It would be my first flight since March of last year. I got to the airport earlier than usual, not knowing what I might encounter. And, just as my Uber pulled up to the curb, I thought maybe after forty-seven years of educating salon professionals, I might be on my way to my last beauty show. The years and the audiences have been kind, but I have a nagging intuition that it is time to step aside and let the young ones take over.
The flight from Tucson to Vegas was quick and uneventful. The partially open and socially distanced airports were packed with excited travelers making their first long-awaited trip. As we floated over the fantastic view of the Las Vegas strip, I spotted the hotel and convention center where the International Beauty Show would take place. I’ve made this trip, taken the same route to the same hotel dozens of times, and yet, today, with my post-Covid eyes, it felt new. I sensed the person that went into Covid is not the same person that came out. After carefully monitoring anything we breathe and touch, we now display a heightened sense of awareness of crowds, closeness, and contact with the world around us—and Vegas is a crowded place. I reminded myself I had my two vaccinations.
Maybe it was because I checked in late, but my room at the hotel was an outrageous two-bedroom, two-bathroom, corner room with two king-size TVs and two walk-in closets. I chose the bedroom with the photo of Elvis on the wall facing the bed and the Marilyn Monroe on a pillow above the headboard. So when it came time for me to close my eyes, it did feel a bit spooky.
The next day, laptop tucked under my arm, I made my way to the convention center wearing my black and best attitude. I received a text from IBS regarding my Covid status—everyone got one with the usual questions: do you feel ill, cough, etc. I replied no and received a PASS code which I showed and got my entry badge. Registration was touchless through a QR code and went quickly. I noticed crowds a bit thinner, so I checked the IBS app for my class registrations, and the class was full. So all was well, and I quickened my step.
My class dealt with keeping more of the money you make. Every socially distanced chair in the room had a warm body in it. The screen flashed a slide that read, MONEY= HAPPINESS, and we kicked off with a Q&A on the topic. The class unanimously said money isn’t happiness, to which I added, but the lack of it is unhappiness. We analyzed that our money habits come from multiple messages, including growing up, our peers, and the debt we incur from government loans to attend beauty school. We spent time getting to know apps to download on your phone that makes it easier to save and manage your money. Finally, we forgave ourselves for bad habits and moved onto solutions like knowing where our money goes, creating a simple budget, setting up an automatic withdrawal from checking to savings.
Audiences are a generous bunch. Every audience wants a speaker to succeed. Just like when you go to a movie and hope it’s terrific? Audiences also walk in hopeful and give you an initial break. Those first few minutes are critical, and If you deliver, they are yours forever. Audiences sense sincerity. There is a turning point in a presentation when you earn the audience’s trust. They believe you. This weekend in Vegas, when I got to that moment and earned the participant’s trust, I experienced something unforgettable.
I realized my topic, money management, was simply a vehicle to show our respect for each other. I was really there to love each salon professional unconditionally, and they were there to love me back. To openly acknowledge tireless hours of convincing people they are beautiful and worthy and create a safe space where we could linger as fellow professionals without asking anything from each other. The air appeared lighter, and time seemed to stand still for just this moment, and then came a few seconds of absolute stillness. I heard myself say I might not be back next year because my knees refuse to hold me up for two hours—and they cried. Then, they stood and applauded for what seemed an eternity—and I cried. I will never forget the moment when the universe revealed to me my true purpose. Can you hear me now, Carlos?
As my plane took off the next day, it circled the Vegas strip one last time, and somehow, I knew it was all over. But, endings always usher in new beginnings. I recalled saying to myself many years ago, “A dream written down is a goal, a goal broken down into steps becomes a plan, and a plan backed by action becomes your reality.”
So, I close my eyes to old endings and open my heart to new beginnings.
Carlos Valenzuela is a raconteur, success coach, ex-salon & beauty school owner. Author of The Thrifty Cosmetologist, money smarts for salon pros, and the award-winning novella, Letters to Young Carlos, about a gay boy growing up along the US/Mexico border in the 1960s. Visit him at carlos-valenzuela.com
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