A Story of Sailor, the Massage Therapist

By Jodi Wiley
Adjunct Faculty, Massage Therapy

She was a scrappy, no-nonsense, foul-mouthed student from a blue-collar family, built physically as much like a female boxer as she was a massage therapist.  My first memory of her is when she blew onto the scene of a mandatory community service event 15 minutes late, cursing her husband for not being there when she needed him to watch the kids.  My opinion of her was quickly taking shape, and it wasn’t exactly the ambassador that the massage industry needed.  I secretly nicknamed her “Sailor”.

As her education continued over the course of three semesters, I began to see other perspectives of her life, both as a future professional therapist and as a woman juggling school, work and home.  During one clinic, in which students give massages to community members, her client didn’t show up.  She needed someone to work on and called her husband, who arrived to her aid within minutes, but with two small children in tow.  As she settled her children in the waiting area, she demonstrated excellent resourcefulness, quick thinking, and even superior management skills.  I saw her life before me as a constant juggling of demands and priorities.

As she progressed through my classes, a different Sailor began to emerge, one who cared deeply about her clients and desired to help them out of pain and stress.  She was fierce about her learning, coming at it with a passion.

To my surprise, she emerged as a leader among the cohort.  She took the reins of student leadership, just as she did with everything in her life, with gusto.  She reminded the students of upcoming due dates, arranged the most thoughtful student gift exchange I’ve seen as a teacher, and was sure to check up on our ESL student who had a hard time keeping up.

None of her efforts were delivered, though, in a traditional motherly fashion.  I was challenged by my ideas of what a successful student and therapist could look like.  I’m certain that Sailor made more of an impact on me than I did on her.  By the end of the curriculum, I had come to appreciate Sailor’s persona and even respect her massage work.  By then, I had shared with her my nickname for her.  It stuck, though.  I still affectionately call her Sailor.  And she still somehow manages to make brash language endearing.  Today, Sailor is a successful massage therapist and we still keep in touch.