Monday, I went to visit Asha, a rather prestigious school of massage therapy in Atlanta. Actually, the Atlanta School of Massage is considered one of the best in the country, so it would be nice to go to that institution, but there are two reasons I don’t think the school would work for me considering my goals. One, it’s core approach is rather clinical and less inclined to lean towards organic and holistic health practices, therefore it is less an extension of yoga philosophy (and I want to incorporate massage into my vision for a future holistic yoga center, not just change my career to working in a clinic or spa,) and two, because that school only offers full time programs, day or evening, and I live so far away that it would be impossible to attend and continue being involved in my new business. Asha, on the other hand, has a solid, technically based program but additional electives that lean much more towards new-agey approaches. Seems a nice fit for a yoga teacher. And it offers a special part time program on weekends. I could work all week and still go to school. Takes energy, but I have enough of that.
The school was smaller than I expected, but well equipped with four lecture/lab areas, 7 massage rooms for the required practicums, and a nice library. I had an interview with one of the administrators and she answered all my questions, and as you can imagine, there were quite a few. She showed me the textbooks all filled with anatomy and hands on technique, a few history books, and we discussed what therapist make in Georgia (50-80$ an hour- not bad for a side job in my opinion).This was important information, because the practical side of my personality has to crunch the numbers, don’t ya know, to determine how much effort it will take to pay off the training. (And thankfully, this works out to be reasonable.) I think the biggest drawback is that I can’t do massage and have long tapered nails. No, it will be short stubs for me. Drat. Everything else seems fairly positive.
A few classes in the program are devoted to spa techniques and things like aromatherapy, and I confessed that I have no sense of smell and therefore I might fail in these areas. She assured me I could learn about aromatherapy in an academic way and get by, with or without my nose. That was comforting. We discussed the state exams and she told me 95% of their students pass the first time.
“And it certainly won’t be a problem for someone with all your degrees. We love professional students here,” she said.
I about choked. First of all, I don’t’ have “all those degrees”. I have one BA and one MFA. That is not unusual in today’s world, but since many people choose massage as a vocational school in lue of more formal education, I guess this makes me a rare case for enrollment. Second, I don’t consider myself a professional student – just someone who spent her middle years making up for lost time after devoting her youth to dancing in New York. I didn’t go the traditional course and get a formal education, like every friend I went to school with did, and I hated feeling uneducated as result. I graduated from High School after my junior year (I hated school and wanted out so I could get on with my dancing life) but it never sat well with me that I didn’t know anything except dance. Religion, politics, economics, environmental studies, and business – I was clueless about all of it – clueless about how the world worked. So at 35, I thought it was time to correct that flaw and get educated. I’m hardly someone who makes going to college a career, despite evidence to the contrary. Actually I consider my schooling as “retraining”. – A necessity for someone who dared dance for the first half of life rather than do something practical.
My BA was so I could run a business properly and evolve from a dancer to a studio owner successfully. I would have much preferred to go to school to study English or literature (my passion), but I went for Business for practical reasons. It turned out to be a very good decision, because it did open my eyes to all kinds of information about how the world works. There was a life outside of dance. Who knew?
The MFA, well that was just a gift for myself – the latent dream that you hold in your heart when you think, “If I ever had the time and money I would .. .” Well, I made a lot of money and decided to follow through on the “If I only could” scenario. Dang glad I did, too. Changed my perception of the world and myself.
But one door opens another if you dare to open doors, and now my mind is wandering to physical arts and totally new mediums of health and wellness. Must be a middle age thing. Dance and admitting I was getting older and wanting to do so gracefully led to retiring from my business, and that led to yoga, which led to massage. It makes sense when you see the entire picture on one life map.
Becoming a certified massage therapist seems a very smart thing to do if I plan to continue on my path as the director of a yoga studio, but while I like the idea, I’m not convinced the time or place to pursue massage training is right, so I am struggling a bit with this decision. As someone who usually doesn’t pause when she decides to leap into something new, I can’t help but think my reluctance is intuition telling me to hold off. So, I’m taking this decision slow, considering every downside.
Nevertheless, in my reluctance I’ve looked into massage programs elsewhere, considered all possibilities for training, and still Asha seems most practical considering my current life position. The problem is, the program I am able to attend is on weekends, and this special “weekend only” system only begins once every 6 months, and of course it just so happens that a new program is starting this January – thus pressure to make a decision soon. Once I commit, I’m stuck devoting my weekends to this pursuit for a full 17 months (well, I get one weekend off every 5 –that is something for my sanity, at least.) Can’t transfer the credits to another program and it would be cost prohibitive to just walk away after paying for the full course. Since my life seems to shift and change without notice (for example, I didn’t know I’d open a dance studio until one month before I actually did. It was a total curve ball) 17 months seems like a really long commitment, yet I know that once I begin, life will sort of unfold as it always does, and before you know it, I’ll be finished, with a new skill to add to my repertoire of talents. In that way, 17 months is nothing and getting certified would be a perfect activity for this transitional period of my life. The timing coordinates with the lease on my new school, and with Neva’s middle school years, and carting Kent off to college and getting him settled (one more down, one left to go) Just when I graduate from Asha, I’ll have a certain freedom. I’ll be free to make a choice about whether or not I want to plow forward with this new business and stay in Georgia, or give up trying to make it work and move. That said, perhaps now is a perfect time to enroll at Asha.
rning massage will be interesting. I adore touching people, love the intimate connection that comes with helping others, like providing comfort and teaching people what they can do to be healthier and happier too. A friend the other day said, “But won’t you have to touch gross people, like naked old men with warts on their back and fat, old ladies with hairy backs and . . . “ I held up my hand to stop her. The truth is, I have empathy for people with physical problems and can’t imagine a single case where I would be put off by the human body. Fact.
And there are side benefits. I’ll know 1001 ways to use massage oil, and everything there is to know about bringing relief and pleasure to others with my hands (get your mind out of the gutter.) Gotta admit that makes a girl have a touch of mystique. I’ll know Swedish massage, neuromuscular therapy, clinical sports massage, reflexology, Asian theory, polarity therapy, mind and body integration, anatomy and nutrition. I’m told I’ll be prepared to teach special seminars if I want to go that route, such as nutritian for health and wellness– a perfect addition to a yoga curriculum in my opinion, just as my journaling classes have proven to be. I’m really proud of that, by the way.
And here’s the best part, even if I never work as a serious massage therapist (or just do it on the side part time and put the income in a fund for world travel or something else frivolous and self indulgent) it will give me a wealth of knowledge for writing. Because in the end, that is what I want to do most in this life– experience the world in all it’s complexity and uniqueness, and use those experiences to write something worthy. You simply can’t write without having something to write about, and living a full, active life is the best path to uncovering the rich ore that leads to great books. Yes, I may seem to have interests that shift and sway, but at root, my dreams and ambitions are as solid and steady as they’ve always been. Live. Move. Write.
Sometimes I have to admit that my eclectic interests actually take time and attention away from writing – perhaps this is all just an elaborate avoidance on my part– the barn, the dance studio, yoga, cooking and growing things – these interests rob me of time and fill my world with so much to do that there isn’t time to pursue writing seriously. If you don’t get your butt in the chair and produce, you’ll never sell anything. I haven’t sent anything out to publishers in years and I even have an agent waiting for my revised book. Have I done what I should in that area, given it a chance? No. Other things have captured my attention lately. But I also feel there is a time and place for everything, and I’m storing this huge wellspring of experience and altered views of life in a bottomless well that I will draw upon for years once I turn my attention to writing the way I probably should. And will. In fact, I know this.
If there is one thing 50 years has taught me, it’s that I don’t give up on a dream. And writing – writing well – is a dream that is alive and kicking in my gut still. And it feels like the time is getting ripe to make a move in this direction.
So, this afternoon I am filling out an application to Asha, but not sending it. I am also filling out an application to pursue the master level of yoga training – another process that will take a year or so – might as well enhance my skills in that area too if I’m serious about going this route. But I’m also thinking about turning my attentions to writing for a time. Looking at all the unfinished projects and wondering what one might call to me strongest. So many choices . . . .
Eventually, all these life possibilities will come together and make sense, and I’ll see the slow, steady evolution that will have led to new horizons and a world that probably isn’t even a glimmer in my eye as yet. That seems to be how living works for me.
As the quote over my desk reads –
“There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn, whatever steps we take, the’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go.” – Richard Bach.
And that rest beneath an other quote –
“Every now and then go away . . for when you come back to your work your judgement will be surer.” -Leonardo da Vinci.
Words to trust.