The Learning Curve

Almost three decades ago, when I was in high school, we were encouraged to visit the career resource room.  This room housed all information pertaining to careers as well as post-high school education opportunities. Since the internet was not yet born, all information was found in print materials.  A career counselor was available for questions and speakers were frequently invited to talk about different careers.

I always wanted to be a massage therapist. There was one brochure from the AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) in the room and I treasured it.  However, my parents insisted I go to college instead and get a degree.  They said “in college you learn how to learn” and that the best time to go was immediately after graduating high school. They said after I had a degree, I could study massage in the future.

So off to Miami University I went.  I began to explore majors.  I’d always had a flair for language and loved travel, so I looked into majors that would be complimentary to my foreign language skills.  First, I tried international studies until I enrolled in (and dropped) a political science class.  Next, I considered marketing but failed calculus, hence ruining my chance of getting into Miami’s business school. Then, I became a Spanish major but found literature extremely boring.  Finally, I decided to investigate teaching.  Long story short, I have been a teacher of Spanish, English, and ESL for over twenty years.  My parents were right.  My degree has served me well and I have always been employed.

However, teaching has a high burn-out rate and I was getting burnt out.  One thing I loved about teaching was the creativity.  One thing I loathed was classroom management and discipline.  I still longed to do massage and decided it was time to change careers.  In my 30s, I enrolled in Baltimore School of Massage.  Being a student again was intense. Juggling work, family, and night school was a challenge.  Two years later I finished my courses, took and passed the licensing exams and started practice as a licensed massage therapist.  A lifelong dream fulfilled!  Around the same time I was finishing up with program, my husband and I decided the time was ripe to make aliyah.

In 2010, a second dream came true. We moved to Israel.  I was told that because of Israel’s geographic location, Western medicine meets Eastern philosophy and people are more open to alternative medicine here.  As a new massage practitioner, I planned on doing massage full-time.  As the saying goes, “Man plans, G-d laughs” and I found myself back in the classroom teaching English.  Teaching was the primary income and massage was work on the side.

Currently, I am still in the classroom.  I find the Israeli student a different breed than their American counterparts.  My classroom management toolbox needs some new tools.  The language barrier doesn’t help matters and the culture in an Israeli classroom is much different than what I’m used to.  The burn-out is resurfacing.

In Israel (and probably other countries) one often must have multiple income sources to make ends meet. Advice given is to take a skill,  talent, or passion and turn it into a business.  So this is what I have done.

I’ve taken my talent and passion for creating serene spaces and turned it into a business.  I help my clients create organizing systems, declutter unwanted items, and organize their homes so they are efficient and welcoming spaces.  It uses my organizing talents, my creativity, my love for sharing knowledge and the importance of visual relaxation, which connects to physical relaxation (very important to a massage therapist).  Everything I enjoy is rolled into one job title:  home organizer.  I am truly enjoying this line of work.

Now here is where my parents’ sage advice of “learning how to learn” has come in handy.  I’m finding the how-to of being an entrepreneur one huge learning curve. Had I passed calculus and gotten into business school, I could have been a marketing expert by now.  Granted, social media didn’t exist at the time, but I would have learned the basics.  I spend a lot of time muddling through WordPress, doing on-line tutorials, and reading articles about business matters.  There has been a lot of trial and error.  Comparing this to my journey to religious observance, I didn’t know what I didn’t know until I started learning.

In the meantime, while I slip and slide on this learning curve, I am transferring my creativity I had in the classroom to create home solutions to common organizational challenges.  I get to incorporate the part of my personality that loves to teach, share and give over knowledge.  I am enjoying the people-person part of my work by helping clients make their homes organized and user-friendly.

Life is a journey.  We may have a road map, but there are plenty of detours and surprises along the way.  Who would have thought a young girl from the Chicago suburbs wanting to be a massage therapist would one day be a teacher, massage therapist and run a successful home organizing business in Israel.

As my mom always says, “no education is ever wasted.”  She was right.  There is always more to learn and a learning curve it will be.

About the Author
Karen Furman has a degree in education from Miami University and is also a trained massage therapist. Known as The Klutter Koach, she enjoys helping people organize and declutter their homes. She made aliyah from Baltimore in 2010, and lives in Ramat Bet Shemesh with her husband and six children. Read more tips and tricks on her blog at www.theklutterkoach.com, or follow her on Facebook @theklutterkoach.
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