A question I get asked frequently, generally by a client partway through a treatment is, “What made you go into massage therapy?”
The simple answer is that my first massage was a completely transformative experience that left me feeling better, both physically and mentally, than I could remember feeling, and I wanted to provide that experience for other people.
But of course, the truth is more complicated than that.
When I was a child, I spent a lot of time in the hospital for eye surgery, and I wanted to be a nurse or doctor when I grew up. Partly, that was immitating what I was exposed to, but I do now realize that there was a part of me that wanted to help. When I got older and my geeky tendencies led me towards role playing games, I found playing a healer to be initially the most appealing. Until I realized that playing a straight healer got boring in long combat, but that’s another story.
Part of me yearned to be someone who made others feel better. With next to no vision, though, being a nurse or doctor was not in the cards. Still, I wanted to help. I wanted to work in a field where I was making an appreciable difference in the lives of people. It’s a good feeling.
Then there was, again, the whole blindness thing. Now, I’m both an independant sort of person and a stubborn one. I hate needing help. I hate admitting that I can’t do something. But the truth is, there are a lot of careers that I just can’t do. But massage is such a touch-based undertaking that lack of sight is not any real sort of obstacle, especially not if you get inventive in how to handle writing up treatment notes for your clients. If anything, I think not being able to rely on seeing the people I treat is kind of an advantage.
Those were my reasons, initially. Now that I’m doing it, I’ve discovered more. First off, and to ounter-balance any notion from the above that I am some sort of altruistic saint out to make the world better… it is really good for the self-confidence. I mean, think about it. I work in a field where everyone I see is really, really pleased to see me. People tend to say nice things to me because I am making them feel better. That’s good for the old ego, and mine could use the help, some days. So long as I never let it get out of hand, and remind myself that there will always be better therapists than me. I work with some of them.
There is the fact that most people who are drawn to massage tend to be kind people with a lot of empathy. It just isn’t the sort of job you would want to keep doing, otherwise. For some reason, it also seems to draw in people with my sort of sense of humour, though I haven’t ever quite come up with a theory as to why. I just know that my coworkers, no matter where I’ve worked, always make me laugh and smile.
I certainly don’t continue to do massage because it is an easy job. Trust me, it is not. I don’t care if you are the lightest of touches when it comes to your style, you’re still going to put in a hell of a lot of work over the course of one treatment. And I, to my eternal surprise, turned out to prefer deeper pressure.
It isn’t for the cushy pay. I mean, I think I’m paid just fine for it, but getting rich doing this is not likely to happen. So clearly, that’s not a motivating factor.
It isn’t due to it being an easy entry field. Sure, once you’ve gotten through your education, the job market is pretty open. Or at least, it is for women. Men, sadly, do have a tougher go of it. But first, you do have to get through a program that is far more difficult than the average person on the street likely thinks. Here in Canada, it is a 2200 hour long program with heavy emphasis on the sciences, with a pass grade of 70%, with scary comprehensive exams at the end. Adding blindness into that made it… interesting. You try learning the anatomy of the kidney without reference to a diagram. Fortunately, I had wonderful, wonderful teachers. I know the ones who are most likely to read this, and yes, I am talking about you.
Yet, I stuck with school and I continue to stick with massage, and hope to for a very long time. I have made some monumentally bad decisions in my life. I have made some absolutely wonderful ones. Deciding to pursue this, though, was quite possibly the best one I’ve made. Even more so than writing. I got a career that feeds the soul as well as the body.
Who could ask for a better choice?
ps: Just as a public service announcement, we are massage therapists, not masseuses/masseurs. It does matter.