots in my back and shoulders squished and smoothed out. And of course, who doesn’t like having their head scratched? Heavenly. About halfway through the massage, the therapist discovered that my right “pecs”, the muscle right next to your shoulder socket, were extremely sore. We had already discussed my ongoing middle back soreness, likely due to posture issues working at a desk all day at my job. I have been actively working on this injury for about a year and I can say that while it has greatly improved, there is still a long way to go.
After she explained how the “pec” muscle connects to the other arm and upper back muscles, and that I should keep this in mind for certain motions that I might be doing at work (using a mouse with my right hand, answering the phone with the same hand…) I casually mentioned that I was leaving this injury-causing job at the end of the month. We began chatting and I ended up learning about her own personal journey that led her to massage therapy. “I actually got a business degree, mainly because I didn’t know what I wanted to do.” I nodded, secretly ashamed of myself for assuming that any massage therapist was not likely a college graduate. I sincerely try to actively fight the prejudices that I’ve been brought up with or inherited, but I won’t lie–this was not one I had thought to question before.
“I was in the corporate world for five years,” she continued, explaining the cut–throat world where one has to find ways to make co-workers look bad so that oneself may rise to the top. She hated the office politics, yet felt that this career path must be the right one for her due to the degree she had picked. “Then I was laid off. I took it as a blessing rather than a curse.” For the next three years, she worked methodically through every personality test she could find, taking each possible career match for a trial run. Through this experiment, she discovered not to her surprise, that her personality indicators were not a good match for the corporate environment. “I needed a less structured work place,” she explained, “And I’d always wanted to feel that I was helping people in some way, without a bureaucratic entity in the way.”
A good friend of hers was also helping her in this process, suggesting possible careers that he felt she might be a good fit for. One of his suggestions was massage therapy. She rejected it immediately. After months of ignoring her friend’s advice, she found herself at an open house for a massage therapy certification program. “I gave myself an attitude adjustment and I talked with the director, knowing that he would try to get me to enroll.” She agreed, only to be given her first assignment: Write a three page essay on what she could bring to the field of massage therapy. Her reaction, as she described it, is exactly how I would have felt. “What I would bring to it? How hard can this be??” When she finally sat down to write, she discovered all kinds of parallels in her life, mostly on how she enjoyed helping others help themselves, immediately seeing how this connected to massage therapy. She hand delivered her official application and essay, asking the director to always require this essay assignment for future students.
I could tell from the way she recounted this event that she didn’t blame herself now for not accepting this suggestion quicker; instead she had focused on why she rejected the idea. “For me, the thing that I am fighting the most is usually the thing that I most need to do in order to grow.”
Stories like this give me hope. People discover themselves at all ages, and many people go through several careers throughout their lifetime. By my estimates, my massage therapist did not begin her obviously successful career/business until she was around 35. I did not feel it would be appropriate for me to ask if she was married or had children (not that this is any measure of success or happiness for a woman!) but I would be curious to know how she felt she was able to balance all the aspects of her life. I am so grateful that she felt she could open up to me. In truth, I often find that I put people at ease and allow them to feel comfortable speaking openly with me. This is something that I hope to find in my own career path.
I hope that if I stumble upon an opportunity or experience that I have never considered before, I will be strong enough to follow through with it to see where it will lead me. She assured me, “California will be all about your process!” San Francisco here I come!
Needless to say, I had a fabulous day off.