She started as a part-time lab assistant helping with the hands-on portion of the program, before becoming a full-time instructor, and then Program Director in 2008.
Thanks for your time Cyndi. How long have you been in the massage therapy field?
I got my initial certification in massage therapy back in 1999, so that’s 16 years I guess. I haven’t really thought about that, but there’s a certificate on my wall that says 1999!
How did you get into massage therapy as a career?
I sustained a back injury in a previous job and was in a lot of pain. A friend of mine was a massage therapist. She would come over to give me a massage, and it was the first thing that really helped. I had two daughters, was pregnant with my third, and I wanted to go back to work. I wanted a career, not another job. So when I was ready to go back to school, I chose massage therapy because I believed in it.
Was massage therapy your first college experience?
No, but it was the first program I finished, and the only thing I loved. I went to junior college about five or six different times when I was younger, but I kept dropping out. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t sit in a classroom. All those times I went, and I never finished a single class.
Massage therapy school wasn’t easy; I had young children and struggled with things like day care. I had similar struggles going back to school that many of our students have today, but I really loved what I was doing so I found a way to keep going.
After six years as a therapist, how did you get into teaching?
I just love giving massages; I believe in massage therapy and I wanted to share that with others. In that first part time lab assistant role, I discovered I loved teaching. I’ve made some choices to stay here over the years, because I love what I’m doing.
One of the criteria to become an instructor was having an associate’s degree. I decided I loved it so much that I would go back to school. I studied business administration because massage therapists often run their own businesses. I knew it would be good for me to have that knowledge for myself, but also to share with my students. Now I also have a master’s in education.
Do you still practice massage therapy?
I kept my massage therapy clientele for a long time after I started at Carrington because I really enjoy giving massages. I only gave it up a couple of years ago because it got to be too much to do both.
Back in the day what was your favorite non-massage related job?
I floated around a lot to be honest. I worked for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife restoring salmon beds for a couple of years; I really enjoyed working outside. But that’s when I hurt my back, so I had to give that job up.
Salmon restoration? How did you get into that?
I love the outdoors; all those times going back to junior college was for a natural resources course. Then one day I saw an ad in the paper asking “Do you want to work outdoors?” and I did, so there you go!
Tell us something interesting that people may not know about you?
The fact that I dropped out of college five times is probably pretty interesting. It’s not something to brag about, but it just goes to show the need for certificate programs like the ones we have at Carrington. Not everyone can succeed sitting in a classroom, some people need hands-on learning to be successful.
Something else that people might not know… I won second place in a city poetry competition here in Stockton in 2006. I like to write poetry; that was the only thing I entered and I won second place. Not many people will know that.
If you knew you going to be stranded on a desert island, what book, movie & music would you take?
Book – I would take my Bible with me.
Music – I’m not a big country fan but I really like Johnny Cash. I like Leonard Cohen’s music a lot too.
Movie – Excalibur was my favorite movie for a long time, but I have a new favorite. I saw The Naked Kiss last weekend and was blown away. It’s an old black and white movie from the 1960s. Look it up.
If you could choose to have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would that be and why?
That’s a hard question… I think I would pick my mom. She passed away about 10 years ago and it would be really nice to sit down to have dinner and a conversation with her.
Tell us a little about your family?
I’ve been married to Tony for 18 years, and we have three daughters aged 17, 15 and 14. We also have two female dogs and two female cats, so Tony is surrounded by girls!
If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be?
I love education and I love massage therapy, so I can’t think what else I might do. I love my job. If I had to do something else, I guess I’d stay home and take care of my family.
What advice do you have for students just starting the program, or those thinking about enrolling?
If you’re thinking about enrolling in school, in any school, just know that you do have what it takes. Don’t doubt yourself, you can do it. Find the school that’s right for you. Check out Carrington, check out other schools and find the right fit; find the place that feels comfortable to you.
If you’re just starting out on your program at Carrington, just persevere and finish. I don’t think there’s ever a “perfect time” to go back to school. If you look hard enough, you’ll always find a reason to quit, but stick it out and persevere. It’s so worth it.
To both groups I would say if you’ve got a dream, go for it. Don’t wait. Just last month I had a gentleman graduate. He’s my age, early 40s, and he’d wanted to be a massage therapist since leaving high school, but he’d always been talked out of it. He had a good job in finance, but he was miserable, he hated it. After a divorce, he came to school and loved it. He was literally crying when he left, he was so happy. He just wished that he hadn’t waited so long. I hear that so often you wouldn’t believe it.
Cyndi – Let me read you parts of an email we got from one of your graduates…
“One of the most influential people that I had the pleasure to learn from was Cyndi Torres… I witnessed her go above and beyond to help students who were having personal problems that were distracting them from focusing on school. She would even share her own personal struggles she had to overcome to become a therapist… Mrs. T is one of my most trusted mentors now, and I’m so blessed to have met her. I have the utmost respect for her and will remember her for the rest of my life.”
Is that your motivation?
Look, you’ve made me cry…
Yes, it’s all about the students. I just love what I do, I love being around students and being involved with people who are taking a chance on themselves. That’s a really scary thing to do you know – to give up the security of a job to go back to school. It’s scary, but it’s important to do it.
I think the worst thing you can do is to get through life and wish you’d done something different, and never tried. They inspire me and I hope I can inspire them.
You get an unexpected afternoon off to yourself, what would you do with that time?
I’d probably drive up to the mountains or out to the ocean to spend some time in the outdoors. I really like being outdoors. In fact I have a week’s vacation coming up soon, and I’m going hiking with my daughters!