Shifting Gears

Jim Midkiff Graduating

Jim Midkiff, Therapeutic Massage Graduate

A Man On The Move

Jim Midkiff is not a man to just do nothing. “I don’t want to be a couch potato,” he says, “because I think sitting on the couch watching television is a waste of life.” So in 2009, when Jim retired from Roadway Express after 31 years as a truck driver, he immediately took on another task: for the next two years, he and his wife served the Mormon Church, working as welfare services missionaries. And when their service ended in 2011, he already had the next phase of his life planned – to become a massage therapist.

“The day that we were released from the mission,” he recalls, “I was on the computer that night looking at Forsyth Tech’s website to see what classes were available. By noon the next day I had taken the entrance exam, signed up for the classes I was going to take for the fall semester, paid my tuition and bought my books.”

Starting And Stopping

It’s something Jim had been thinking about for a long time. “The reason I wanted to do Therapeutic Massage,” he says, “was because in 1980 my wife and I got a 15-year-old foster daughter who had Multiple Sclerosis. And when her back was bothering her a lot she would have me rub her back, and she said, ‘Daddy, you have wonderful hands. You should do this for a living.’ But I wasn’t in a position to give up truck driving because of the income and insurance it provided. So I stayed with truck driving until I retired, and then I got into therapeutic massage.”

Jim took Therapeutic Massage classes at Forsyth Tech through the summer semester of 2012, “but then I had a prompting from the Lord to go back to truck driving,” he says. “I was praying about it. I said I don’t know why I should go back to truck driving. I’m doing well in school and I enjoy it, but I knew He was saying ‘Go back to truck driving,’ so after the summer classes in 2012 I went back to truck driving.” While driving his truck, Jim heard a radio show about long-term health care insurance and decided he and his wife needed to get it. To qualify, he had to get a physical, and that lead to the discovery that he had prostate cancer. “And I knew then why the Lord had told me to go back to work,” he says.

Back To School

Over the next few months Jim faced a series of medical issues that, he says now, would have caused him to drop out even if he had stayed in school. All together he was out of work for about five and a half months. Eventually he did return to his truck driving job, but in the spring of 2013 he started to feel like it was time to get back to school, so he did.

This time he was able to stay with it. He received his diploma in Therapeutic Massage in May of 2015 and his license to practice massage in August of 2015. But instead of stopping there, he decided to get his AAS degree. “I wanted the associate degree because two ladies who were a year ahead of us, Jessica Wright and Judy Glenn, gave a presentation on the associate program, and I thought ‘These two ladies know a lot more than I do and I want to know what they know, and this is the best way to learn it.’ So I stayed another year to get the Associate in Applied Science degree. And I got a very handsome wristwatch for being the oldest person in the graduating class.” Jim was 70 at the time.

Pushing Himself

As part of the program, Jim had to do 160 hours of work-based learning. To accomplish this, he went to work at Massage Envy in February of this year. Meanwhile, he was dealing with even more medical issues. Around Thanksgiving of 2015 his doctor found more cancer cells, and Jim had to undergo 37 radiation treatments. As the treatments went on, his energy level dropped and he had to stop working at Massage Envy, but they told him they would hold his job for him. He literally took his last radiation treatment the day he graduated from Forsyth Tech.

Jim is now back working at Massage Envy and loving it. “They like me and I love them,” he says. “They’re all terrific people.” And now that he’s healthy again, he’s working as much as he can. “I’m trying to figure out what my physical limits are,” he says. He also has other goals. “My desire is to get qualified in as many modalities as I can, and work at Massage Envy or have my own business, but then do volunteer work, probably at the VA hospital in Kernersville. But I haven’t gotten that organized yet.”

An Inspiration

Having started on his second career at 70, Jim hopes others may be moved to do the same. “If this inspires any senior citizens to get off the couch and get back in school, it’s been well worth it,” he says. And he says Forsyth Tech would be the place to go. “Being 70 years old and having been a truck driver, I was definitely not computer literate, but they made it as easy as they could. And the kids that I had for classmates, I told them all, ‘I love you like you’re my own children.’ And that’s how we all felt.” In fact, he’s kept in touch with several of his classmates, and even works with a few at Massage Envy. They all agree that Forsyth Tech was the right choice. “I don’t know anybody who is not happy that they were in the program,” he says with a smile.