I was sitting in my 5th grade classroom and the phone rang. Mrs. Andersen hung it up and said, "Sarah you need to go to the office." I popped up out of my chair excited to get called down, good or bad I loved one-on-one attention! The secretary told me there was a police officer that wanted to talk to me and he was waiting in the room across the hallway. I thought to myself, "Oh goodie! A police officer! This must really be important!" I skipped across the hall and opened the door. There he sat in full uniform with that slightly intimidating posture. I made myself comfortable and pulled up a chair. 

I looked right into his eyes and said, "Hi!! What's up!?" 

He said, "Do you know why I called you in here?" 

"No, I have no idea!" I smiled. 

"Well you seem happy. Usually when people have to talk to the police they aren't this excited."

"I guess I don't know why I'm happy, I didn't do anything wrong so why would I not be excited?" I said. 

"Well I called you in here to congratulate you! Your D.A.R.E. poster was chosen to be in our yearly calendar!"

This same year was the first time I remember someone mocking me for having such a big smile. It was unintentional and often misinterpreted. My mom told me that I didn't have to smile at everyone and that I didn't owe anyone anything.

I think it was this level of optimism that made people feel uncomfortable. I have a big smile. I have big cheeks. I have big dimples. And I have a lot of energy. 

A friend of mine had a big smile too, but she told me she had been looking at magazines and studying the way models smiled and she had tailored her smile to mimic this "perfect" smile. I tried it, I went to a mirror and watched my lips as I smiled and tried to only let my top row of teeth show. Awkward. I tried again, thinking a happy thought but trying to be very aware of my smile muscles. Look natural but not too enthusiastic. Forced. I just didn't think I could do it. I accepted my fate. I would always have a smile that took up half my face and wasn't model material. 

I have been accused of being "too-friendly" (actually a former boss of mine brought it up in a job review once...as a negative thing), laughing too loud, being overly enthusiastic, or even being fake. This last one surprised me the most I think because I've always been honest to my determent and am proud of my authenticity! 

My exorbitant energy and bliss for life and it's boundless possibilities is what drives me! It is what makes me keep getting back up and believing that I have the power to make a difference and follow my dreams. My art will not sit on walls and collect dust. My art will be a vehicle for SOCIAL CHANGE! If there is anything that has resonated with me while talking to successful entrepreneurs it is that being authentic is the key to success. So I will keep laughing loud and smiling big all the way!