While this is primarily a place to slap down all my stories for convenient finding, with the occasional slew of Toronto After Dark movie reviews, the observant may notice that none of that has happened for a year. This has been a weird year for me.
I’ve been a registered massage therapist for 15 years. It’s been my primary income, my only schooling, my one career my entire life. Maybe a decade ago I started writing for funsies and negligible profit. Writing was always, always meant to be, first and foremost, a fun hobby. Making a couple bucks from it was pleasant validation, but it was always meant to be for pleasure and not for work.
Massaging during the pandemic has been a fucking ride. A couple years prior, I had developed a new service to add to my menu that I called, quite literally, Targeted Face Massage. (Not a great name, but the place I work already does facials, so that name was taken.) Haven’t been comfortable offering that service for a couple years. Would rather people keep masks on for the up to 90 minutes we’re in a small room with no proper circulation. And lots of coworkers and clients don’t mask. It’s been stressful. Massage therapy should be relaxing for everyone, but I would be having little crying jags on my walk to work, my stomach would feel gross, it was simply not a good time.
So in January I started getting shingles symptoms. (Had chicken pox as a wee tiny babe, and shingles can reactivate decades later from stress.) Luckily I was able to immediately take several weeks off work to decrease that stressor and even more luckily, those itchy-hot-along-one-side-of-the-ribs symptoms died down and never developed into full-blown shingles.
It did make me reevaluate my career though. Long story short, I got trained and certified as a crematorium technician (casual part-timer, exactly what I wanted!) and began working at the new place in May. At the end of October, I officially retired from registered massage therapy. (The CMTO – that’s College of Massage Therapists of Ontario – is its own separate beast of an entry, and it can go suck an egg in hell, and they did chide me for telling them to fuck off in a twitter post that someone snitched to them about, because I sure as shit don’t do hashtags. Their membership fee went up by a ludicrous amount this year, and it certainly was a factor in why it finally drove me away, but it’s okay! In their words, they expected the increased fee to decrease the number of registrants, but those who stayed and paid will make up for the financial loss. [“If the fee is increased, it is likely that some registrants will resign, some will pay the higher fee to remain Inactive, and some will renew as General. Lost revenue from registrants who choose to resign will be offset by the increase in total fees.” Sucks to be you guys! You can still read the full 2023 Fee Briefing Note if you have run out of niche and esoteric things to feel outraged about. It also says COVID was not a valid medical excuse to take a break from the profession and that if we can’t pony up the cash, maybe we shouldn’t be doing this at all [[“Even if registrant numbers decrease as a result of fee increases, this would be offset by the increased fees. In addition, those who might choose to leave the profession over fees may not be in a position to fully commit to being an RMT.”]] Oh fuck am I mad all over again! Remarkable! Fuck those guys!])
So that’s been a bit of a sea change.
The clinic owner has let me stay on board as a masseuse (and boy howdy cannot wait to see how that change in title affects my working relationships, because RMTs were always taught that a masseuse is the lowest of the low, an ignoramus at best and most likely a whore [SEX WORK IS WORK, and guess what profession fought to be recognised as ‘not sex work’?? Ding ding ding massage therapy!! Elevating one to spit on the other! Did you know that in Toronto, to become a body rubber [[like, the worst most deliberately denigrating term that could have been chosen?]] it still costs several hundred dollars to get registered? This shit ain’t free!] but at least I won’t have the CMTO telling me how mean I am for telling a client to fuck off if they do something sexual that makes me uncomfortable!*), but I have yet to get any bookings. Which is fine, can always reevaluate again, change the prices and services, but casual part-time cremating does not a bill pay.
*exaggerated, but based on a true story!
All of which is to say, I do not have the creative juices at the moment. November is when shit got real: I quit the only profession I’d had for 15 years, I covered longer shifts on my own at the crematorium, I took the month off entirely from massage. December was meant to be a refreshing change, with me back to part-time shifts at the crematorium and one day a week doing relaxation massages, finances covered and breathing easier, maybe even get back into writing now that things have settled. This is looking less likely, so: worry and stress. And lack of writing.
There is grief in leaving a profession that defined you. My attitudes and opinions towards it have changed over the years. I refuse to say it made me who I am; it solidified what was there and waiting.
There is grief. There is grief. And massage therapy has taught me this: you compartmentalise the feelings so you can keep massaging, because the client is paramount. And writing has taught me this: a compartment is a box you can open with a key, a breath, a song, a bird; a compartment is not a box but a structure, and structures can fold and flatten, and a client is just a person and I am just a person; I am letting myself be grief, and you cannot take me away from me, you cannot make me not exist; I am a key, a breath, a song, a bird.