Why I Became a Massage Therapist

Throughout my career, the most asked question by clients is, “Why did you become a massage therapist?” I am certain my answer has changed over the years, but one thing remains: I absolutely love the work.

So, I thought I would share a little story…

Honestly, I think for the first couple years I didn’t even know why I became a massage therapist. Or, at least my answer was not the one I thought it should be. I thought the appropriate answer was, “because I love helping people.” That wasn’t always the fullest and truest answer for me, even though there is some truth to it.

A little background…

Sierra-Valley-2It was 2005, and I had recently moved from  Northern California to Atlanta. I am a native Californian. Not the southern part where the sunny beaches muster up images of surfing and bonfires; I am from Northern California, where high deserts, snowy winters, and mountain streams converge. A place one can easily become lost in the sunset at dusk and the clear starry skies at night. This is the place I learned about small town living, where the sense of community is strong and at the center of each day.

West-Coast-2I completed my undergrad study at Humboldt State University in the Northwest part of California, six hours north of San Francisco. There, I found a hefty share of liberal thinkers, rocky cold-water beaches, and redwood tress – very different from the more conservative, population of 1,200 town that raised me. There, I learned about creativity and expression.

Massage therapists in the very liberal city of Arcata had a certain freedom I longed for. I had this utopian vision of who a massage therapist is and how they live their life. I pictured a massage school in the forest, overlooking the ocean. I saw the bright moon overhead and Grateful Dead playing into the early morning hours. I saw a “job” that really wasn’t a job at all. I thought it would be easy and I was ready for a life change, an awakening of sorts.

Corey-Close-upBack to 2005… You can imagine my confusion when I rolled up to the open house at Rising Spirit Institute of Natural Health just off of highway 285. The school was in a strip mall. What?! This did not fit into my vision at all. I was so disappointed; I just knew my awakening would be put on hold.

I took a deep breath and wandered into the open house. I knew a shift needed to happen and I had been thinking about massage school for the better part of a decade. This was my opportunity.

Massage-ClassWhat I found in massage school was an amazingly beautiful perspective on healing, physiology, and anatomy. I found instructors who were passionate, rooted in science, and critically thinking about pain in a way I had never considered. Massage school fundamentally altered my perspective. It totally blew up my vision and replaced it with a deeper understanding of the body and healing.

Then, something incredibly challenging happened that served as one of my biggest lessons… Near the end of massage school, I participated in a Ultimate Frisbee tournament. Yes, it was a life-changing moment, but not in the way you may assume if you know how much I love  playing Ultimate. During the first game, I had a major a collision with a much stronger, faster man. That collision resulted in three herniated discs, crutches, and PT for months. It sidelined the start of my new career. There I was: unemployed, depressed, and waiting to heal.

Then it hit me, “this is my new start.” It didn’t quite look like I intended, but there it was. This injury forced me to stop, assess, and be intentional about healing. That injury gave me important insight I didn’t previously have:

  • Pain: Pain became the only measurement to assess the day. It was completely mind numbing. The pain taught me so much about how to heal and to empathize with others in pain.
  • Commitment: Work the treatment plan. Work the treatment plan. Work the treatment plan.
  • Don’t Settle: Change what isn’t working. Don’t be afraid to change practitioners – and even the course of action – if something isn’t working.

It is funny to reflect on my perspective of the “ideal” massage therapist from Arcata California. What I failed to see then is how hard they were working.

Grand-OpeningI now know that the air of “freedom” is loving what you do. No wonder they all looked so happy. Sure, there are stressors that come along with running a business, but really, I get to see people smile every single day. What’s not to love about that?

As my practice has evolved over the years so has the “hook” that keeps me motivated.

Over the years, I have developed a deep curiosity about the body, movement, and pain relief. I am continually challenged and inspired by the clients I treat. Each person that ends up on the table shows me something new, which forces me to continue to learn and grow. So if you ask me today why I became a massage therapist, I will tell you these are a few of things I love most:

  • Freedom: Creating a business that serves the fundamental purpose to facilitate healing is awesome.
  • Curiosity: The body is complex and so are the reasons people heal and why they don’t.
  • Neurological Component: The brain-body connection is completely mind-blowing and vital to treating pain.
  • You: The interaction with clients is fascinating, challenging, and offers a fresh perspective each and every day.

I am certain my motivating reasons to continue practicing will evolve as my practice continues to grow. I am comfortable with that. I am sure we can all point to decisions we have made in our lives and say, “Wow, I had no idea that one decision would lead to all this.” I am thankful that this has been one of my “wow” moments. 

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