An Honest Review of My First Year in Practice
Melissa Viveiros is an RMT that graduated from the Mohawk College massage therapy program in October 2019 and officially became an RMT in January 2020. She works out of Evolve Health and Wellness in Hamilton. Her practice was put to a halt shortly after starting it when the pandemic hit. Like many RMTs affected by the pandemic, she shares her point of view of how it’s affected her and other new therapists trying to navigate their new careers.
A Reflection on an Unusual First Year in Practice
I kicked off 2020 on a good note when I found out I officially became an RMT, only to work for a month before we all woke up one day and BOOM! Pandemic! Quarantine gave me too much time to think and as hard as it was, I’m glad it happened. As I reflect on my not so ideal first year in practice, here are my biggest takeaways.
1. It’s normal to feel lost when you start
No one tells you that the second you graduate school and finally become an RMT, you will feel very much like a fish out of water. You’re finally diving into this world you have spent so much time learning about that when people start asking the big hard hitting questions, you can’t help but draw a blank. Are you going to have your own business? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Do you want to focus on a particular area of practice? What continuing education courses do you want to do? In the moment, you might know, make something up, or straight up say, “I have no idea.”
The truth is, it’s ok to not know. This world is so huge, and the limitless options can be overwhelming. You don’t need to have all the answers right away because your career will continue to evolve. It’s called a practice for this exact reason! You may think that you want to work with a particular demographic or in a certain work setting and come to realize it’s not what you expected. There is no shame in asking questions to get new ideas about things such as developing a niche, how different work environments operate, treatment planning etc.
The pandemic really emphasized this for me. Just as I was trying to get to know staff, get myself situated in my clinic and trying to explore options for my practice, the world turned upside down. I felt more lost because of forces out of my control. Appointment cancellations were coming left and right as the concern about the virus grew. Schedules became empty in the blink of an eye. Practitioners began closing shop. When lockdown lasted longer than we all thought, my co-workers and I worried about the possibility of our clinic closing forever.
Like many of you, I felt helpless. Having these conversations with teachers, former classmates and co-workers helped ground me. It created open conversation and for a moment, made lockdown not so lonely.
Naturally, we as humans tend to desire things quickly and conveniently. No matter how impatient you may be, good things take time. Try to enjoy every step of the journey.
2. Regardless of work experience, everyone is comparing themselves to each other
Whether it was a classmate who did better than you in school, a colleague, or even a highly decorated and renowned professional in their respected field, you’ve likely experienced the dilemma of comparing yourself to others. It soon becomes a familiar case of imposter syndrome where we look at our experienced colleagues with their long resumé of accomplishments and wonder, “will I ever be like that?”
Truthfully, experienced practitioners including RMTs feel this too and sadly, it’s a chain that keeps going. It can easily become self-sabotaging behaviour. Normalizing talking about mental health and the insecurities we have about our practices shouldn’t be something we have to hide. This year proves the importance of this, considering all of our practices had to shift due to the restrictions of this pandemic. In fact, it should be something we are practitioners and as a community should use to close the gap between power dynamics in health care. Whether in the workplace, in school, or working together with health care teams, it goes without saying that we are our own worst critic.
I found that practicing positive affirmations helped break me out of that negative mindset if I would start to spiral on a bad day. In school, I started this by writing on sticky notes and putting them in a spot I could see daily, like on my laptop. I’d write out goals for that semester or what I’d accomplished so far so that way, I could actually see and say out loud the things that I’m proud of.
3. There is an unspoken pride about achieving success by a specific age
Starting your career at any age can be hard, but it can be particularly hard to do while entering your 20s. On top of being in that weird in between of being too old to be a teenager and too young to be considered an adult, you’re stuck in this state of limbo where you feel like you don’t have control. You look around you to see what others are doing and might feel like it’s a race to get as much done as possible by a certain age.
I experienced this first hand at work and it confirmed that I wasn’t alone. I witnessed my former classmates and co-workers who started their careers around the same time as me having that same predicament. We had a conversation about comparing ourselves to people our age or in practice for around the same time and started to go down the dark hill of belittling ourselves. Thoughts like “this person is the same age as me and has done so much more than me” or “I feel like an underachiever. I should have done more by now'' start to run rapidly in our heads. Owning a planner seemed useless. I wanted to take a hot stone course that was hosted at CCMH, but alas, the school went bankrupt. I had to hold onto receipts for courses I looked forward to that were now cancelled. Time just seemed to move at a weird pace and I felt empty no matter what I did to try to seem productive.
I mentioned this demographic specifically due to the quiet pride that goes behind the ability of an individual to achieve immense success at an accelerated rate. We’ve seen it in sports, entertainment and massage therapy also fits this narrative since the program itself is somewhat accelerated. It feels almost as if young people are competing against each other and not working with each other. There is no manual for “adulting”. Life isn’t a race.
The common theme on all these points is that it’s so easy to be mean to yourself. Though people may look like they have their professional lives together, there is more than meets the eye. Regardless of our years practicing, we’re more alike than we think. Feeling stuck, doubts, and frustration are all valid emotions. You’re allowed to be upset because you’re human. I believe it’s important for us to keep this dialogue going so that less new RMTs won’t think of themselves as less than and that experienced RMTs won’t downgrade their achievements.