…by Prill Boyle
Last October one of the readers of this column, a 47-year old wife and mother, e-mailed me for advice and encouragement. She wanted to pursue her dream of becoming a makeup artist, but wasn\’t sure she had the courage “to jump out of her comfort zone.” She worried that she wouldn\’t be able to compete with the young, gorgeous women she saw populating the makeup field and wasn\’t sure she was skilled enough to land a job.

I urged her to be bold, pointing out that she had already taken a step by writing me. “Forty-seven is the perfect time to start a new career,” I said. “You\’ll never be any younger than you are today.” I assured her that so long as she was well-groomed, neither her age nor her appearance would much matter. “If you do a good job making other people look great,” I said, “most women won\’t care about anything else.”

She started volunteering at “Look Good, Feel Better,” an organization that helps women face cancer treatment with greater confidence. “It\’s very rewarding to see the smile on each patient\’s face toward the end of the session,” she wrote me a few months later. “Within an hour, they all not only look good, but feel happier inside.”

Then she applied for a job at the Lancôme counter at her local Macy\’s. Even though her husband and son didn\’t understand why she would want to work at a department store when she had a four-year degree, she followed her heart.

After going through several interviews, she got the job. She told me that she loved bringing out the natural beauty of her clients, but was disheartened to have to meet a sales quota each day. She didn\’t want to push products on people. “It\’s a trade-off,” she said.

Recently she wrote to let me know that she had handed in her resignation. Standing up for hours on end was hurting her back and causing her to limp. “It broke my heart to give notice,” she said. “I truly enjoy helping my clients look gorgeous. Some have even become good friends.”

I encouraged her to think about other, less physically challenging ways she could use her gift. She e-mailed me back a few days later, filled with enthusiasm. “I have a friend who is looking to open a photography shop soon,” she wrote. “She\’ll be needing a makeup artist. I\’m also considering being a beauty consultant for special events. That would be more flexible in terms of working hours [than Macy\’s] and less physical.”

Yesterday, right as I was getting ready to submit this column, I heard from her again. She told me that she had just been diagnosed with Parkinson\’s disease. “I don\’t want people to treat me differently because of this,” she said. “And the only way they can is if I consider myself different because I\’m disabled. Therefore, I am going to fight hard to remain normal and not let the stiffness and trembling control my life. I\’m the ONLY one that can have control over me.”

When she first e-mailed me, she said that she had been a passive person her whole life and yearned to become more proactive. “I want to explore who I really am,” she wrote. Re-reading her letters, all I can think is that if she had been diagnosed as recently as nine months ago, she might never have pursued her dream and experienced the liberation of jumping outside her comfort zone. Perhaps most important of all, she might never have understood how brave she truly is.

Prill Boyle is the author of Defying Gravity: A Celebration of Late-Blooming Women (Emmis Books, 2004). To read more inspiring stories, tips, and anecdotes, go to Prilll\’s blog at defyinggravitynow.blogspot.com.