Jenni and I met my first day of massage school in March 2007. She was my very first hands-on instructor and I knew from the moment I met her that I was going to like her. Her obvious love for massage and bodywork and her laid back vibe were exactly what I was hoping to have in an instructor. Throughout my year of training, I was lucky enough to have Jenni for that first term of hands-on as well as two terms of spa class.
Her classes were always my favorites (followed closely by my deep tissue instructor Jason), and I especially loved hearing her talk about her time living and working in the British Virgin Islands. Tortola, Peter Island, Necker Island, gazing out at the beautiful blue water while giving a massage, swimming in the ocean on her days off...it sounded amazing. I admired Jenni in so many ways. Not only was she this incredibly gifted massage therapist but also an esthetician, teacher, wife and mother. She loved what she did, and made us love it too. Being her student was a gift to me.
Jenni often talked about her dream of opening her own spa. The years she'd put into the business and her extensive experience working and managing spas all over had fostered a years-long goal of doing her own thing. She'd talk about her plans and all of us students would tell her "I'll work for you!" while she kindly placated us with assurances that she'd call us if it ever happened.
When I graduated massage school in February of 2008, Jenni and I kept in touch. I knew she liked me as a student (I've always been one of those...it's the goody-goody in me) and I knew I could always turn to her for advice and information. Still, I was flat out shocked when she called me up that summer to say that she was doing it. Her spa was becoming a reality. Construction was in progress. It was really, finally happening...and would I join her team?
What?! I might have peed. Really.
At this point, I had less than 6 months of professional experience. I was massaging out of a little studio space I rented and doing in-home work off and on for friends while still working an office job. I was not exactly spa experienced. Yeah, I'd done the spa internship at school and took the spa training, but I had never worked anywhere as an employee. Jenni told me I was on the short list of people she wanted, and one of only a few former students.
When a dream job opportunity falls into your lap, you don't turn it down. I told her I was honored and that I would love to work for her at Solei.
November was our grand opening. We struggled and cleaned and jury-rigged and McGuyvered and pulled stuff out of our butts for awhile, but soon enough we were up and running and actually felt like a real spa. At first I just worked Fridays and Saturdays, but by March of 2009 Jenni offered me the opportunity to go full-time at the spa and leave my office job.
I have been blessed to have worked for some really amazing people in my short life. Jenni definitely ranks up there as one of the best. Over the past 4 years she has been not only my teacher and boss, but my mentor, my therapist, and my friend. She has supported me (and numerous coworkers) as we've juggled work and school, or work and family, or work and school and family. When I dropped the bomb that I was getting divorced, she and my Solei family swooped in to support me (and give me more hours if needed). When I had a mental breakdown followed by the death of my dad 3.5 weeks later last winter, Jenni insisted I not worry about my job and focus on myself and my family, constantly checking in on me and offering to help in whatever way possible.
She has encouraged me professionally and personally. I have become the therapist I am because Jenni believed in me. So when I told her I was contemplating following in her footsteps to the BVI, I was not surprised when she told me to go for it and that she'd do anything she could to help me. Of course, she hates the thought of losing me at Solei, but she understands the bigger picture. She's excited for me, because she loves Tortola so much herself and knows what the experience did for her.
Seeing Jenni's dream become a reality, and being a part of that process, is something I will always cherish. I have so much pride in Solei. But mostly, I am proud to know Jenni and so incredibly grateful for the huge impact she's made on my life in many, many ways. I can only hope to be half the therapist and woman that she is.