Turning My Passion into a Career

I’ll be honest… I’ve got a lot of passions. Sewing, Costuming, Animals, Flute, Dance, Photography, Video Editing, and Massage Therapy. As a wee child, before age 10, I’d say my passions were fabrics (sewing), massage, and animals. Whenever a friend came over, we’d go hide in a closet and trade massages on each other. If we couldn’t go to a closet, we’d play doctor or veterinarian, with one of us being a sick cow or other beloved animal and the other being the vet. Massage masquerading as play.
I’m bringing that playfulness and mindfulness back into my massage therapy practice. I graduated massage school in 2003, and for over 10 years I did traditional massage therapy, with a focus on deep tissue and neuromuscular. I didn’t know I could experiment with music, lighting, textures, or animals. I always fantasized about giving guided meditations, but even that felt too “outside the box” from what I was taught in massage school.
Naturally, I got bored giving standard massages with uninspired music and candlelit rooms. I started a MS degree in Occupational Therapy, then switched over to Human-Computer Interaction. I learned *a lot* in those programs. I promised all my OT teachers that I would never forget what they had taught me, and I swore I would incorporate my limited OT education in everything I did henceforth. After graduation, I worked as a video game designer for a therapeutic video game company that was within a psychology clinic. I wasn’t doing any of my passions…I discovered I enjoyed project management, but it wasn’t the same as working with my hands nor helping humans or animals heal. I left to work on a farm for rescued exotic animals.
Lightning finally struck me, and I realized that being a massage therapist doesn’t have to bore me to death. I can use what I’ve learned in OT school, and what I’ve learned in HCI school, and do whatever the heck I want. No one said massage has to be boring, that I can’t dance when I work, that I can’t put lovely textured fabrics in the room or fading colored lights, or read scripts for guided meditations, or make relaxation playful.
So that’s what Monkey Tail is all about. My first big step, after embracing rhythmic music, was installing aerial silks to support my weight in such a way so I could massage with my hands and feet simultaneously, as I imagine a monkey may do when hanging from her tail. Turns out it’s also great for stretching clients and giving clients a swaying sensation with their legs in a hammock. Monkeys, I imagine, probably don’t have rules about how serious or playful massages can be. And they’re comfortable with their bodies, and with swinging around naked in nature. Those are all pretty admirable traits. Lastly, I love the primatologist Franz De Waal. He writes excellent books about animals, empathy and teamwork that I encourage everyone to read. We are more like animals than many of us care to admit. I embrace it. I love animals, and I love people. We can learn from our pets and be a little more playful in our lives.

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