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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Second Careers: Lead to New Growth

Aug 26, 2015 06:00PM ● By Carrie Jackson

Arlette Greer and client

As more and more people in their 40s and 50s are looking at major career and lifestyle changes, the days of getting a job right out of school that we stick with for our whole life are becoming scarcer. Because of the focus on mindfulness, spirituality, healing and wellness, an increasing number of people are turning to practices such as massage and shiatsu as a mid-life career change. Steve Rogne, director of Zen Shiatsu Chicago, in Evanston, sees this on a regular basis. He says, “A lot of our students have gone a long way in their previous profession and realize they are looking for something different. They are taking care of elderly parents, looking at their own health in a different way and wanting to make their family happier and healthier. Shiatsu fills that goal and serves those needs.”

Zen Shiatsu Chicago is one of the top schools in Illinois for practitioner training and certification. They also offer shiatsu treatments, traditional Western massage sessions, acupuncture, workshops and educational seminars. After a long background in management, Arlette Greer stated taking classes at Zen Shiatsu Chicago in 2009, and now is a teacher, practitioner and an academic administrator. Victoria Cameron, who spent decades in dance and theater, is now two years into the training program. Both say that shiatsu isn’t something they would have looked at early on in their lives, but it came at a time when they were ready and open for a change.

Greer says, “It [shiatsu] was a long journey. I was a management consultant working long hours, traveling a lot and making good money, but it just wasn’t right for my personality. I wanted to find a way to work and actually help people. I was interested in coffee and wine, and joined Metropolis in 2003. I planned to open my own business in 2008, but when the economy sank, I had a lot of fear and anxiety. I decided to really think about what I should do with my life, did a lot of soul searching and talked to everybody I knew. A friend of a friend told me I must look into Asian bodywork. A few weeks later, I went to an open house, and a week after that found myself enrolled in our 625-hour shiatsu training class, which I completed while still working 32 hours a week. All of a sudden, everything made sense. Everything clicked.”

Cameron says, “I have always considered myself an entertainer. I’ve spent most of my life in the theater and dancing. I’ve never enjoyed school or been a good student. The fear of taking a test or not being able to learn something new has always held me back. A few years ago, I got out of a 13-year relationship and was searching for something new. I knew I had to start over, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I moved from the suburbs back into the city and stayed with a friend who was a massage therapist. I also was taking care of my elderly mother, who recently died at 97 years old. I was so interested in caregiving that I became a certified nursing assistant, which I really do enjoy and find rewarding. When my friend had to take a refresher course on shiatsu, I came along to see what it was about. I was immediately intrigued and made a commitment to completing the training program.”

As an older student, Greer says, “I had spent years in graduate school, so I was used to being around young people. I was worried about the physicality of the work—it was hard to be in a room with 20-year-olds who are so limber. For me, the academic part was easier. It was nice to come back as an adult learner because I was super motivated and really want to do this. Younger people are at the start of their journey, everything is new—they haven’t tried or failed yet or as much. Also, my middle-aged clients respond better to me because they know I understand what it’s like to wake up with the various aches and pains that come with getting older. I wouldn’t have been open to this when I was 20. The Traditional Chinese Medicine concept was familiar, but I just wouldn’t have done it. I also have a master’s degree in psychology, and all that knowledge has been useful. This came at the right time, when I was ready and open.”

Cameron says, “I have never been a good student, so taking tests and studying was difficult for me. My teachers at Zen Shiatsu Chicago make your success their priority. They “got me”, knew what I was freaked out about and knew I needed a little handholding. All of a sudden, I wasn’t embarrassed. Because I have a background in dance, I was already in pretty good shape to stretch and flow during a treatment. The movement is very melodic and keeps me in shape, so I feel younger and healthier. The stakes are a little higher for me than for other students because I need to work and need to make money, and I’ve made a commitment to do this. I see this as something I can be involved in for the rest of my life.”

“Shortly after I started full time at Zen Shiatsu Chicago, my mother said to me, “I’ve never seen you this happy. I didn’t realize you were unhappy,” says Greer. “I’m a lot calmer and don’t let things affect me as much. I’m more compassionate, and now am aware of all that we carry in our bodies. When my father was in a nursing home, I became aware of the advantages of comforting touch for the residents. They spent so much time being handled by people that when they were actually given a hug or received a massage or a compassionate hand hold, they softened and had a better quality of life at the end.”

“I have turned into a person who speaks her mind. I can’t believe I was shy in my youth!” says Cameron. “I’ve learned a lot of humbleness and bravery. I spent so many years putting up a lot of barriers and feeling maybe I didn’t have the brainpower to handle things. I’ve learned there are more people around you who want you to succeed if you tell them what they’re doing. The most important thing for me now is pursuing a life of endless curiosity. It constantly pushes you forward.”


Zen Shiatsu Chicago is located at 825 Chicago Ave., in Evanston. For more information, call 847-864-1130 or visit See ad on back cover.

Carrie Jackson is an Evanston-based writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings Magazine, and the chair of recruitment for Chicago Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Connect at