(You can read Part I of Gladys’ Story at: http://www.oregonschoolofmassage.com/gladys-story-deciding-career-massage-70/)
Gladys’ Story – Part II
Written by Jessica Zisa
While Gladys Walgren’s lifelong passion for helping people led her to pursue her massage studies at OSM, her determination to share that gift is equally as inspiring. In Part I of this interview, Gladys talked about her decision to begin her massage training at the age of 70. This portion of the interview explores the second part of her journey as an OSM graduate.
After graduating from OSM in 2006, she waited till 2007 to get her massage license. “It took me a long time to go take my test because I was afraid I wouldn’t pass. I didn’t want to have to do it twice,” she laughed. “One of the girls I met in the school, her and I went over to the school and practiced, oh I don’t know how many hundreds of times, but she and I would go over and practice twice a week from June until December. Finally, we said ‘OK, I think we’re ready to take our test now,’ and we did and we both passed. It was worthwhile doing it.”
Gladys…on the eve of her 81st birthday…demonstrating her work for a current OSM student
But she did not stop there. Gladys began her post-graduation job search process with strong determination. Gladys said she never saw herself starting her own business: “When I was in school at OSM I took classes where they talked about making your own business, and I said I’m not doing that. I’m too old to think about it. Yeah, right,” she now laughs. She found herself at odds with the cultural perception of age: “The worst thing was was trying to find someone who would hire me at my age.” She eventually was hired but after a year and a half they closed and she found herself again struggling to find a place to share her passion for helping others through touch. “That’s when I began thinking about starting my own business. I could not find a place to hire me. I put my application in a lot of places and a month later I noticed the job advertisement was still listed and I’d call them and they’d say ‘oh yeah, we’ll get you in for an interview’ but they never call me. So finally I said, if I’m going to do this I’m going to do it on my own and in 2009 I started my own business, Graceful Hands Massage. And I’m glad I did. It’s makes life much more free than working for someone else.”
When asked about polarity and her use of it, she said, “It just takes the pain aways. I don’t why it works, but it does and that’s all that matters. It’s takes the pain away and I can begin working on them. I have seen it take swelling down. I had one girl who had been in a car wreck and she had this painful knot in her back that was about eight inches long and three inches wide and just stuck out half an inch right down her spine. I was giving her a massage one night and I felt something burning and it all disappeared. It was the first time I had seen anything like that happen and I just didn’t believe it. I called her mother in and she said “well it’s gone?” It was just amazing.” She said, “After that I saw more stuff like that happen, but the first time my mouth dropped. I didn’t believe it. It’s just fun to be able to do stuff and surprise people.” And her clients affirm the quality of her work, as one Yelp review entry stated, “Go to Gladys! She is amazing. I have had a lot of massages done throughout my life and this was by far the best one I ever had.”
While Gladys leans towards polarity, she says she tailors each session for the client. “My philosophy is just to help a person stop hurting. I start off with Swedish massage and move to whatever the client needs. I do deep tissue, stretching, or whatever I need to do to accomplish what the client needs. I can’t say that I use any one certain technique,” she said,” I just do what they need me to do. People ask me what kind of massage do you do? I taylor to fit your needs. I mean, if you go in there and do one thing, you’re not going to accomplish very much.”
People ask sometimes whether she’s thought of expanding her business, but she says she likes working by herself for herself. “I’m not into making money. I want to help people so I keep my prices low enough so they can afford to come to see me.” She spoke about one client she treated who suffered from fibromyalgia: “Her back was like a table; it was so hard you couldn’t work on it. I worked with her for a year and a half before her skin felt like normal skin. She was coming in two and three times a week for a two hour session every time she came in. I wanted to help this girl so much but I knew there was no way she could afford to come in regularly like that. But I really wanted to help her so I charged her $25 per session. She told me, ‘I’m so glad I met you. Now I have a lot of good days. I thought I was going to hurt the rest of my life.’”
As Gladys considers the past 11 years, she is happy and proud of the passion she discovered at OSM. She said,“I feel like I got a better education at OSM than I would have elsewhere. Plus, I could go there after I graduated. I still go over there a lot when they have sale day to pick up lotions, which I think are fantastic. I don’t know if the other schools do that, but I think it’s great. OSM offers a nice support system: we’ve got you this far and we’re going to stay with you. It’s wonderful.”
In closing, Gladys offered the following advice for OSM graduate looking for work or considering starting your own business: “Look for cheap rent. Hair salons are a good place to start because a lot of people coming in will get a massage too, so you can make connections and gain clients. I had no idea what I was doing when I started my own business. But no one would hire me, I filled out so many applications and I know it was my age. It’s harder being older student but if you’re serious you’ll find a place. It’s kept me young.”
So what’s her life secret, you might ask. Gladys said, “Enjoy life and enjoy what you’re doing, I think it’s the biggest thing. If you want to act old, you can be old, but I don’t want to be old.”
Glady is the founder and owner of Graceful Hands Massage located at 14350 SW Barrows Rd, Tigard, OR 97223. You can contact Gladys at 503-319-8016.
This is Part II of a two part interview with Gladys Walgren. Read Part I to learn more about Glady’s experience as an OSM student.
Jessica Zisa is a recent graduate of Maryhurst; she is now in graduate school at New York University