"10 years, has it really been 10 years?" I keep asking myself this over the last month. I graduated from Kalamazoo Center for the Healing Arts on March 31st of 2006, all fresh faced and wet behind the ears. I moved out of my parents house into a town house with my now wife. I started my career with the same company I just received my certification from. Had my first client in the first week of April. Started teaching massage a year later, starting with Anatomy classes, and quickly moving up to my own bodywork based class. So many changes that first year after graduation, it seemed like it was all moving so fast. Early in 2007 I asked my wife to marry me whilst on a hike in the Grand Canyon. A lovely foreign couple who obviously did not speak a lick of English graciously took our picture while I knelt down and sprung the question. They understood that! I just kept plugging along and moving forward.
Then in the following year I grew stagnant. My wife got a job over in Clarkston, so I vowed to follow her. I failed to find a massage job over there, so fell into holding two jobs one a third shift gas station attendant, the other screen printing T-shirts. After a short 6 month stay, we moved back home, and I went back to work for KCHA. However the brief absenteeism left a hole in my clientele. Many had moved on to other therapists. I got married in August of 2008 and things began to move forward again.
In 2009 my wife and I began to look at purchasing a home. A ritual both agonizing and exciting in it's own right. That Easter while playing an innocent game of 21 with a kid 10 years my younger, I broke my elbow. I made sure to eat my Mother's Lasagna and then go to the hospital. Found out shortly there after I would need arthroscopic surgery for my elbow, right about the same time we were due to move into our new home. (got me out of that I guess) My future as a massage therapist was in the dark. How would it heal, would I be able to practice again? The unknowns drove me, and probably my wife in kind, nuts. It took about 6 months to begin doing mild work and about a year before I was able to practice at my full potential again. Needless to say, this also punched a gaping hole into my recently rebuilding practice. It was at this time I decided I needed to reevaluate my goals as a therapist. What was the one thing I could see myself truly enjoying in my career. Then I thought, as I watched football on Sunday, "Wouldn't it be great to work for the Detroit Lions?" Bam, like a Hummer full of concrete it hit me. Sports, I could work with athletes!
Now I never was much into sports, outside of auto racing, as a kid. I played backyard football and little league before high school, but nothing in high school or college. I grew a major passion for football, in particular, in my twenties. I immediately started to do research into what it took to become a sport massage specialist. I started taking continuing education classes, did a lot of self teaching of techniques, and gained a deeper understanding of kinesiology. I also started taking classes at KVCC that I thought could help me communicate with coaches and sports med staff. This turned into me pursuing a coaching certification. I began to gain a love affair with fitness and wellness as well as combining those things with massage. I started bugging my boss about starting to promote to local colleges and schools, and being the amazing supporter that she is, she gave me the reins. As I began to change the way I thought about massage and wellness, I started to realize I would need to someday have complete control if I were to create my dream. However this was still a 10 year plan in my eyes.
In early 2013 my boss, bless her heart, had to reveal the unfortunate news that we were losing our main spa facility. This is the place I had called my second home for 6 years. We still had a satellite office at the Bronson Athletic Club, but hours were limited there. Many therapist were choosing the path of opening their own office. I had to think long and hard at this time. In a few months my first child was due, I was still in school and planned to graduate that winter, and now I was losing hours at work. Do I dare try to open my own business at the same time? Sure...why not.
It was a mad dash to find a business partner, create a business plan, find a location, create a brand, and let all my clients know all while caring for an infant. Needless to say, things were chaotic at best. Somehow, through the dust, Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness was born. Finally my vision was beginning to develop. It was a nerve racking first two years. But I feel now that I am finally into the swing of things, it has to be time to throw a wrench into the spokes...right? Big changes are always afoot, especially at milestones like these.
As I look back, one thing is clear to me, I can only move forward if I remain open to possibilities, I say yes more, and I can always figure it out, or ask someone to help if I need it. Ok so that is like 4 things, but you get the idea. Sure when I think about it, I have accomplished a lot in the past 10 years, both personally and professionally. But there is always that piece of me that feels like the fresh faced, wet behind the ears kid, scared out of my mind about what's next.
Nicholas Garman, LMT NSCA-CPT