Eleven years ago this month I first stepped foot on the island of O'ahu. Back then I knew next-to-nothing about the Hawaiian Islands. I had lived my entire life in Wisconsin. My trip to Hawai'i was meant to be a spiritual quest, to step foot in the Pacific Ocean, and to visit a friend in grad school. I had absolutely no intention of staying.
Please allow me to explain... and please forgive the length of my good, true story
For years I would get up at 4:30 AM to paint or sculpt before going to work. I knew if I waited until the end of the day to create, I would not have the energy.
Every morning I would ask aloud, "how can I manage to paint full time?"
Ask and it is given, we have all heard this mantra. Still, I was completely surprised when, after 3-4 years of asking, the opportunity presented itself.
Winter in Wisconsin is cold and snowy. In January 2000, my friend Kit and I decided to take a one-week vacation to visit my friend Sarah, a grad student in Hawai`i.
Sarah was a busy TA; preparing to teach, writing a grant proposal to do research at the Smithsonian, and she had just moved into a tiny garage apartment. She paid her rent by doing yard work for the UH professor who owned the house.
On our last day, we snorkeled at Hanauma Bay; and walked the length of Waimanalo Beach, where we came upon a tour group with boogie boards. I had never even seen boogie board before, but I knew I HAD to ride one.
A tour guide took me out and caught a wave for me. Not knowing what to do, I got up on my knees and rode in to shore. What fun! The next, larger wave washed the board right out from under me, but I didn't care. I had been transformed by the experience.
It was time to leave the beach; we had to get ready for the airport. As we walked back to our car, I turned around to wave good-bye to the tour guide. He waved back and tears of gratitude and joy streamed down my face.
Suddenly I thought: "What will Sarah do if she gets her research grant to work in DC? She wouldn't want to lose an apartment where she didn't pay rent! I could quit my job, sell my house, and take care of it for her.
I could PAINT!"
In order to keep the bolt of energy I felt running through me, I repeated these same words, out loud this time, so Kit could her them.
Later that day when Sarah showed us her apartment for the first time, I asked her what she would do if she got the grant. She asked if I'd want to house sit. I said yes.
Within one month of returning from our trip, while working full time as Creative Services Manager at DEMCO, Inc., rising to paint at 4:30 AM, I painted one of my rare landscapes shown above, "Kit at One with the Volcano". (Yes we were that close to the flow!)
We waited three months to find out that Sarah did get the grant. That gave me just six weeks to quit my job, sell my house, and move.
I had never moved out of Wisconsin before. This was a HUGE decision.
I didn't know what I was getting myself into, but I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It felt riskier to stay in my very stable, wonderful job, in my own comfortable home near the arboretum in Madison, than to make this move.
Time after time doors have opened for me in Hawai`i. Yes, I have worked very hard. I was an oil painter in WI. I learned to paint with watercolors after realizing the small space of Sarah's apartment could be lethal when combined with fumes from the oils.
The day I took Sarah to catch her plane to DC was the day I realized I didn't know anyone here. I was thousands of miles and 5 time zones away from family & friends.
It has been hard at times, and lonely at times; and I wouldn't change any of the past eleven years for a minute! I have learned SO much about art, about my life, and about life in general during the eleven years since my first boogie board ride.
One of the first paintings I sold through the
One of the most important things I've learned is that we don't have to know all the steps needed to reach our goal. What is needed is an area of focus, a strong desire, a great deal of perseverance, and the willingness to take a risk.
I had absolutely no idea when I first decided to visit Hawai`i in January 2000 that I would be living here today. It simply never occurred to me. But I did know what I wanted to do. I wanted to paint full time. Now that is what I do.
Reaching a goal is always about putting one foot in front of the other - over and over and over again. Be prepared for anything, and something will happen.
Think of Indiana Jones taking that first invisible step in The Last Crusade. Stay focused and trust. Trust in yourself and trust in your inner guidance.
As Dale Carnegie once said: "Set your mind on a goal, burn all of your bridges behind you, then watch how quickly the world steps aside to let you pass."