Every now and then, folks ask why I've chosen to forgo a career in the law to pursue one in massage therapy. (They asked the same thing about designing knitting patterns, but even I didn't really expect that designing would or could become a full time gig any time soon). Now it should be said that I didn't suddenly walk out of my law office and into massage school; but, I did actively choose not to re-activate my law license and instead to spend the money that would have gone for the Continuing Legal Education required to do that on tuition for massage school.
There are a number of reasons, not the least of which is that no one is every truly happy to be in a litigator's office. Even when they win; even if I've ever done the best job possible to do; even if they're now rich, clients really wish they'd not had to consult a lawyer in the first place. On the other hand, few people are unhappy that they're consulting a massage therapist. And if I've done the best possible job, my client will be happy they came.
But is that good enough? I certainly devoted a lot of time and energy into the law. I must have loved it. I mean, three years of law school, and two decades of practice is not something you do for a career you find boring. And massage therapy doesn't have that much in common with law, after all, right? Or does it?
Both disciplines are about helping people. A litigator works on resolving problems that people are having with other people or with companies. A massage therapist works on resolving problems that people have with their bodies. A business lawyer, and an estate lawyer works on preparing people to accomplish things they want to do; a massage therapist works on helping people feel good in their bodies so that they can do the things they want to do.
Both disciplines have many sub-specialties: There's business related law (including contracts and real estate and labor and employment), and there's litigation (lawsuits). In litigation, one can focus on civil or criminal issues (violent and non-violent; felonies and misdemeanors; capital and non-capital); and of the civil issues one can focus on professional malpractice (with sub-specialties in things like medical, legal, accounting, architectural), or personal injury, or family practice, or business related. There's aviation law and admiralty law, and international law. And these, of course, can be parsed even further.
In massage, there are a similar myriad of sub-specialties – only we call them modalities. There's massage to allow the client to relax; massage to energize the client; massage to warm a client up to prepare to compete in an athletic event; massage to help a client prepare for surgery; massage to pamper; and massage to help a client regain range of motion in an injured limb. There's energy work, and shiatsu and reflexology, and cranio-sacral massage. There's chakra therapy; and aromatherapy. There's Swedish and hot stone massage; and there's neuro-muscular massage, and Rolfing other deep tissue work and orthobionomy. There's prenatal massage, and pediatric massage. .. and ... and ...
Both disciplines require that their practitioners graduate from accredited schools. Both disciplines also require that their practitioners pass a standardized test, and become licensed by the state in which they practice (well, not all states require licensing, but most do). And both disciplines require their practitioners continue their education, taking classes annually to maintain their licenses.
One of the things I've realized over the passed few months that confirms to me that I've made the right choice is my response to the prospect of taking those continuing education courses. When I look at the choices for continuing education classes in law, I'm bored and frustrated that I have to spend so much time and money to take them. When I look at the choices for continuing education in massage, I'm excited, and frustrated that I can't take more of them right away.
But still, is that enough? It's easy to be excited about something new. And let's not forget, the earning potential of a high-powered lawyer far exceeds the earning potential of a massage therapist. If it were as simple as the fun of learning something new, I might wonder more about my decision, but massage therapy does something that law doesn't do. Massage therapy brings true healing, both to the muscles that were worked, but to the whole body. Better still, research shows that massage therapy brings psychological healing too. Law may bring compensation, but it doesn't bring healing.
Massage Therapy may not have the earning potential of a high powered law practice. But it has a far greater potential for joy. I'd rather live a life filled with joy than one filled with stress and a full bank account.
And besides all that? Four hours of doing legal work leaves me tired, and wired.
This weekend, I've learned that four hours of giving massage leaves me serene, happy, and quietly energetic.