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Goodbye, Dragontree!

At the time of writing this article, I have just finished up my last massage at Dragontree, which may be the last massage I ever perform in a spa setting.

Looking back, it turns out I’ve worked in the spa industry for a total of 7 years, from front desk to massage therapist to management.

This is a bit of a shock to me because it almost happened by accident.

I never set out to enter the spa world. My bodywork journey began in naturopathic medical school, where I sought out kinesiology training from old-school chiropractors in order to keep myself busy with my hands while my mind was taxed with studying. This was purely extracurricular training that didn’t affect my grades, but I took it even more seriously than my classes simply because it kept me sane. My mentors made it clear to me early on that I had a knack for the subject, and encouraged me to keep pursuing it into my naturopathic career.

Hilariously enough, I wasn’t jazzed about the idea at the time. I was convinced that I was heading down the nerdy fast-track to cutting-edge wellness. Think long lists of supplement formulations that target various aspects of the Krebs cycle. I was excited about big words with Greek and Latin roots, and my original passion for bodywork ended at my ability to master the knowledge of anatomy.

Bodywork? I can do that with my eyes closed (literally) and without even knowing the names of all the muscles. How could I possibly throw away my doctoral training for something so simple?

However, a massage license offered something very tasty indeed – scope of practice.

In school, my teachers drilled it into me that I was never, ever, ever, ever under ANY circumstances allowed to “treat” anyone without proper supervision, or else I could risk losing your license before I even had a chance to apply for one.

Looking back, this was largely a school liability narrative, but it pushed me to examine my options. How could I take these skills that I’d been practicing for two years and practice them on a larger scale now, rather than waiting another four years until graduation?

The answer was simple – get a license that would allow me to practice bodywork as soon as possible. And ideally, without slowing down my naturopathic education.

I transferred schools from Arizona to Seattle for many reasons, but the option to receive my massage license in a dual-track setting was too alluring to pass up. I signed up for the massage intensive program and never looked back.

So while I never set out to enter the spa industry, it turns out if you perform bodywork and do it well, spa jobs are the ones that easily fall into your lap. Again and again, I kept ending up in delicious, perk-laden, high-paying spa positions that were fun to work and offered flexible hours that accommodated my demanding doctorate school schedule, and later on, my crazy entrepreneurial dreams.

When I could feel myself getting burned out and jaded in school, I was able to take a nine-month leave of absence to work as a massage therapist and still pay my bills in the ever-expensive urban Seattle area.

Once I completed my naturopathic degree, I pursued massage full-time for months while I studied for my board exams. I worked crazy, crazy hours, as the demand for massage outpaced the number of massage therapists willing to work with a face mask on during the entirety of their shift.

With all that background in mind, I'd originally applied for a position at Dragontree under very different circumstances. I was in the process of negotiating the purchase of a naturopathic clinic and just needed a side job to pay the bills while waiting for the deal to go through. With a clinic purchase on the horizon, I told myself that Dragontree would be the last spa I ever worked at that I didn't own myself.

However, the deal did not go through – and in retrospect, I’m glad it didn’t! A year later, I ended up in management as the Lead Massage Therapist at Dragontree. This was a difficult but gratifying experience, and I’m glad I stuck around long enough to experience it.

I was finally able to achieve my secret bucket list of massage therapist career goals, which was actually very simple:

  1. Be the #1 top requested therapist at a high-end spa

  2. Be the lead therapist for a year

As I have now achieved both of these goals at Dragontree, I can now retire as a spa therapist in peace. If you ever catch me working at a spa again, you’ll know that I’m the owner.

I’m excited to enter the next phase of my career as a naturopathic doctor and I hope you’re all just as excited to join me on this journey. The bodywork isn’t going away anytime soon, but you’re gonna have to keep your clothes on in order to receive it.

Thanks for joining me.

– Dr. Chris

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