First, a few questions for you to think about.
1. How old were you when you became a massage therapist?
2. Were you too young or too old?
3. How did your age affect your starting a massage practice or business?
Recently I read Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption. I won’t beg. But really, read it.
Katie Davis was nineteen year old homecoming queen that had what she describes “everything the world said is important”. She left everything behind and moved to Uganda. In a very short time she set up a school for 400 children, started an organization to help the least of the least, and adopted fourteen girls that all needed a home and a mother. She is still only in her early twenties.
People might think she is too young to be living Uganda raising fourteen girls while running a large ministry. Luckily, if someone did tell her that, she did not let it stop her. While I reflected on her youth, I thought back to sitting in court in China a year ago. The judge looked up at me and said, “1980. You are the youngest person ever to adopt from China”. I did not know whether that was a compliment, or if she wanted an explanation from me. I just smiled at her and held my newest daughter a little tighter. I knew at that moment I was more than ready to be this little girl’s mother. We had both waited long enough for this day.
Don’t let anyone look down on you
because you are young,
but set an example of the believers
in speech, in life, in love,
in faith and in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12
I have always been determined that I would not let people tell me I am too young to do something. I like a good challenge. That does not mean I do not look back and ask myself, “Was I too young to do that?”
I turned twenty-one about a month before I graduated from massage training. On my birthday, my parents took me to The Outback after an evening of clinicals so I could legally order my first cocktail. Two months later, I opened my own massage business. Now that I have earned my way into my early thirties, I have to ask myself:
Was I to young to become a massage therapist?
Is this a job for today’s eighteen year olds?
I was not the youngest person in my class. There were at least a half dozen other people in my class who were eighteen. The other half dozen were all about forty years old and on their second or third career. Yes, they were in some ways more mature than the younger ones. Most had held as steady job, been married, divorced, had children, and mortgages. I recently asked myself a few questions about these people.
Did their make them better, or more experienced, massage professionals that us younger ones?
Did their age make them more likely to succeed than the rest of us?
Did their make them more caring or empathetic?
Did their prior job experience make them more likely to turn down a massage that did not sound right?
Did their responsibilities to their family make them more likely to stick with this career and make a concerted effort to to really market their massage business?
What struggles did they face that I didn’t, or the other way around?
When I opened my own practice (eleven years ago today!), I struggled with feeling intimidated by former high school teachers and other members of the community. I had to teach people in the community who all “remembered me as this little girl running around in long pigtails” how to treat me. I know certain clients saw me as young, a little green, and took advantage of that. This meant they might push for an appointment on Saturday, Friday evening, or over lunch on Tuesdays despite knowing my schedule. I think I had to work extra hard at developing these professional boundaries.
Was I too young to be dealing with people with complicated health histories or abusive pasts? I mean we talked about these clients in class, but now they were there staring me in the face wanting me to really give them a massage. I maybe was overly nervous about a lot of medical conditions. I would make people call their doctors and get permission before their massage. I never had a doctor say, “this person should not get a massage”. Shit.
One of my first clients was a lady 70 years older than I was at the time. She asked me if Medicare covered massage. I said what my school told me to say-
“No, I would think in about five years they might”.
She looked at me and said-
“Honey, I am not planning on being alive in five years”.
I did not know what to say. I mean, really, what do you say to that? I still do not know.
It turns out she was right; I was wrong. She is no longer with us, and I do not foresee medicare covering massage anytime soon.
The truth is, my clients and I survived my youth and inexperience. I grew, my business grew, and I now look back and laugh at the things that I thought were important back then. Would I have been better off starting out as a 25, 35, or 45 year old massage therapist? In some ways, yes. In other many ways, no. Being a massage therapist was just part of me growing up.
The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is today. ~ Chinese Proverb
The perfect day for me to start massage training was the day I walked in those doors. I know I was better off just going to massage school at a young age rather than waiting until I was older, more mature, financially stable, experienced, or ready. I am glad I did not wait as long as the other people in my class who regretted not taking the entrepreneurial leap earlier in life.
Now I sit back and ask myself if I am I too young to teach other massage continuing education, or to be a leader in our field. I know there are people who see me as a little green here too. Luckily, I am old enough now that I am not going to let gatekeepers keep me from doing things I know I can do.
“I was born ready!” ~ Ron Swanson
So, happy anniversary to me!
Here are more questions for today (a few are repeated from above):
How old were you when you became a massage therapist?
Were you too young or too old?
How did your age affect your starting a massage practice or business?
Would you have picked a different time to become an LMT?
What do you think is the perfect age to become a massage therapist?
What do you think the minimum age should be?
Do you ever struggle with thinking are not as good as another massage therapist because you have not been in practice as long?