A three-story house built in 1877, encases a twenty-something creative who has yet to be defined by name, trade, or time. Crossing the pavement, I’m greeted by her sing-song voice and that wild red hair of hers strewn about her radiantly tattooed arms.
Nem Ryan, as her loved ones call her, doesn’t just walk towards me–she spins. Her patterned skirts forever twirling about her frame, a welcome mat to the next friend she meets.
Let’s start with “what’s in a name” for you. I’ve seen different versions floating ’round social media.
[Laughs] “Nem” is a family name, so I didn’t necessarily choose it. And “Waverly” is a crazy bitch; I love her. It’s just another dimension. Like if your child-self were to merge with your adult-self. When you’re not scared to be yourself–that’s “Waverly.” “Emily” is rarely used, and kind of takes me by surprise. I’m always giving nicknames, too.
Names definitely pigeonhole a person, as does a job title. Yet, you haven’t allowed a career path define you. Are there any words that you use to define yourself?
Yeah, what freaks me out about getting married is that I’m constantly evolving, and wondering if the person will be able to keep up with me. [Laughs]
You seem so comfortable going it alone. What has that been like in regards to starting your own massage therapy business as well as other lines of work?
People in our community have just been awesome. Even my landlord has offered the same rent for two and a half years because he knows that I am just starting out. I didn’t think I’d make so many connections, and was shocked at the open mindedness of our small town–they are okay with what I do. There is also a development center in our small town that has been super supportive. They want to see [small businesses] flourish so that the economy grows and more businesses can succeed, here.
What advice would you give to young women seeking to strike a business plan, all by their lonesome?
I haven’t felt hindered in any way because I am a woman. But I would tell my younger version that it’s going to be scary. That if the passion is there for what you’re doing, don’t worry about money. It comes after seeking and doing something that you love. Money shouldn’t be the issue.
Are there any career paths you regret taking or not taking?
No, because I have so much life left and so much left to give. I tend to be overzealous, though and can’t say no to things. Recently, I was a Body Pump instructor, and had to swallow my pride and stop instructing. I related the job to a personal relationship, and then I realized we were through. So, if a job makes you feel crappy or just isn’t sitting right, break up with it.
And I do wish I would’ve paid more attention in school when teachers talked about owning your own business instead of doodling away. [Laughs]
Can you recall the precise moment that you knew you wanted to be a massage therapist?
Initially, I went to cosmetology school to be a nail technician, and then entered a trade school and took massage courses just to kill time. The energy work–reiki, chakra balancing, power of touch–fascinated me. That’s when I found myself. I was where I was supposed to be.
And what led you to teacher training to become a certified yoga instructor?
I took private lessons with yoga instructor, Olivia Heisner, and oh, my God. I had no idea that it could be so relaxing and enjoyable. I wanted to provide that for other people. My teacher training is with Yoga at Connie’s and takes place in a big, refurbished barn. I’m working towards acquiring my 200 hour RYT, meaning I will have credentials to teach in any country! My classes are not pose based; my goal is to teach people body awareness, self-love. My slower class is more chilled, where we focus on relaxing the mind. I am embarking on an intermediate class, which isn’t to say that it’s necessarily tougher. It’s more movement based, but still a very chill-based, mental experience.
Have you faced fear while running down dreams?
It’s good to do things that scare you, but your gut shouldn’t be scared. Trying new things terrifies me at first–like singing in front of an audience, teaching a fitness class–but now I love it. In dealing with the fear: I sought out people who I knew to be supportive. I’d think, “What’s the worst thing that could happen? Everyone else watching you was too scared to even attempt it.” It’s a very healthy amount of fear.
Along this vein: we grew in the mid-west in the late eighties, early nineties, where women wanted to be “settled” by a certain age. Has this notion ever caused you to fear being so “unsettled?”
I used to doubt myself, thinking, “Why don’t I want this American dream of settling down?” My family has always thought of me as someone having a baby at twenty, but they love to see me so free. Some people get snotty, but those are people that don’t really know me.
A Cinderella Complex?
Right. Don’t sacrifice your passions because of other people’s expectations. Ultimately, you won’t be happy in your day to day.
If you had to choose one job for the rest of your happy days, what would it be?
A life coach, more than anything. A motivational speaker. There are so many avenues you can take with being a life coach, and I’d love to do that in order to provide overall wellness to others. Helping to change perspectives and to realize that happiness is a choice is paramount.
Turn off your telly and tune into Waverly’s Playlist:
“Stumbled in,” The Wood Brothers
“Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright,” Bob Dylan & Susan Tedeschi versions
“Angel from Montgomery,” John Prine
Nem Ryan’s Reading Referenced:
- The Four Agreements – Nem says: This delves into why we stop dancing, singing in front of others–so thoughtful.
- The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne – Nem says: I know I will have success now and in the future because of this book.