Nantucket Portraits

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Aaron Pigue

Rob Smith

Where are you from, and when did you come to Nantucket?

I'm from Gainesville, Florida. I came here for the first time in 2006. I started working here in 2012... I'm usually here for about 7 - 8 months of the year.

What is it you do?

I normally like to mess with people and tell them I'm a dreamer, in a Cheech and Chong type accent. But actually I do orthopedic massage therapy and integrative massage and personal training. I think that human contact is the best way to heal people, on a mental and emotional level. And I've studied and learned a lot about human anatomy and injuries... torn ligaments, tendons, spinal problems... but when it comes to massage therapy,  people really like to be touched. We are increasingly isolating ourselves from each other, and there's lots of evidence to suggest that loneliness propagates disease. There are lots of people who pay just to have their hands put on them, and there's something to be said for that.

Can you tell us about your life as a musician?

I basically dropped everything else to pursue music, much to my father's chagrin. I was big into sports... I still like sports, I enjoy playing them, being physically active. But as soon as I touched the guitar I was like "OK, this is it..." There's a lot I love about playing, but for me it's more of a decompression valve. I don't think of it in terms of career, but I happened to meet some people that were various serious musicians, and we all started playing together. I find myself kind of on this ride with them. It's an interesting ride... we just love to improvise with each other, play off each other... I studied jazz in school, which inspired me to explore improvisation. I usually practice between 4 - 6 hours a day. That's about as seriously as I take it though... for me it's mostly just therapy.

How has working on island affected your career?

My work found a niche here... it really took off in a way I didn't expect it to. I got a lot of demand, mostly through word of mouth, and before I knew it I had more work than I knew what to do with. And it's really helping people... I found a real sense of value with my work here. I don't know if this is where I'm supposed to be, but being on Nantucket dramatically shifted my life. I have a really clear sense of purpose. It broke me out of abject poverty... I was living in an old broken down motor home before I came here. I wasn't really sad or anything like that, but now that I'm here I have more options. The money doesn't make me happier. But I found that to be validated with what you do, and have people want to tell their friends, and get really positive feedback... that's all very rewarding.

Any advice you'd like to give?

Don't get caught up in expectations. What happens in life is what happens. What you expect to happen is what pisses us off, and makes us bitter. The one thing we're guarenteed is our capacity to do work, and that comes in all shapes in forms... whether one wants to meditate in a cave, all day every day, or one wants to pursue some high corporate position. When I get up every morning I realize I have a mind and a body, and I can do stuff with them... I go out and do stuff with intention. I like the notion of the Wu Wei in Taoism... passive action. Engage in life. Experience life. Have dreams and ambitions. But don't get caught up in the results. Just experience it. At the end of the day, I come home and I don't dwell on how things turned out.