Living Your Passion and Purpose: A Portrait

I'm about to tell you a story that may seem impossible to believe. But I promise you, every single word is true. I'm going to tell you the story of a woman who loves her career so much that she is breaking every industry norm in her field.

My massage therapist, Ruth (She gave me permission to use her real name.) has been doing massage full time for 29 years. And when I say "full time" it's really more like double time - she works seven days a week - simply because she loves it that much!

In the world of massage therapy, Ruth is a bit of a magical unicorn - something that seems like a fairy tale. She's unusual in that field for a number of reasons. First off is that being a massage therapist is very hard on the therapist's body. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, the average massage therapist stays in the field for seven years before either they burn out or their bodies give out. Also, the average LMT (licensed massage therapist) works 20-30 hours per week and makes about $24k - $25k.  Ruth works many, many more hours than 20-30 per week. Although we've never discussed how much she makes, I feel pretty confident that she beats that income average as well.

I've been going to Ruth for monthly massages for more than 10 years. In that 10 years, Ruth has not raised her rates once, even though she's booked so solid that she had to add another day to her work schedule. She was already working six days per week when I started going to see her. But she had a wait list to get in, so she added another half day on Sunday.

Why didn't she raise her rates and why did she decide to work more?  Because she loves helping her clients. Simply put: Ruth has found her calling/passion and purpose! She loves her work so much that for her it does not feel like work.

In reality, she doesn't have to work that hard. She is married and her husband works and her children are grown. I was going to say that Ruth pushes herself as hard as she does because she loves it so much. But then I remembered: She doesn't even consider it pushing herself. For Ruth, going to work isn't "work" - it's joy!

And it's obvious to those of us lucky enough to be her clients. Being in her presence you feel the joy and peace radiate off of her. She positively glows.

What makes all of this even more remarkable is that Ruth has severe varicose veins in her legs. Her doctors have told her for years that she should not be on her feet for more than an hour at a time and certainly not all day. But Ruth works 10-12 hour days regularly and does not have debilitating pain. Amazingly, she works all of those hours and still goes home to do projects around the house or spend time with her friends or with her grand kids. It's like she has an infinite fuel source inside of her.

This, my friends, is what it looks like when you are living your life's purpose. Not that you have to work seven days per week or 80 hours per week when you are living your purpose. Just that it doesn't feel like work. It feels like joy and freedom, and it energizes and fuels you instead of depletes and exhausts you.

Ruth has become my poster woman for what life can look like for those of us who have found our calling if we're brave enough to answer the call.

Ruth's friends and family all told her that being an LMT was too hard physically and that she'd never make a living at it. Her doctors told her that her legs could not stand the demands of the job. But she knew that helping her clients was what she was born to do. And every day for the last 29 years, she's been living her calling. Ruth is a living testament to what it can look like when you love your whole life.

Next time you aren't sure if it's even worth it to try to figure out your calling or purpose, remember Ruth. Remember that she does this for the joy and because it gives her more than it takes from her. Remember the magical unicorn.

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