I’m left-handed and August 13 is acknowledged as left-handers’ day. Last year I wrote a post about it (also late) and this year I will celebrate again with a tardy entry. For me, every day is a left-handed day, so celebrating only once a year seems weird. I know lots of left-handed folks, including my younger sister, my dad, and my stepmother. In fact, my dad asked me to dinner, along with my sister and stepmother, but I had a class and didn’t celebrate my left-handedness with them. My dad loves when all four of us go to a restaurant, because we never have to worry about who sits where, or whether or not someone will be able to eat their dinner without getting elbowed. Apparently, about ten percent of humans are left-handed, using forks and pencils with the opposite hand. An article on Time.com had some more left-handed trivia and science about the phenomenon to share as well.
Despite my attention to a day honoring the use of one hand over the other, I have just started school where both hands are equally important.
A couple of weeks ago, like many other folks in the U.S., I went back-to-school shopping. It was the first time in 16 years that I needed to go and buy school supplies for myself. Occasionally I have filled a small basket with supplies purchased for donation, but this time it was all for me. I bought four twin sheets, two bath towels, four hand towels, a six-pack of black socks, and a pair of black canvas sneakers. What kind of school requires those supplies, you might wonder? Let’s see if you can guess.
My first day of school was last Monday night. Armed with a notebook, a couple of pens, and a tote bag filled with my new towels and sheets, I arrived at school a little early. I had a couple of forms to fill out and sign, but most of my paperwork had been completed on my campus visit the week before. After a few quick flourishes with my pen, I was ushered down the hall to gather up the rest of the supplies, these purchased and provided on my behalf by the staff of the school. I lugged a document box full of spiral-bound and paperback textbooks. In the next room, I received five black nylon uniform shirts, each with a small white printed school logo. One instructor handed me a small flash drive and bungee cord wrapped in a clear plastic bag, while an administrator gave me a box full of bottles of lotion and oil. These were all of the supplies I would need for a year’s worth of classes. Still wondering what sort of school I am attending?
I have completed seven nights of classes of a year-long program to become a licensed massage therapist. Those who know me might be shocked, as I have never expressed an interest in this career path. It’s been in the back of my mind for years, but I have never talked about it. It’s very different from my current job as an environmental educator, which I love enough to consider it an avocation. I like to think that I have a renaissance soul, someone with vast and varied interests, skills, and talents. But it might also be that I am a bit flaky, someone who doesn’t want to commit to just one thing.
I have worked for nonprofit environmental groups since I graduated from college 16 years ago. I am lucky that I was able to find work that matched my passion and that I could take an interest and find ways to meld my strengths to fit. I know so many people who do not like their jobs or wish for something else. I have always loved my work, especially when I feel useful and part of a larger team. That love and satisfaction has been particularly rewarding since I have never made much money. In the last few years, though, I have realized that doing a wide variety of things is my ideal. Do you remember when you were little and people would ask you what you wanted to be when you grew up? Lots of little kids will rattle off a long list of things, including astronaut, teacher, firefighter, and farmer, as if it would be easy to combine all of those into a regular work week. As we get older, we lose our answers to this question, or we start to answer with just one thing. Or, in the absence of a clear direction, we respond with what we think we are supposed to say.
Writing, teaching, and doing something to help the environment have always been part of my answer. It’s only been in the last few months that I have gotten brave enough to pursue writing as a sidelong possibility. In the last five years or so, my reply to that what-do-you-want-to-be has secretly grown to include massage therapy and some other things. I like the idea of a work week that includes writing articles, coordinating on local conservation efforts, and providing therapeutic massage. Maybe my future work will also involve teaching pre-school, gardening, building a straw-bale house, and running a bed and breakfast. Who knows?
Here’s what I know about school. There’s a group of fourteen of us. We come from a variety of ethnic, economic, and educational backgrounds. We represent a range of ages from 19 to 63. We are taking 200 days of class to learn the art and practice of massage therapy. A year of classes includes several on human anatomy and physiology, but also reflexology, Russian sports massage, Swedish therapeutic massage, and professional development. I will attend classes from 7:00 to 10:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday evenings. Classes run a full year, and during the second half of the program, I will spend five and a half hours on a Saturday or Sunday working in the student clinic, performing therapeutic massage, practicing and learning to become a licensed massage therapist.
It’s a bit scary to be learning something completely new and different. It’s a bit frightening to start class with a group of strangers. It’s a bit overwhelming to think of trying to balance work and school and life. It’s exciting and fun. It’s new and different. I love that the program includes western science and long-standing Eastern theories of healing. I love that I might be able to help someone heal, or at least help them to relax. I love that this work includes both hands and my entire brain and body.
It’s hard to imagine exactly what the future holds. I do know, though, that I will have a year of education and discovery and exhaustion and hard work. I look forward to the year, the adventures. I will not change my job or passion for conservation, my love for teaching children will not diminish, but I will expand my heart and mind to include more. I approach the year with wonder and gratitude, heart filled with love, both hands wide open and ready.