Thursday, August 04, 2005

Part 1: The News

I dropped out of the Massage Therapy School, after only three days of classes. I realized that this school wasn't really setup to provide the kind of education I need to practice in New York State. My heart broke a little, but really the most prominent emotion I felt regarding this was anger. Now I have to research schools and get into a new program.

I have learned a great deal about how to choose a Massage Therapy Program. I learned that New York State is the most difficult state in the USA when it comes to getting a license. For many states, being Nationally Certified to practice is enough. For a number of states, you have to pass state licensing requirements, which isn't really all that bad, since this normally involves simply passing an exam. New York, however, wants more.

The standard Massage Therapy training program, at most schools, offers 600 hours of study with around 150 hours of hands-on clinic traning. New York requires no less than 1000 hours of training. Not only that, but there is a short list of schools that are approved by the state of New York. If you get your training anywhere that is not on that list, then New York State examines your education to see if you qualify. They could, conceivably, not allow you to obtain a license even if you have completed a professional training program. What's good for the rest of the country is just not good enough for New York.

Of course.

So I found a school in Englewood, NJ that will give me over 1400 hours of training with 150 hours of clinic work. AND they'll take federal student loans! Sweet! The other shoe drops when I see the cost of this program is $12,000. Ouch. But I'll be in and out in twelve months, and will have six months to get licensed and start working before I have to start making loan payments. This is doable. Their next semester start date is September! I'm so there.

However, this Englewood school is not on New York State's short list of approved schools. Bad.

I tried to speak to someone at the New York State Board of professions about how to choose a program if it's not on the list. The gal in the BoF office told me I needed to speak to someone in the licensing office, and transferred me there. The gravely-voiced crone in the licensing office said "We don't speak to anyone who's not applying for licensure." Really now.

I called the BoF girl back, and explained that the licensure office refused to speak to me. "I'm going to transfer you again," she said. "Ask for Jane Smith this time."

"Can I have your name?" I asked meekly. "They were SO unpleasant to me..."

"Sure, it's Carol," she said, and transferred me.

So now I'm back to the chain-smoker. "Can I speak to Jane Smith?"

"Call back after 1:30," she barks. A glance at my watch told me it was 1:20.

"Fine," I said. She hung up on me.

Ok, I'm clearly not getting any answers out of the state. 15 minutes later Jane Smith wasn't available. I left a message. I don't expect a call back.

Tuesday, I trotted two blocks down from my apartment to this place, and asked one of the massage therapists if she could recommend a good school. She directed me to a place in Westwood, NJ. She says she knows people who practice in New York State who were trained there. So I check them out - they have a special 400-hour post-graduate completion program for people who want to practice in New York! Awesome! And they cost the same as the Englewood school! Sweet! The program takes a little longer, but Westwood happens to be a very short, easy drive from Nyack. I can handle an extra 6 months of study to reach this goal, especially with an easy commute.

So this morning, I call my student loan people, and explain the situation with the switching schools. I ask them what I will need to do when it's time to transfer my loan to another school. "Which school would you like to go to?" The nice gal asked. I gave her the school name, and she set to typing.

"I don't see anything in Westwood, NJ," She said.

Huh? "It's there, it's called ("Nice Massage School for New York-Bound Therapists"). In Westwood, New Jersey."

"I don't see it," she repeated. "Unfortunately, if it's not in my system, then we can't send your funds there."

My jaw hit the floor. A quick phone call to the school confirmed that they only take loans from Sallie Mae, which is a private company, and is not the same as your old-fashioned student loan. For one thing the interest rates are twice as high.

So, here I am, with a school that has a proven track record of training New York therapists, but won't take my Federal Student Aid. On the other hand, I have a school that looks awesome on paper, that will take my student loan, but I don't know anyone practicing in New York (or anyone who knows of someone practicing in New York) that has studied there. And of course is not on the short list of NY-approved schools.

"But, Ouiser," you may ask, "Why don't you just attend one of the schools on the NY-approved list?" Well, I'd love to, but check out the list. Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island... none of those places are driving-accessible to Nyack. And the place in Manhattan? It's the Harvard of Massage. Twenty-five thousand smackers. Not an option for me, even with financial aid.

Besides... the feds aren't giving me a lot of money. They seem to think that since I'm 33 and have a college degree, I should be able to pay for a lot of it myself. That really stung. Even for the program that cost a little less than eight thousand, my student loan only gave me five thousand. bitter rant I was supposed to pull the rest out of my pathetic temp-worker paychecks and the occasional unemployment change. And I guess not eat every day. end bitter rant

Oh, and there's that whole I-was-just-forced-out-of-New-York-City-
and-I'll-be-damned-if-I'm-going-to-commute-in-and-out-of-it-now thing.
(Ok, NOW end bitter rant)

So I have spent this entire day on the phone with two massage therapy schools, the federal student aid office, and digging up info on the net. I found a third school too. I emailed them and asked for a catalog. Right now, it's 4:18pm. Now, even though I am frustrated as hell, this has been a good day's work.

My friend Glamgirl is in New York for a few months, visiting from Korea. We spent last weekend together, shopping and noshing and talking about what we wanted to do next in our lives. At some point, she said "All the time I know you, I never see you really *want* to do anything - until now."

This girl and I struggled through SCAMDA together. She gave the maid-of-honor speech at my wedding. We spent an autumn of never-ending club-hopping after my marriage disintegrated. She remembers every job I ever had, every life I've ever tried to live. "You really want this," she said. "It's good."

"Yeah," I said to her, "It is good."


Jeff said...

Damn right it's good. People who want something, really want it, are people who are alive. Everything (or everyone) else is just sleepwalking through life.

I never realized how much you and I are in the same boat where our future education is concerned. Good luck, hon!

Douglas said...

Realizing you're just GONNA keep a-goin' till you reach your goals is the only way, Ms O. And you're on that road. The waters will part. Keep at it.