In this other life, I had this career - one I'd have done anything for, burnt my candles at both ends for, bent over backward and done a somersault for. Newly graduated I was eager to get ahead. I wanted the whole career thing - the package I'd dreamed up in my head that was going to lead me to status and wealth and happiness. Several years in my enthusiasm was still going strong. I moved around from company to company, using each position as a stepping stone to something better. With each move I was more confident, more capable, more experienced.
I'd sit in the back of a taxi (black cabs - one of my favourite things about working in London), spinning through meeting plans with colleagues in hushed, excited voices, before arriving to present and win over some client.
It was all very interesting - all the dashing around to meetings, dashing back to my desk, dashing to the gym to work out, dashing back to grab lunch, dashing to catch the train. And the dashing rarely ceased. Because when it did cease, I could feel it inside me, outside me and all around me - the unhappiness. I ignored it for a long time. I had this great job, this money, this stuff, and I was unhappy. But how could I be unhappy? Wasn't this everything I'd wanted?
Somewhere around this time I convinced myself it probably wasn't possible to actually enjoy working. Working was something you did because you had to, you were supposed to. If it made you sick, if it exhausted you, well so be it. You need to make money, you work. You need a house, you work. You need chairs and candlesticks and weekend vacations, you work. You don't like it, well damn it smile and say you do!
I never, not in a thousand years, would have predicted the career change I'd make in years to come. I'd never have believed, if you'd told me then, I'd later work as a massage therapist.
(Back Then me: a WHAT?!?)
When I go to work today I don't feel sickness in my stomach before I leave the house. I don't dread the day ahead and all the terrible, heart-racing disasters and stresses it might bring. I go to work and I simply do my job. Sometimes I'm prepared, sometimes I'm not. Sometimes I use my intuition, sometimes I rummage through my text books for medical reminders or answers to problems I might need to fix. Sometimes, as I'm into my third or fourth hour, I grow weary, my hands aching and my body silently groaning and begging to sit the hell down, and I remind myself that I'm grateful to have this job that I love, and I carry on.
I've wondered lots of times what attracted me to massage therapy, having come from a completely different field. What happened to all those things I'd be striving for? Those things I'd told myself I absolutely needed to achieve? Apparently those things we want in our twenties don't hold the weight we think they will in our thirties. All the old aspirations went up in a puff like a cigarette smoke doughnut, up into the clouds, never to be seen again. Basically.
On the first day of my first massage therapy class, I remember quite clearly (it was one of those moments that sticks with you) my instructor saying that she'd had several careers, but massage therapy was by far the best career she'd had. Maybe it was that I found her to be inspiring, or perhaps that I was in a good mood that day, but what she said hooked me. I knew her words were going to hold meaning for me too.
I'm oddly grateful of the old, stressful job, that made me think all jobs were simply drudgery, because it taught me to appreciate what it means to have a job I enjoy. I understand the difference. A simple thing, really, but a good and important thing.
Now, if only massage therapists could be millionaires....