Today, September 6, is my two year anniversary. It was exactly two years ago today that I decided to become a professional face painter. I will never forget where I was, and who I was with. I had scheduled a playdate with my very good friend, Broadway's Pamela Bob, and our sons. We were to meet up at Astoria Park. I had been in deep thought for a few weeks, on this epic journey to discovering how to find joy and happiness. I had just finished reading "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. I had watched the documentary Happy about 5 times within that past month. I had been meditating, exercising, drinking more water, trying to hug people more often and for longer periods of time in order to boost my serotonin levels... Basically, I was up to my eyeballs in research on how to find true happiness.
While our boys played together, I filled Pamela in on my recent efforts and experiments, and on how much I enjoyed the book and the documentary. I was working hard to check off all of the categories that help create the formula for a happy life. One of them I learned about during all of my research was to do something for a living that you would want to do for free, simply for the joy of it. And then to find a way to get paid to do that. What was something I could do for fun, all day long, without wanting to stop? What was something I could get deeply and blissfully obsessed about, that I would yearn to do nearly every day? Something that I wouldn't want to stop doing, even if there were nobody to pay me? And then once I figured out what that thing is, how would I turn that around into something that could, in fact, get me paid?
Pamela and I chatted back and forth, brainstorming while our little boys took over the playground. Then we bumped into our friend Sophia, who had a delightful surprise of her own! We had not seen her in a few months, and there she was at the same playground with her little girl, and an adorable baby belly! Pamela looked at her and said "OH MY GOD. WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR STOMACH?!?!" and we all burst out laughing and waited for her to tell us the obvious. She announced that she was pregnant, and we all squealed and jumped up and down and hugged, and it was awesome! Then all 3 of our kids played together while Pamela and Sophia excitedly chatted about the new baby to come.
While they were playing, I realized how much I love kids and babies and cute pregnant bellies. Being on a full-blown quest to find happiness makes you far more aware of what things you like and don't like. It's about being in the present, and being awake and aware to what things make your soul vibrate and hum. (What can I say? On my spiritual quest to trying to figure out my own personal formula for happiness, I read a LOT of Eckhart Tolle.) So while I was in this beautiful moment.... the end of summer... one of the first cooler days in many weeks... the breeze circling my legs and billowing my skirt around me in a dance... the sound of children laughing in the distance... two of my dearest friends chatting excitedly next to me while the sun shone down on our faces... I had this thought that trickled into my brain. It was like a voice that resonated from somewhere deep inside of me, and for some reason, it made me tingle all over. The tingling began on my forehead, somewhere in between my eyes, then took over my entire face, trickled down my shoulders and arms, and made my hands feel warm and light. The inner voice said something like, "Children make me happy. Laughter makes me happy. Cute baby bump bellies make me happy. Bright vivid colors make me happy. Making people (especially children, but all people) feel beautiful and confident and happy makes me happy. Planning and throwing birthday parties makes me happy. Making things look pretty makes me happy. Halloween makes me happy. It's my favorite holiday. Theater makes me happy. I love going to the theater, and losing myself in the costumes and make-up and world of make-believe. Mardi Gras makes me happy for the same reasons. And it reminds me of home. Home. My childhood back in New Orleans. Family traditions... like how my family and I would drive into The French Quarter every single Sunday for brunch... and shopping... and snowballs... and scratch-n-sniff stickers... and face painting. Face painting. The woman who painted my face on Sundays after brunch was always so happy. She wore this big floppy hat with tons of silk and plastic flowers glued to it. She worked underneath a large colorful umbrella, and I would climb into her tall directors chair and close my eyes while she scribbled designs on my cheeks. As my parents loved calling them, my huge enormous and highly kissable chipmunk cheeks. She would dip sticks of color into a little purple cup of water, and then scribble hearts, stars, and rainbows on my cheeks while she hummed happily to herself. I loved her soothing voice. I would close my eyes and feel the breeze circle my legs, the exact same way it was doing here. While I sat on this bench in Astoria park with my friends. Suddenly I was back again. I opened my eyes, and instead of being 8 years old, I was 38. Thirty years had passed by within the seconds it took for me to open my eyes again and take a deep breath. I suddenly understood what I was here to do. My purpose. I suddenly knew, with every fiber of my being, that I was going to be a face painter.
A feeling of peace and excitement and bliss suddenly overcame me. I wanted to laugh and cry all at the same time. And more than anything, I wanted to get my hands on some face paints and begin. Right away. Pamela snapped me out of my trance by asking me if I was ready for lunch. I nodded and she invited our friend Sophia to join us. Sophia said she would meet us at the restaurant, she had to head home first along the way. Pamela and I walked ahead of her, and I turned to her while we were walking down the street with our little boys in tow. I said "Hey... remember what we were talking about before? I think I figured it out. While we were at the park. I was thinking... what if I became... a face painter?" I will never ever forget this moment. Pamela stopped suddenly, underneath this tree in front of somebody's house, spun around, and clasped her hands over her mouth. Wide-eyed. Then she showed me her arms, and they were COVERED in goosebumps. Suddenly mine were too. I showed her MY arms, and she shrieked "YES! YES! That's IT! Oh my GOSH, that is PERFECT!!!! That is SO what you are meant to do!!!!". I already knew that. I was positive it was so. We jumped up and down and hugged each other, and chattered enthusiastically about it all the way to the restaurant. This memory is so burned into my mind, that whenever I am near that park and I see the tree we both squealed under, I pat it gently and remember. It feels like yesterday. (Sometimes I even make sure that nobody is looking, and I give the tree a kiss and a wink). ;)
We walked into Bareburger and found a table. Sophia and her daughter joined us minutes thereafter. Once everyone had ordered their food, I turned to Sophia and said "I have an announcement to make. I am going to start my own business... as a face painter!". She was wide-eyed and squealed too, while Pamela grabbed her hands excitedly and shrieked "Isn't that AWESOME? Isn't that PERFECT for her????". Then we talked excitedly about how I would go about doing this. My plan was to go to the local Michael's craft store, buy a tiny face painting kit, and to try it out for the first time at an event I was planning already. I had invited friends to a "my kid is starting school" potluck picnic at Astoria Park shortly thereafter. For those of us with kids starting up pre-k or kindergarten. I decided to bring my paints there, and give it a go.
That night I told my husband and my parents. Everybody was very supportive. My parents even laughed when they recalled the countless times back in New Orleans when I would turn to them after having had my face painted in Jackson Square, and I would say "I'm going to be a face painter when I grow up!". They would laugh and think that was so cute and sweet. And here I was, 30 years later, completely reinventing myself as such.
That night when I went to bed, I couldn't sleep. I was vibrating so wildly, just wanting to learn how to make this happen. To soak it all in. I ended up sneaking out of bed and going to my laptop to do some research. I found various groups on Facebook, including the group for newbie painters with beginner questions just like I had. I looked at designs, floored by how intricate some of them were. I looked at stores and kits and read tons of information. I found tutorials on Youtube, and fell asleep watching them on the couch. I distinctly remember that just before I finally nodded off, I could hear birds beginning to chirp outside the window, the street lights had all turned off, and the sky had begun to turn from a pitch black to a soft navy blue.
That magical day... was September 6th, 2013. Exactly 2 years ago today.
I want to publicly thank my great friends Pamela and Sophia for cheering me on that day, and every day thereafter. Thank you for letting me practice on you, (and your baby bump!), and for being the best cheerleaders I could have hoped for on that beautiful September day. Thank you to my other friends too... Yos, Amanda, Jenny, Colette, Nadine, Cara, Tolu, Mara, Sarah, Nicole, Alberta, Travis and Stephen... and infinity more... who regularly loaned me their children so I could practice my designs. I know that the first few months were rough, and I even made some of your kids cry with how bad my initial experiments were. But you all insisted I continue, and encouraged me to never give up. Thank you to my great friend Alex for some of the most amazing business advice I have ever gotten, time and time again. You're a genius and I love you. Thank you to my SUPER-SUPPORTIVE and encouraging parents Frank and Guaracy, (I love you guys!!!), and the rest of my family for constantly asking me how my new business is going, and for sounding really excited when I tell them it's going well. That means so much. A big thanks to my adorable and amazing mother-in-law Maddy, who comes to stay with us when I have to be away at face and body painting conventions so that our little boy has his sweet Nana to cuddle with constantly while his Pop is at work and his mommy is away. So much of what I have learned and have been able to do would have been impossible without her.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to FABA TV for taking an anxious beginner face painter, and transforming me into an excited and confident face painter with just a few clicks of a mouse. You guys are AMAZING. I could not have learned how to do this without all of you. Every single instructor I've had at every convention and workshop, THANK YOU.
THANK YOU to my wonderful husband Steve, whose life has been turned upside down ever since, and yet he too continues to cheer me on through it all. Despite the fact that our apartment is now constantly sprinkled with cosmetic grade glitter, that sticks to everything he owns. Despite the fact that he is alone with the boy when I am off to various workshops, classes, and conventions to improve my skills and learn how to run my business.
The BIGGEST thank you to our little boy Ralph, who now has to cope with having a mommy who is very busy on most weekends, which I know is not as much fun for him. But his sweet little face lights up when I come home from a day's worth of painting, and he wraps his little arms around my neck and pounces on me for kisses, which makes it all worthwhile. I love you to the moon and back. SOOOOO MUCH. <3 <3 <3
Thank you EVERYBODY. On the entire PLANET. Heck, the entire UNIVERSE! THANK YOU UNIVERSE!
And in case you are wondering?
I have finally found complete and total happiness.
And it's even more awesome than I ever could have imagined it would be. <3