I want to become a massage therapist
My new career choice
James proudly announced, I've decided that I want to become a massage therapist. He has been self-employed almost his entire life and most of his time was spent working with his hands as a roofer, general contractor, jack of all trades.
He said, it will only take me 6 months to complete the program and I'll be licensed and ready to start my new career.
I kind of chuckled at this because he had never received a massage, had no idea what to expect, but at the same time I was thinking...this will be pretty cool because I can be on the receiving end of his work and get massages all the time.
And so it begins....
He did the research. He could go to school in Florida, be gone for a few months, but live with his mom. He could go to school in Pennsylvania, life with some family and be gone for a few months. He even explored the opportunity of going to Tennessee and stay with his brother. But, after a lot of research and trying to find the "best" school that would fit his needs and start down his new career path he decided on Birmingham School of Massage in Birmingham AL.
Ok, it's only 45 minutes away from home, we can make this work.
I dropped him off at orientation, wished him well, and told him I'd be back in a few hours to pick him up.
When I returned he was beaming from ear to ear and super excited about this new opportunity. School started in a few weeks and he could either go 6 months during the day, or 9 months at night. Cool - do what you need to do, I'll be here when you get home.
You'll never believe what happened next
I've worked most of my life in a call center environment working my way up the corporate ladder and becoming very successful in all of my endeavors, but I couldn't believe my world was about to be shaken.
It was a Thursday afternoon and James called me. "Do you want to go to school with me?" I asked, "Did you bump your head, are you crazy? I do not want to massage strange naked people!" He said, "It might get you out of Corporate America one day". The funny thing is, he swears he never told me that. I would not make something up like that.
Well, I set the bar super high. If the school will do X, Y and Z, I'll go. Class was scheduled to start Monday and I thought there is no way in the world all of this will fall into place.
He said, ok. Let me make a few calls and I'll let you know what they say.
What would you do?
Would you start a new career with your spouse on a whim?
Are you kidding me?
James called me back about an hour later and said - all of your demands have been met. I signed both of us up and we start class Monday night at 6 pm. Huh?
Now, don't forget - I am working full time in Corporate America, running a call center of 300 agents that is open 8:30 am to 12:00 am. Thankfully there was another Area Manager and he agreed to work the mid/night shift for the next 9 months so I could go to school.
What the heck was I thinking?
The first night I show up to class in a skirt, 3" high heels, beautiful natural long nails that are painted perfectly to match my toes, necklace, earrings - the whole package....I just arrived from work.
We had a very small class - there were 7 of us. We go around the room doing introductions and then the terror sets in. The teacher turns to me and said, you will need to cut off your nails and you cannot wear nail polish. WHAT?!?!?! Wait, I don't think I thought this all the way through yet.
Everyone else had heard this speech during orientation, but because I had dropped James off, I had no idea what I was walking into.
He also failed to mention that we were going to be taking anatomy, physiology, business management, Ti Chi, and body work classes.
Oh the challenges
The next morning, I stood there cutting off my nails. James asked me if I was ok. I told him he was trying to take away my pretty princess status that I had worked so hard to achieve. He promised me it would get better - but I wasn't too sure.
I don't want to do this! I didn't sign up for this! Where is the escape clause?
Life was about to become a blur. I would leave the house every morning at 7:30 am and arrive into my Corporate America job by 8:15 am. I would leave there around 5:30 and drive to school. Dinner was whatever James brought for me because class started at 6:00 pm and lasted until 10 pm. 45 minute drive home in separate cars, bed by 11:30 pm, only to get up and do it all again the next day.
Would I really be able to do this for 9 months?
The first 3 weeks I can say that I really did not like school at all. I was exhausted, burning the candle at both ends and could not see me ever being happy rubbing strange naked people.
But, one night it all changed. I was that nights "body" in class - which meant the teacher would be working on me while everyone else watched. We had a new person join the class and once again we had to go through our introductions. As I was going over who I was, I realized. I can help people. I can be a difference maker - I just need to make it through class and I'll be ok.
Anatomy? Never took it in High School and now I had to learn all of the muscles, where their insert and attach, what their action is and all of the names of the bones.
Physiology - what is contradiction for massage, what is a cell, what are the different diseases that you need to worry about? Wow....the night we had to draw the cell James almost lost it. I do not know how we managed to get through this class.
Business Management - this was my easiest class. This was all "common sense" stuff to me, but when it came time to write our business plan - I realized we had a lot of differences in our thought of how this was all going to play out.
Ti Chi - what the heck is that? We learned to move like a ninja - years later I have no idea of the first move we learned, but I guess I can move like a ninja. :)
Body work - this is where we learned all of the really cool things that we do today.
Student Clinic - what's that?
A few weeks into our body work classes it's time to put what you learned into practice. First, we were required to massage 2 people a week as part of our homework. One person could be the same each week, but the second person needed to be different.
Well, working a full time job, going to school, trying to find time to study - learning all those muscles and bones, diseases and contradictions, more homework was the last thing on my mind.
However, it was time for Student Clinic to start. We were set up in a big open classroom and would install hanging curtains to separate into our own private spaces. If someone sneezed, coughed or laughed in the room next to you - everyone could hear it!
For 12 weeks we had to work a Saturday and give 4 massages to strangers. They would pay the school and occasionally leave a tip for the student. We learned the saying that tipping is always appreciated, but never expected.
The first week after we got home we both crashed and took a 2 hour nap. As each Saturday progressed, we got stronger and were able to give 4 back to back massages without falling over as we walked out the door.
After completing our 9 months of night classes, our 12 weeks of student clinic we graduated.
Wait, I have to pass a test now before I can start practicing to become licensed?
Sigh - yep! The test to get our license was one of the hardest test I've ever taken. Hours of studying, hours of sample test taking. All I knew was that I was about to pay $250 to take a test, and I did not want to fail.
I had James super stressed due to my stress level. Test day final came - he went in before me and I anxiously awaited my turn. You would think that this test would include giving a massage, but it is a multiple choice test that takes about 2 hours to complete. I finally went in to take my test and ended up sitting right next to James.
I finished my test in about 75 minutes and started reviewing my answers. The more I reviewed, the more I changed. One rule about test taking - go with your first instinct. Ok - I give up. I literally placed my hands on the computer monitor, said a little prayer and stood up. James was still deep in concentration and hadn't realized that I was sitting next to him until I left.
I went out and thankfully they provide you with your results immediately....PASSED
James came out about 15 minutes later and his only question was....did you pass? I smiled, said yes and now we need to see your results. PASSED
What we didn't learn in School
We learned a lot in massage school, but, we also didn't learn a lot.
- The first 2 years in business are usually the toughest
- You will spend HOURS doing laundry
- You will need an amazing website - we get compliments on ours all the time - www.wtmmassage.com
- You will have to find a good location
- If you are self-employeed as a husband and wife team, it is very hard to take time off
James and I have a very successful massage practice where we focus on helping clients through therapeutic massage. We hardly ever do Swedish Massages, but if asked, of course we can accommodate that request.
However, I am still working in Corporate America. The dream of one day escaping still keeps me going, but thankfully when we have a challenging month, or things didn't go quite as planned, I still had my job to sustain us.
We've been in business for 5 years already, and looking back - I would do it all over again!