My Journey to Massage Therapy
Clients often ask ‘How did you become a Massage Therapist after working in corporate land for so long?’
So, how DID I get here?
Looking back, one of the best bits of advice I was ever given was to find two adults in life that were kind and wise.
My two kind and wise people (anonymous- but they know who they are) encouraged me to trust my intuition, to try to use my head as well as my heart and to embrace change. It’s tempting to remain in a role or career path just because it’s familiar. I had been in the drinks industry for a long time and although my head and heart were nudging me towards something more fulfilling – it was the bit about welcoming change that I found hard . As the recent pandemic has illustrated, a major event or situation that shakes us up can make us focus on what we truly want. That’s partly what happened with myself around 10 years ago.
It started with back pain
A few years before learning massage therapy, my partner developed excruciating lower back pain. Anyone who has experienced this will understand how debilitating and unpleasant it can be. Anyway, I applied massage, not really knowing what I was doing but instinctively wanting to make it better. This prompted my search for a suitable massage course. In my ignorance, I thought becoming a massage therapist would be a relatively short process – a day or a weekend. Soon I appreciated that becoming a fully qualified professional would involve months, and years of studying and practice.
Initially my intention for it was simply concerned with alleviating my partner’s aches, however I decided to take the plunge and embarked on a Diploma course in Swedish Massage with Scottish Massage Schools in 2014. This course was 8 weekends over 8 months with the other weekends usually spent in tutorial groups with my classmates or studying muscles, pathologies, the systems of the body and of course, the hands on techniques. Almost total immersion for me and I was hooked!
Stepping out of my comfort zone
Being a more mature (in age terms anyway) student offered an opportunity to learn the skills and techniques required to become a therapist, new technology and new ways of learning. I stepped out of my rigid thought processes, right out of my comfort zone and welcomed the whole experience.
I loved it! The exams and essay writing was tough, especially since I was working full time doing it entirely in my limited spare time, but I really loved it. My partner was delighted to be a practice body, not only for myself but also for some of my student colleagues when we met up to practice in our study groups.
Just before my massage exams, my position was made redundant. My career in the Scottish drinks industry spanned 25 years, so this was a significant event. In reality, embracing this change wasn’t as hard as I’d always thought it might be. The silver lining meant that I could devote a bit more time to revision. Once teh exams were passed, I took the advice of the ‘wise two’ and instead of taking a role in the same industry, I set up my own business doing something I really wanted to do.
What this represented in terms of reduced income was offset against massively increased time and personal fulfillment at work. Actually it was a case of adjusting, cutting my cloth accordingly. Separating out what mattered and what didn’t. I no longer needed business clothes, expensive hair appointments and evening dresses for corporate functions. I just needed enough to sustain my business and I was surprised by how much working in corporate world actually cost me in terms of quality time and finance.
One of the wise two once said to me… ‘you find that the thing you are holding onto – believing it is the thing you need to preserve and keep hold of at all costs – that thing is actually your jailor… the thing that curtails your freedom, live your life to the full and your ability to reach your full potential’. In my case they were right. I travel light nowadays, having far fewer material things that I had in the past. I have so much more, however, in terms of personal fulfillment. Things happen for a reason.
Direction of Travel
The wonderful thing about being a massage therapist is that there are so many different directions the journey can go and there is always, always something new to be learned. Being from a business background in the corporate world and being acutely aware of the stresses, anxiety and musculo – skeletal conditions such as backache, repetitive strain injuries and Headaches that employees can experience, I decided to do a further Diploma with Scottish Massage Schools in On-Site chair Massage . This is an excellent course for qualified therapists to undertake as it includes business aspects which is very useful for recently qualified therapists A key factor is that it gets new therapists used to interacting with lots of different clients and actually charging clients which, believe it or not, can be a significant obstacle to overcome when first starting out.
At the back of my mind, I knew that I still wanted to know more and expand the range of therapies I could offer – so with a bit of negotiation with my lovely supportive partner, I embarked on a further course to become a fully qualified Remedial and Sports Massage Therapist with a Diploma from Scottish Massage Schools which again involved studying at weekends, evenings and my spare time spent in massage tutorial groups, and with my head in reference books or watching ‘you tube’ tutorials as I had my breakfast.
Where the journey leads now?
The learning continues. Whether it is studying a book, attending a webinar or a course, it’s fascinating to discover new and different techniques. Recently I completed a Mindfulness Teacher Training with Mindfulness Scotland allowing me to offer practices for the mind as well as body. The Massage Therapy journey has endless possibilities.
As along as I can, I will always be learning. I no longer feel the need to really push the boundaries of my comfort zone but I do like to nudge them a bit. Unrelated to massage but recently I completed a Stand-Up Paddleboard Foundation Instructor Course with Water Skills Academy. A course that I thoroughly enjoyed but the weather was truly awful. Completing the Safety and Rescue Course in strong, gusting winds, horribly choppy water at Loch Lomond did more than nudge my comfort zone boundaries. Wonderful for improving balance though!
Do I miss the Scottish Drinks Trade? well sometimes I miss the customers and colleagues, but I don’t really get time to miss anything as I’m enjoying my new career so much. Instead of managing a project or finding a solution to a business problem, I’m finding solutions to musculo-skeletal issues or applying techniques to help calm the parasympathetic nervous system.
For anyone in the autumn of their working years who is considering a change of career it’s worth really asking what it important now and in the longer terms. What we need in life changes with time – what was so vital at one time may be irrelevant now.
A long time ago another very wise person leading a course I attended said….’always have a Plan B tucked under your sleeve – have another option – it makes Plan A so much more easier to bear when its no longer giving you the fulfillment you deserve’. For me, that was great advice.