These past few months have been, by far, some of the darkest days that I have known in my adult life. I have made things incredibly difficult for myself when I really could have been much easier on myself, but with that has come many lessons. This blog post is going to be a little story I’d like to share on learning to trust your own internal compass and not solely relying on others’ words and opinions. I do truly believe that everything happens for a reason and maybe I have had to go through these extremely dark months so that I could share my story to hopefully help others.
Last April I took a weekend reiki workshop and was blown away by how incredibly relaxed I felt after being practiced on and practicing on others. Reiki is a Japanese healing technique that promotes stress relief and relaxation. It is often used as a healing modality that compliments other, more mainstream healing modalities. A couple of the people at the workshop mentioned that they have massage therapist friends who use reiki with their massage therapy practice and my ears perked up in hearing this. As soon as I got home, I perused the internet to research massage therapy schools in Portland, Oregon, unfortunately they were all around $13,000+ and not looking very affordable to me. However, I came across a community college in Eugene, Oregon that offered the program for just $8,000 and always being a thrift shopper, I was sold.
In the following months, my fantasy was churning in my brain. I was sick of working at a corporate job where I always had to abide by the corporate policies and do everything by their books with no wiggle room for independence. My idea was, I would go back to school to become a massage therapist, graduate and start my own independent practice of massage therapy with reiki incorporated in there as well. Included in this fantasy was how everything would change for the better once I moved to Eugene. Eugene is a small college town, I knew that the competition wouldn’t be as fierce. I envisioned my next two years in Eugene to be smooth sailing: land a part-time job while I attend school, bike to school every day, make friends easily and be able to truly focus on my life being away from the busyness of Portland.
Once the fantasy was created in my brain, I couldn’t keep the secret for much longer. In May I told all of my closest friends about my idea and had a couple of them accompany me on a weekend road trip to Eugene, which is about two hours from Portland. There was an informational session about the massage therapy program that weekend and I wanted to make sure this school and town felt right to me before making the final decision. Everything about that trip to Eugene seemed so effortless and smooth, except for one key moment that seems as clear as day to me now. As the massage therapy program director was informing us about what to expect, this key sentence from her lips hit my gut like a ton of bricks, “you are going to want to make sure that you have a strong support system while going through this program because it is very intense and this is very important.”
As soon as I left the informational session and met up with my friends, my gut felt so strongly that this probably wasn’t the correct time or place for me to attend massage therapy schooling. I didn’t know a single soul in Eugene besides an acquaintance or two. I knew that the last time I attended school while working at the same time, it was in a town I grew up in with family, friends and a boyfriend. I knew in my heart that my mental health would be at stake embarking on this path in Eugene. However, as soon as I got back to my friends I told them everything about the informational session, including how smooth and synchronous it went, but also about my strong doubts on it. One of my friends stayed positive and stated “I wouldn’t worry about that! Portland is only two hours away, you can come be with your close friends on the weekend!”
It didn’t take long or much to convince me that I was making the correct choice and since I moved to a new city all by myself in the past, I figured that this would be a piece of cake. Shoving down the guttural response that my body was giving me, the following month became a whirlwind of impulsive choices. I quit my job of three years, sold the majority of my furniture with help from my friends, and packed up my four door Honda with all of my belongings. On a hot July evening, a friend and I cruised the two hour drive to Eugene, along with my 14-year old cat meowing in the back seat of my car.
The next two days of unpacking and organizing felt wrong, the whole move felt way too rushed and I had an incredible strong feeling that something was off, but I stuffed the feelings down and kept going. I had a timeline of how everything would go: I would get settled in my new place, job hunt for part-time work and get all of my books for school, which started in a couple months. I ended up reaching all of the goals on the timeline, but along with that came serious depression. I got everything that I envisioned, but I also got a few things that were completely unplanned by me.
One month into living at my new place, I realized I wasn’t going to last two years living in a small studio that has no bathroom or running water. After all, despite the wonderful renovations my landlord had done, it was still a garage that I was living in with a slat of concrete as my floor and a cold porch that I walked across outside to get to the bathroom and kitchen. In mid-August I awoke so cold during the night that I had to turn on the small heater that she had just installed days prior, the heater caught on fire and fortunately I hadn’t fallen back to sleep yet so I caught it in time, but this was the start of realizing Eugene was going to have it out for me.
Two months into living in Eugene, an old wrist injury that I thought had gone away came back with a vengeance, three different doctors gave me three different diagnoses. Despite a few different treatments, the pain would always come back and “joint instability” was the definitive culprit that made the most sense in the grand scheme of things. One of the doctors strongly urged me to reconsider changing the path that I was on to become a massage therapist, he mentioned that it was my decision in the end of course, but he wanted to let me know his opinion. I decided that I would at least try the first term of massage therapy schooling, after all I had just uprooted my life to try my hand (no pun intended) at a different career.
Two and a half months into living in Eugene and one week after I started working as a Medical Assistant at a clinic part-time, my cat was diagnosed with cancer. The veterinarian informed me that because my cat was so old, it would be best to just give him all the food, care and attention he could get. One week after my cat’s diagnosis and one day before school started, my cat stopped eating meals and his veterinarian strongly urged I bring him in to be put down. I made the 20-minute drive to the veterinarian office in what felt like a zombie-state. I had two acquaintances in Eugene, but neither I felt comfortable in asking to come along with me to put my cat down.
Mr. Huggies (A.K.A. Huggy) spent a lot of his last weeks on his beloved pink blanket.
The following two months in Eugene felt like an absolute nightmare. My new job was filled with 36 employees, with more than half of them seeming to be in misery. That might sound awful, but the bad vibe was so palpable, that I would leave the clinic crying on multiple occassions just knowing how sad some of these employees seemed and how stuck the energy felt there. The intensity of school and work was so strong, it left me with absolutely zero time to work on anything outside of it, not to mention my wrist pain came back throbbing after giving a couple classmates simple calf massages. I was struggling with some serious grief from losing my 14-year old cat and all of my close friends were two hours away in Portland. My weekends were so packed with homework that the thought of a two-hour commute to see close friends seemed out of question.
All of the things that had occurred over those first few months in Eugene left me feeling completely isolated and defeated. At the lowest point, I wrestled with some serious demons and unfortunately had no insurance coverage for mental health until my insurance from my job would kick in a month later. By halfway through the school term, I threw in the towel, I realized that the state my mental health had gotten into was at an all-time low and it was of the utmost importance that I get back to Portland. I knew in my heart what the next steps were to be.
I was to let it all go. My dream of becoming a massage therapist, my plans of starting anew in a small college town, and the acceptance of listening to my heart and not my head. I spent a whole day to myself meditating, no external distractions (which included no digital communication.) I didn’t want to hear anyone else’s opinion except for my own. I got a wonderful night’s sleep starting that evening and woke up with my heart’s answer solidified. I decided that I would drop out of massage therapy schooling, quit my miserable job and get back to Portland, OR to be around my close friends as soon as possible.
It’s been a good decision, with a couple of bubbles of depression coming up here and there, but my next steps in life have been moving along pretty wonderfully. I have already had a couple job interviews in Portland, friends have stored some of my boxes from my Eugene home to their places in Portland, and I even had a visit back to Minnesota for my mom’s wedding. The best way to describe how I feel right now is that it feels as if for the last four months I have been stuck at the bottom of a dark well and in the last couple of weeks since listening to my heart, peaks of sunshine have been coming down into the well. It feels like there are a few people at the top of the well informing me that they know I am stuck down in the well, but that the correct tools are on their way to get me back up to the daylight, I just have to stay strong and wait a little while longer. Light at the end of the path. One of my favorite places that I find solace in, in Eugene, is Spencer Butte. The top picture is Spencer Butte covered in clouds, as seen from my favorite running path at Amazon Park and in the picture below, Spencer Butte is seen from afar atop Skinner Butte.