I remember the unbearable pain and burning in my eyes as the doctor entered the room, examined me, diagnosed the condition, and started a course of treatment.
Her confidence and control over the situation gave me security during a time of fear and helplessness. This was the moment I first considered pursuing a career in the medical field.
I thought I might want to become a doctor, to have both the knowledge and ability to make calm those who are afraid during a time of need. Thus, when I started college, I aligned myself with the pre-med path, hoping one day to become a surgeon.
Throughout college, my love of biology, medicine, and the body increased substantially. Not only was I learning about the body through my classes, but I was seeing my body change as well with intense workouts at a Crossfit gym and a change in diet. With these workouts came whole body stiffness, followed by an interest and physical need for mobility and yoga.
For a time, working out was my one and only stress relief until one day the stress of school due to pre-med expectations was too much for me. It was at that time that my friend invited me to an intro meeting for a mindfulness-based stress reduction class.
I readily signed up and started allowing my mind to be open to something I would never have believed would change me so much . . . the understanding of presence, and the need for its awareness in my life.
After graduating from college, I moved to Colorado to ski and work as a medical assistant. During this year after college, I realized I was still burnt out from school and everything associated with it, and that I was not yet ready to pursue a career as a doctor.
Later that summer, for the first time since committing myself and my intentions to medical school, I had the thought that perhaps I never would be. Also, as a medical assistant, I felt that the biggest involvement in my patient’s healthcare was paperwork, which to me was not healing, and thus, not fulfilling.
After two amazing ski seasons, I was finally ready to move on with my life and pursue things I had wanted to learn about outside of medicine. I moved to Driggs, ID, where I pursued farming at a small start-up organic farm, trading time and work for housing under the shadow of the Tetons.
The summer went well and although I was pursuing an interest of mine, I noticed that I was feeling empty and without purpose. I came to the conclusion that I was dissatisfied because I was not working in any way with people or medicine, neither helping nor healing.
Upon moving to Idaho and meeting the people who have helped me put together some pieces of a puzzle I had not yet known to exist, I came to see that my interests in mobility, mindfulness, and an more holistic route to medicine are more than individual interests, and that they could be brought together through massage therapy.
I am drawn to medicine, healing and the body because they mystify me. My openness to this change in self, coupled with an interest in exploring physiology, mobility, and presence through mindfulness, have led me to this next step in my life. I am finally ready to pursue healing and relief of pain, not with a pill or surgery, but through touch, movement, and meditation. Massage therapy will allow me to do just that, whether it be moving tissue for mobility or post-injury from sports, medically, or in a soothing manner for spa, cancer patients, and wounded warriors.
Although I am still interested in western medicine, I am not ready to embark on it quite yet, and I feel it would be a disservice to myself to disregard this strong pull towards more holistic and eastern ways of healing. I have confidence that western and eastern medicine can only become stronger when used together, and I intend to have the knowledge and ability to use them in just that way.
So, what exactly is “success?” Well, just like the term “smart,” I think success can often time be misleading, especially when one wants the success of what others have deemed its worth. One definition of success is “the attainment of popularity or profit.” I am not naïve to the reality that money is important in the world in which we live, in addition to security and planning for the future.
Popularity, inherently, may be necessary for that profit to be acquired. That being said, at what point is the sacrifice of energy and life worth the profit and security you are expecting or at least hoping to attain? In other words, at what point are society’s expectations of security and profit, and inherently success by those terms, not worth its value?
Throughout college as a pre-med student, I believe I was going down the path of societal success. Because a high GPA was needed to be accepted into college, and seemingly nothing less than A’s were even looked at for medical school, I became the “perfect” student. I felt smart, proud, accomplished, and wanted the prestige of one day being top dog as an ornamented surgeon. That idea excited me and I wanted nothing less.
However, I can’t lie. Aside from all those feelings, I was tired, so tired and burnt out. I also felt miserable when I thought about the rest of the world and what was out there that I might be missing.
It was the mindfulness class that started allowing me to listen to myself in a way I felt I was not open to before. After doing nothing but studying for the MCAT for the second summer in a row and applying to medical schools, I realized I had had enough and I didn’t want any more.
I realized I was at a point of burnout I had never felt before, and I wasn’t even in medical school yet! I asked myself what I was doing. Was this burnout and self-doubt I was carrying within me worth what I was working for? I realized I needed to clear my brain, my thoughts, and my life if I truly was going to be happy with any decision I was going to make from here on out.
Two years have now gone by since allowing myself to embark on this soul-searching journey, accompanied by good people and good times, sad times, lonely times, and many realizations. If I could equate thinking I was succeeding when in fact I may have been failing, it would have been the success of pursuing a career as a doctor.
I love biology, I really do, and I feel with every cell in my body a deep-seated need to help others, but I believe that the failure in my previous pursuit would have been the failure to myself of not listening to my feelings and insecurities about this future path I was going down; the failure of realizing that all of the sacrifice I would be making may not be worth the prestige and money, and that the picture I had painted for myself of being a doctor may not be the reality that would follow. Through all of this, I have come to believe that societal success does not always bring happiness.
To me, the definition of success is peace and contentment, or at least the pursuit of these things. We need to focus on this kind of success because I trust it will bring true happiness. In the end, I have come to realize that I had not, in fact, failed myself, but succeeded.
In my opinion, a successful massage therapist is someone who is empathetic, compassionate, open-minded, a good listener, and has a zeal for learning while also being someone who is confident, self-driven, self-promoting, organized, and professional. Massage therapy will allow me to help relieve others of the stress and tension that we as humans carry with us day to day. After working in the medical field, both in clinics and on ambulances, I know how lucky I am to be living without chronic pain every day of my life.
However, I empathize with this pain so much, both mental and physical, that I feel in my soul the need to bring healing, relief, and relaxation to those afflicted. I believe I will find both personal and career fulfillment in massage therapy.
I am Laurie Pinkerton, 24 years old, went to school at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. I moved to the mountains in Summit County, CO to ski after graduating, and after a year and a half in CO, I moved to Idaho so I could farm in the summer and ski the Tetons this winter. I am so excited to dive back into school and medicine in a different light, now going back to become a certified massage therapist.
This is very much so for me and the path of knowledge I want to learn more about, but also to have the ability to give mobility and presence to people through touch. I cannot wait to embark on this next chapter of my life and hope you enjoy my essay as much as I enjoyed writing it. I apologize it if it a little lengthier than you would like, but It is a reflection of this journey both physically and mentally and was so important for me to finally put down in words.
I do have a Facebook, Laurie Pinkerton, and am definitely wanting to get the word out there about MTSI and how helpful you have been on this scholarship hunt. I had spent so much time getting nowhere with scholarships because most of them are for accredited 4-year universities, not trade schools or certificate programs.