I had a nutrition professor in college who said that you had to be a people person if you were going to have a career in health. She said that it falls into one of three categories where folks have opinions even if they have limited training/education. Those three categories were health, religion, and politics. She said that it didn’t matter how much education you had on those topics, you could still find yourself debating (arguing?) with a student about whether or not gluten was bad for them even if they didn’t have celiac’s disease. Part of me thinks she was speaking from experience. :)
I agreed with her at the time, and I still do after thinking on it for a while. But I don’t necessarily think it is a bad thing folks have opinions on these things. They all are integral to our lives in one way or another and it’s only natural for folks to try to learn what they can even if it is not their formal job. These three categories are all great examples of areas where you can have street smarts vs book smarts. Some folks only have experience in health, religion, and politics as a result of living and learning from their experiences, while others have that life experience coupled with some sort of education. You can’t say that about certain career fields like engineering, marketing, computer science, etc.
I have come to celebrate and encourage those opinions from folks about health and wellness. To me, it is a signal that the person has something that is driving them to make those decisions Maybe they are wanting to achieve a physical goal like completing a triathlon, hoping to lose some weight, or just hoping to be healthy enough to play with grandchildren. Whatever it is, there is a something there that we can both use to work on together and create amazing change.
It makes more sense to encourage that curiosity and desire to make small positive changes in ones life to improve their health and wellness in my opinion. Thinking through all this, I absolutely agree with my old nutrition professor (she was right on SO MANY things), that the health and wellness industry is a people driven world.
I’m very excited to share that I am following my passion and transitioning back into the health and wellness industry because my passion is working with others. I considered renewing my certifications in personal training and indoor cycling, and while that might happen in the future, I’ve chosen to try my hands (pun INTENDED!) at massage.
When I think back, I’ve always been drawn to health and wellness. I remember getting extremely exited about a weight loss book that my mom had (if I ever find the name/book image, I will link it here). I read the entire thing cover to cover, and filled out whatever the work sheets were for different members of my family changing workout and diet recommendations depending on what their fitness goals were. We didn’t follow through with that, but it kept me busy for a week or two.
In college I decided to double major in Health Promotion rather than fully changing majors from Marketing completely. That was equal parts me not being authentic to who I was at the time and a testament to how strong the McCombs brand was. I laugh thinking back on how shocked my college advisor was when I told her my freshman year that I wanted to switch out of the business school to get a degree in Kinesiology. “You want to drop out of the McCombs school? Do you know how many students would kill for your spot?” she said.
She was right. There was a very long waitlist to get into the business school at UT due to it’s top ranking. I remember being surprised when a lot of other students I met during freshman orientation would say “I’m in liberal arts, but I’m hoping to switch into the business school.” My first business class was equal parts helpful practical information about how to tie a tie, present yourself at a party/networking function, and how to create and format a resume, and equal part hype machine for the school and the students.
“You are all phenomenal leaders for being able to get into this program,” is an example of what we heard on a regular basis. Which I honestly agree is a great tone to take when working with young adults because they tend to rise to your expectations. It was a very large class of about 300 people (remember my biggest classes in high school were about 25!), and I remember them having us all stand up if we were in the top 10% of the class. Almost the entire room stood up. They then asked us to continue standing if we ranked top three, and surprisingly half of the room was still standing. They took it one step further and asked us to keep standing if were Valedictorians in our class. The collective room was pretty shocked when about 25% of us were still standing. “That’s what our statistics look like in person,” said one of the professors.
That was admittedly a way to build us up, but it also put a shit ton of pressure on me as well. Given that I had gotten to where I was by suppressing who I was authentically as a young gay man, and working my ass off to receive external validation through scholastic achievement in what I thought was a losing battle to prove my worth to society, you can imagine why I would be compelled to continue in the fancy exclusive program with great statistics and rankings. If I’m being honest, I probably would not have stayed in business school if I was more comfortable with who I was at the time. That said, I’m grateful for my business degree now and can see value in it.
I continued to grow in the health and wellness industry always with the understanding that my experience there was secondary to my real business job (whatever it was at the time). I received training to get my personal training certification with my health promotion classes and began working for the school gym as a person trainer. A year or so in, my personal training manager, who also managed the other fitness programs for the gyms on campus, asked if I would be interested in teaching indoor cycling classes due to my Texas 4000 experience. I started doing that and then went on to teach group fitness and boot camp classes as well.
I continued a couple fitness jobs on the side until I started my job at GLG, and I was admittedly very excited to quit them altogether when I started my job. I mean, I had held part time fitness positions and managed anywhere between 2-6 side hustles for about 7 years - I needed a break!
I have worked at GLG for the last 3 years and have not had any part-time roles in fitness. I honestly could not have had a part time weekly fitness job while working at GLG due to the amount of work I tended to take home with me. So I was a bit tired working so many jobs while working my nonprofit and tech jobs, and then I continued to keep those hours at GLG just focusing on that one job. I was exhausted going in, and I got even more exhausted while I was there.
It wasn’t until the last year that I started realizing this. I finally broke down and asked for help - which is something that I never thought I would need to do. I admitted that things were not going well for me and I couldn’t do it on my own.
It’s through that work with my psychiatrist and therapists (you read that right!), that I realized this idea that I needed to work in a successful corporate job in downtown Austin was derived from this previous thought pattern I had developed growing up closeted to measure up to and exceed societies standards at all times. After making that discovery, I knew that a transition back to the health and wellness world was needed, but just had to decide where to jump back in at.
My therapy helped me realize that I have had an interest in massage since I was in college. I’d even mentioned to a few family members that I wish I could get my license while I was in college, but I didn’t think taking a break from college to do that would be viewed very kindly by future employers (and I’d be so behind where I needed to be!) so I didn’t. I’m also working to live authentically which includes owning shame, and for some reason I have a degree of shame associated with being a licensed massage therapist. I don’t really understand it, and I fully realize that others don’t have that hangup. But for whatever reason, I didn’t think I would be ‘successful’ as a massage therapist.
Well with my new desire to live authentically and develop this brave new love for myself, and my willingness to take things head on, I decided that massage was the way to go. Why not just jump in the deep end right?!
Finally, and probably most importantly, I have come to know that my passion lies in helping others, and that I am very excited about sharing my authentic self to the world while encouraging others to do the same. I believe that massage can be one way of helping to heal and restore ourselves authentically through the means of physical touch.
I have officially left GLG and have now completed one week of massage school. I am so excited this journey has started and can’t wait to continue learning about the healing and restorative benefits of body work through therapeutic massage therapy.
This first week, we had an assignment to turn in an ‘autobiography’ so that our instructors would get to know us. I was tempted to put up some of my old masks that I have been working so hard to take off while writing the bio by leaning into my career accomplishments, and not mention any of what I mentioned above.
“It’s too personal,” my inner voice was telling me. “You need to impress them so that you can support yourself with a successful massage business. No one will want to see you for healing work if you are so open about your own therapy.”
I thought through it, meditated on it, and prayed on it a bit and decided that I wanted to be the exact same person at massage school as I am on this blog. My hope is that my honesty will encourage others to be honest about their insecurities as well, get help when needed, and ultimately live authentically.
In the spirit of full transparency, here’s that bio. Might be helpful for anyone I haven’t been able to catch up with in the last couple years!
“My name is Lance Pyburn. I’m from a small town in Texas originally, but having lived in Austin for 13 years I feel like I can call myself an honorary Austinite at this point! Growing up in a town of just over 4000 people in a house down a long dirt road passed miles of cattle pasture was an amazing experience in so many ways, but I definitely had a lot to learn when I moved to the ‘big city’ of Austin at the age of eighteen.
I attended the University of Texas and chose to double major in Business Administration and Health Promotion. I quickly fell in love with my mind being blown which happened regularly as I met and befriended folks with all types of backgrounds. My adventures with these new friends included riding a bike from Texas to Alaska with a nonprofit called Texas 4000, interning at the White House while studying in a fellowship program in Washington, D.C., and becoming a cycling instructor and group fitness instructor.
I eventually graduated with both degrees in business and health promotion and was hired as Program Director for Texas 4000. That is where I learned my full potential as a leader and discovered my passion and love for helping others. After four great years, I made the tough decision to leave the nonprofit in hopes of higher salaries in corporate America. I worked at two different companies during this time and while the salaries were higher, I burned myself out in four years due to not doing what I loved.
My decision to transition back to the wellness world is based on my new priority to live as my authentic self. I have always been fascinated with health and wellness, and have now chosen to start massage specifically based on my desire to help and heal people."