Transitioning Into Dat MT Life
About 5 years ago, I was working in the auto repair and reconditioning industry. Damn — that seems like SO long ago… Let me bring you up to speed.
I worked for Mile High Fabrion — a small, independent franchise that was “based” out of Aurora, CO. By “based” — I mean that the “office” was the owner’s “house.” And “based out of Aurora” meant that I drove all over the greater Denver metro area each and every day working. DI would typically start my day at 8:30am off of 120th and Federal for about 6–7 hours, then drive to at least two more car dealerships…sometimes ending down near the DTC/Centennial region of southernmost Denver. For those of you familiar and unfamiliar — that’s a LOOOOOOT of fucking driving each day. That job had a lot of glass and ass time. What else did it have a lot of?
HOURS. Lots of them, each and every week. Some weeks upwards of 70–75 hours. My boss was the embodiment of a workaholic. He had no children, not many meaningful relationships, a tiny network of people he spoke to outside of work, and not many hobbies that I could ever discern. Nope — I take that back…his biggest hobby was hanging out in the echo chamber of FOX news and republican talk radio. So, as you can imagine, that was just *awesome* to be around all day, 6 days a week.
In the summers, it wasn’t uncommon to work 6 days a week from 8:30am until 9:30pm. I wouldn’t really take breaks, either, because I was commission based. The more work I completed, the more I got paid. Simple as that. I was the master of my own destiny…for a while. Nobody could really be their own master working for that guy — because he made sure to remind you that you were his employee, and that he signed the checks. If you spoke up for yourself, or challenged him in even the tiniest way…you could expect some kind of direct, or indirect passive-aggressive backlash. That guy *loved* to feel like he was powerful…and acted like a sullen, spoiled child when he didn’t get his way. When you have no power in life, I guess you try to find ways to make others feel powerless. He was great at it, too. Very manipulative. I truly do hope he could see how his selfish actions were hurting others, and has changed those ways. But — stubborn is as stubborn does. I won’t hold my breath.
Aside from the poor leadership, the gig itself was actually really fun. Each day I got to do some pretty remarkable repair work with my hands. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen, or even knew existed.
I went to meet the man and his compatriot at GO Toyota in Centennial for an “interview” on a brisk day in March. I forgot my jacket that day when I left home. The sun was out and it was really quite comfortable as I departed. I should have known better. Winter in Colorado is a total guessing game. You can see all 4 seasons on a March day. No joke. Shit be cray.
I tried to keep how uncomfortably cold I was under the radar that day. After all, you don’t want to exude being a weak dickhead in front of your potential new employer. Gotta “man up”, as is so often crushed into a young boy’s psyche at a young age against his will, in a psychologically unhealthy but socially accepted way. As you can imagine — I was nipped to the extreme that day. My shit could have cut glass. The interview lasted about 3 hours, all said and done.
Despite the cold, I was truly fascinated at watching these two guys working their magic on these cars. I saw dilapidated leather seats losing all of their dye sanded smooth, repaired, re-textured and dyed exactly to match the original look. IT WAS FUCKING IMPRESSIVE, SON. They would turn the interior of a car from a turdbox into a showcase piece within 90 minutes. I was sold. I loved working with my hands. I loved cleaning things and making them better than they were. I got to listen to my own music. I got to be outside. I got deals on cars if I wanted to buy them. I got to know some powerful people in the automobile world. And I got to make as much money as I could — so long as I was willing to work the hours. Speaking of that…
I didn’t get to choose hours. Most jobs these days have set hours and defined boundaries. Oh no, not here, sonny. You work all day, every day — except Sundays. After 4 long years of this, I began to suspect that I would have been expected to work 7 days a week if car dealerships were required by law to be closed on the Sabbath.
In the summers, I would come home roasted to a crisp from the sun. My feet, ankles, and calves would be on fire from the radiant heat coming off the asphalt. I would be absolutely caked in dried sweat. And, I swear, it took 3 months to get the dye out from under my fingernails after my last day working there. We would brave lightning storms, mesocyclones, downbursts, high wind days, and all manner of bullshit in the summer — and that guy would never let us just call it a day. It started to feel like my life was being taken away, because this man didn’t want to face his own personal life.
In the winters, I would be required to sit and wait at home for a call to find out when and where we were going to meet to work. Some days I would be forced to wait from 8am-3pm. Some days we would start our work day at 2pm on the other side of Denver from where I lived — only to have it start snowing on us 30min after we got set up and had to leave. Even when a forecast called for inclement weather — we’d still be required to go meet that belligerent dumbass. It didn’t seem so bad the first few years — but by the 4th year, it seemed like the guy had completely lost his sense of reason and consideration for others. I realized I couldn’t keep doing this. This was driving me mental.
At this point, you may be asking yourself, “why would you stick around for that long?” That answer is simple enough — MONEY. I was making pretty decent cashflow. And because I had never known that luxury, and because I am a survivalist by design — I was willing to choke down shit to have that sense of financial security. I was afraid of going back to making $11 or $12 an hour. I’d feel like a total failure. I couldn’t bear the thought of it.
Besides, I had a lady I cared about and I wanted to keep the money coming in. In hindsight, I didn’t realize that because I was so unhappy at work, I was spending frivolously. It seemed like I was searching for a sense of happiness, and just couldn’t find it. Goddamn, that was a tough time for my lady, too. I was an unhappy asshole all the time. I deeply regret not heeding her advice and changing things sooner. She pleaded to me on numerous occasions. What would be different now had I acted on her requests?
Once I came to the breaking point, the time for contemplation had arrived. What was I going to do? What was my plan? What did I *like* to do — not just for money. What excited me? What made me feel *good*? Truth be told, I didn’t know. I had always just worked. It was instilled to me by my parents since youth, that you just worked. That was the way the world was. There was never discussions about fostering to my strengths and happiness. No talks that you can make what you want out of life. I imagine it was because they never received that luxury when they were younger…so how could they know to do that for me? College seemed fruitless from the beginning because of that. Clearly — I had a LOT of things to figure out that I never put the time into discovering.
I knew that I liked to help people. Helping people had always felt good. I never spent much developing or nurturing that. I liked to work with my hands. I liked seeing things change as I worked. I liked making an impact. I liked education and all things academic. My sister had just wrapped up schooling in Phoenix to be a holistic nutritionist. I figured I would follow in those footsteps somehow.
I wasn’t terribly interested in medical school — at 29 years old, it seemed like one hell of a mountain to climb. Nursing school had very long waiting lists — some schools had wait times upwards of 4 years. I couldn’t wait that long. Hmm. What to do? Then, on one Sunday afternoon in August of 2011, an unexpected epiphany happened.
It was my day off work, and I was not terribly interested in being outside. I loved being outside — until I found myself out in the worst aspects of the weather all the time. So, I was hanging out at the apartment with my lady, just resting and relaxing. I loved massaging her feet, neck, and back. I loved stroking my fingers through her hair, and massaging her scalp. Not as a prelude to sex, either — I simply *loved* loving on her and making her feel good. Even if I felt shitty — there was happiness in helping her to feel good.
That day, she told me, “you should look into doing massage — you have great hands for it…they’re comforting and caring.” Her words felt resonant — and in that moment, I knew she was on to something. The decision to pursue that had been chosen. I didn’t think about it too much, and acted on gut instinct. Overthinking things has a tendency to hold us back, and I wanted a change.
After a bit of online research, I found myself going for a tour at the Colorado School of Healing Arts in Lakewood, Colorado. The moment I walked in, I knew this space was different. It felt…calm. Serene. Peaceful. Accepting. Nurturing. Inquisitive. Unlike anything I had ever felt at an institution. The positive presence there was almost palpable. From the beginning — I knew I had found something extraordinary. I needed to be here.
After a short tour, I joined onto the massage open house they hold every few months for prospective new students. It was kind of an uncomfortable experience, to be quite frank. Surrounded by people I didn’t know, doing something totally foreign. I expected a night of discussion, and I expected wrong. We were guided into a room full of tables set up for massage. They made no bones about it — they wanted to sort out those who truly wanted to pursue it and those who didn’t. They were going to push the boundaries of self-comfort right from the beginning.
I felt awkward as shit, massaging the feet of a total stranger. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I didn’t let it stop me. I embraced the experience, regardless. Out of the 30 or so that attended, I only saw a handful of familiar faces arrive for the first day of class after that. Apparently, a lot of people *think* they want to pursue massage…but quickly discover they aren’t very comfortable with it. The administration knew the song and dance — and they didn’t want to disillusion anyone or waste their time. The best way to know — is to simply do.
After committing to the endeavor, and sorting out my financial aid — the time had come to inform my employer that I would be separating from his company. As expected, he tried to talk me out of it. At first, it started with comments like - “are you *really* sure you want to do this?”, “you’ve never talked about doing this before”, and “I don’t think you know what you’re doing.” Those manipulative suggestions started small and seemingly as concern — but that changed soon enough.
When he realized that I was serious and could not be swayed, he began taunting my decision and degrading it. “Well, I hope you’re happy massaging some fat guy’s leg”, “will you be giving happy endings, too?”, “you’re gonna go gay.” The amount of fear and doubt surfacing as attacks was truly sad to see. He was going to lose his work-horse, and he knew it. Instead of supporting somebody in *their* aspirations, he would turn to being malicious as a defense mechanism. The actions of an emotionally stunted little boy. His words simply fueled my desire to leave. His behavior made me pity him. This poor, lonely, scared little child stuck in a grown man’s body. I wonder how he *really* felt about everything. Did he feel like he was losing a friend and was hurt? Did he feel inadequate because I wanted something else? Who knows. I’ll never know.
I gave the man 7 months notice of my departure. It took a few months to really get somebody trained and productive in auto reconditioning. Again, I gave the man 7 MONTHS notice. Despite the bullshit he pulled, I still wanted to walk the highest road I could to be professional.
Every day at work felt like a small eternity over the course of the next 7 months. I made our professional relationship abundantly clear. I didn’t humor his jokes. I didn’t acknowledge his childish taunts. I started wearing headphones and listened to my music so I didn’t have to hear that toxic republican radio filth he always blared at peak volume. I simply went in and did my job, and did nothing to make him feel appreciated or special. If I was to be given that little of respect — I was going to deliver that much in return. “You get what you give,” a motto I’ve always found truth in.
All the while, the guy didn’t spend much time to find a replacement for me. Some candidates would show up to their “interview”, and would ask me about the job in private. I gave it to them straight. I didn’t pull punches. I told them that the guy had no control over his emotions, he respects nobody with their own vision, the job was overbearing and unappreciative, and that if you wanted to have a private life it wasn’t going to happen here…but you could make $50K a year. Strangely, nobody seemed too interested in that trade-off. Weird, huh? The truth shall set you free — or be your demise, if you’re an asshole. Hopefully he learned some truth in that from me. If I left any impact there, I hope it was that he needed to respect and foster others. As stated earlier, I won’t hold my breath.
For 6 of those 7 months, I was attending class 4 nights a week after work. Mondays and Wednesdays were anatomy, Tuesdays and Thursdays were Massage Level 1. Oddly enough, I liked anatomy more. I’ve always been a big book learner. It’s kind of my thing. Anatomy was 4 hours long, and Massage Level 1 was 5 hours. I had massage labs to complete on the weekends, too. With working 6 days a week, it meant that my Sundays were catch-up for labs and weekly homework. For the first time in my life, I was so busy I was having a hard time keeping up. Also, for the first time, that didn’t bother me. I knew I was on a good and resonant path. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Keep pushing, keep your chin up — you’re almost through the hardest part.” It’s those types of thoughts that kept me positive through that time. Freedom and the unknown were close at hand. I just had to keep my routine solid in order to succeed. Wash, rinse, repeat — every day, every week.
March 14, 2012 finally rolled around. The last day at Mile High Fabrion. D-Day. That day, I made it a point to work at my own speed — which, needless to say, was slow AF. I don’t really do the whole “spite” thing, but that day, I felt the man had it coming. When we wrapped up the work van, I knew there was only one thing left to do — a final discussion. I dreaded this moment. For days I had run through the possible scenarios that could potentially play out. In the end, it actually wasn’t too bad. He never congratulated me, thanked me, or gave me a well-wishing — his last words to me that day were, “well, this is it — see ya, bud.”
Those chosen words sealed the deal with me. I realized there was no compassion in that man. No ability to see past the self. No space to hold for others. It was the deepest moment of pity that I held for him. How could anyone expect to hold meaningful connections operating this way? How did he find someone to marry him? Maybe he would have been more patient, caring, and nurturing if he had children. Oh, well — I wished the guy well, anyway. I thanked him for the experience and wished him luck with his endeavors.
As I drove away for home that day — I felt renewed. Rejuvenated. Like, I was juvenated before, lost it, and then found it again. RE-juvenated! I went home that night, had a small celebration with my lady-love, and held space for the uncertainty which was the future. One door closed so that another may fully open. I didn’t have the answers — but I had hope. That excitement would lend itself well to me as I walked forward into the next 18 months of massage schooling.
The next day at class, I was told by the Director of Education, “bodywork is only one of many things you’re going to learn at this school; you’re about to go into spaces of yourself you didn’t even know existed — you’re stepping into uncharted internal waters.”
How right she was. And, oh — what a journey it has been!
Thank you for joining on this drive down Memory Lane. Be well!