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caption: When Lauren Divine lost her job as a barista at the beginning of the pandemic, she decided to shift gears and become a massage therapist.
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When Lauren Divine lost her job as a barista at the beginning of the pandemic, she decided to shift gears and become a massage therapist.
Credit: courtesy of Lauren Divine

Voices of the pandemic: Making a career change when your job closes down

The pandemic has disrupted many people’s lives. For some, that disruption gave them the opportunity to start down a new path. That’s what happened to Lauren Divine, who lives in West Seattle.

Voices of the Pandemic is a series of first-person accounts of the coronavirus era in and around Seattle.

Before the pandemic hit, I was working at a coffee shop in downtown Seattle, across the street from the library.

March 13 was my last day of work.

It was really scary to lose my job. I have never been on unemployment. I went from working full-time and going hiking on both Saturdays and Sundays in general, and doing some volunteer work too. So having a pretty full schedule, which is how I like it, to just — nothing.

It was a lot of extra time. At least for me, that extra time had a lot of benefit in that I was able to start thinking more of what I was actually passionate about — of what I should be contributing to this world, just what — what do I want to do?

I think I’ve been considering massage therapy for about two years now. What stopped me is just paying the money and doing a major life change, quitting your job. There seemed to be many bumps between where I was at as a barista to becoming a massage therapist. Covid took away maybe 95% of those.

I really remember sitting there, just feeling very lonely. And I kind of always go back to this idea of human connection.

In normal times, I feel like we need more human connection. Like, when do we really sit down? You know, like, touch each other and just feel intimate in a way of ... we’re both humans and both social. So I definitely remember having those emotions and just feeling like I needed to share it with people.

We’re not meant to sit in a room alone and stare at a computer screen all day. We’re meant to talk, and we’re definitely meant to touch.

That’s what I was missing, and that’s ultimately when I decided to go to massage therapy school.

I started in May. I love my program. My online components are like anatomy. We learn about how the muscles move and, you know, learn how to identify all of them.

Whenever we can go back in person, we'll start a year’s worth of hands-on, in-person classes.

I definitely enjoyed being a barista. However, it was never meant to be something that I wanted to do forever. I think in a lot of ways, it was just something that was comfortable and easy for me.

Once the pandemic hit, I found myself wondering: "How can I affect people in a positive manner in my life? What am I going to leave behind?"

The audio version of this story features music by Bach, performed by Abilene. Alec Cowan wrote our Voices of the Pandemic theme song. Sound design was by Joshua McNichols.