I first thought about massage therapy as a career twelve years before I had my epiphany at the senior care community. I had never even had a massage before, but still my childhood friend’s story was enough to show me how powerful simple touch can be.
Nancy (not her real name) and I met in second grade. We were both quiet, clumsy, slightly awkward girls. We laughed at the same things and we liked to create whole worlds out of whatever was in front of us. We spent our entire grade school years going back and forth to each other’s houses and sharing all the ordinary moments of our childhood. By the time we graduated high school, we had moved in slightly different directions, but were still close. I went away to school for my liberal arts degree, and she went to a school near our home for her STEM degree.
One weekend, Nancy and another friend from high school came to visit me at school. We went to dinner, walked around, and laughed way too much. That night, I sat on my bed while Nancy and our other friend sat on the floor and we talked. Nancy revealed to us that she had been abused by her brother when she was a child. She told us about finding the memory and starting therapy. She told us she was alright.
And of course she wasn’t, not entirely. After two years of college, Nancy dropped out and went to massage school. It surprised me, and at the time I wondered how she could possibly throw her life away like that.
About six months into her massage career, Nancy and I had the chance to sit down together again and really talk. I asked her about massage school, what it was like and if she enjoyed it. Nancy told me about her most valuable school experience.
For her externship, Nancy went to work at a shelter for victims of domestic violence. “It was great,” she said, “I was just there with my massage chair, you know, trying to let these women experience safe touch.”
This simple thing that Nancy didn’t have in her own home — yet somehow she could bring it to other women who had been abused. I was speechless. Of course she hadn’t thrown her life away. She grabbed hold of her life and made it her own again.
The more I reflected on Nancy’s story, the more my sense of the immense power of simple, safe touch grew. The fact that this could be your job — to serve people in this way — it seemed like heaven.
At the time, I was on a different path, so I filed my impressions away for later. 12 years later, I ended up with people I wanted to serve, and the means to go back to school. And now, here I am today.
Nancy and I lost touch several years ago. The last time I heard from her, I was in the middle of massage school, and she had quit massage therapy altogether. To me, it sounded like she reached that physical and emotional burn-out state that ends so many massage careers. It saddened me, and it built my resolve to take excellent care of myself. For so many reasons, I have Nancy to thank for being here, in this job I love, ten years and counting.