Carla Morello moved to Jacksonville Beach from New York as a child. She wasn't an athlete. But she had a career goal.
"I thought I was supposed to be a nurse,” Morello said. “I did that for a little while, then realized I didn't like it, didn't want to do it anymore. I went for a shift one night and turned around and came home. My husband said, 'what are you going to do?' I said, 'I have no clue, but give me a day to think about it and I'll figure it out.' I just made a list of what I like to do, and what I liked to do most was exercise. So I became a fitness trainer and aerobics instructor."
Morello worked as a trainer at a number of fitness centers and resorts in the area. Then an injury opened her eyes to yet another health-related profession — massage therapy.
"I had pulled my bicep tendon doing fitness training and my own workouts, and I couldn't do any upper body workouts for six months. I tried PT, I did cortisone, and the next thing was surgery. I said, absolutely not. A client of mine gave me a certificate for a massage from her massage therapist. He moved some things around in my shoulder, I heard a big pop, and about a week later, it was much better — and I thought, I want to help people like that."
So Morello trained and became licensed as a massage therapist in 2002. She's worked for herself from the beginning.
"I carried my table for two years, and decided my back wasn't going to take that much longer, and rented a 500-square-foot space. I shared that with my friend Adrienne, who's still with me. I decided I hated paying rent, and started to look for a building. I bought the little one next to where I am now. Originally, it was a daycare, and oh my, was it a mess. We had to gut it. Five therapy rooms and a small training space. When my husband and I split up, we had to expand a little bit. So we bought this one in 2012 and started to remodel,” she said.
Starting a new business was for Morello, like jumping off a cliff and trusting in a soft landing.
"When I signed the lease-purchase for this building, the build-out was going to cost about $45,000. I had $5,000 in my bank account,” she said. “I signed the papers, and I said, I'll figure it out. The right people came into my life to help me with that, and I got a loan. I worked by butt off in that massage room, and we did it in stages, because that's all we could afford."
Even though she's always worked in a health-related field, Morello Morello says that what she does for a living now has changed her in ways that the other jobs didn't.
"I've become a more compassionate, empathetic person. People are trusting me. They're looking forward to coming. No one ever walks in here and says, oh, I don't want to be here,” she said.
“Everyone who comes in that door is happy to see me, and they're even happier when they leave!” she said. “To be able to bring that kind of joy to someone in an hour, and get paid a decent wage to do so, I couldn't ask for a better job.
She said, “People have asked me, 'how long have you been working as a massage therapist?' and I say, 'you know what, I haven't worked in 15 years,' because it doesn't feel like a job.'"
Morello plans to broaden her horizons, as well.
She said, "I have a farm in Nicaragua; I have eight acres down there. Next year, I plan to add yoga and surf workshops. I want a surf camp! I'll still be working — I don't think I'll ever retire.”