Don’t count yourself out

I was almost content to count myself out. I can’t tell you how many times in my career and in my life in general where I seriously declined to bet on myself and my own potential. A few years ago I almost made the mistake of counting myself out fully, moving on to a “safer career” and giving up on something that I truly wouldn’t be myself without. Now I am writing this so that you learn from the mistake I almost made, so that you don’t make it yourself.

I had the divine gift of being born into a home and family that supports me all the time, sees endless potential in me and always sees the best in me, even when I struggle to see it in myself. My mom literally doesn’t think there’s thing on this earth that I can’t do. If I called her tomorrow to tell her I was going to become an astronaut she’d say “Beam me up, Scotty.”

What I should have learned from all this a bit earlier in my life is that my mind is my own worst enemy when it comes to blocking my own potential. However, it was not and is not always as easy to see myself as the limitless creature my mom knows me to be.

Why is that?

I think a lot about the quote “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” I think about it mostly because, well…you can’t fail. What is failing? Life isn’t an exam with a Scantron sheet where there are answers and grades and a pass/fail system. You can live in the woods with a small amount of money and modest possessions and pass away early in life but be indescribably happy and do great things—is that a failure? You could live an opulent life into your 90’s with a big home and a secure job but wish you had pursued a passion – is that a failure? What constitutes a failure? I think maybe the bigger or more valid fear is “what would you do if you knew you wouldn’t be labeled a failure by others?” …right?

I think we need to find the balance between using the people around us as a mirror – listening to their opinions and feedback and sifting through it for valuable information – and also remembering that ultimately, only we ourselves know our own divine purpose in this life and that we ourselves have to be the ones to trust that instinct and answer to that calling – regardless of anyone else’s feedback or opinion.

I know doing that can be incredibly difficult, especially when the opinions come from people you love and respect like your family, friends or significant other. I made the mistake of letting someone’s opinion of me and my ability color my feelings about myself and my worth and it made me so sad and miserable that I nearly got lost completely. I stifled all my own power and stopped being myself. I stopped giving to myself and therefore became empty. I almost stopped existing altogether in an attempt to feed someone else’s ego and life. I allowed that to go on. It took me a while to accept that I allowed myself to be stripped of my power that way; but it was my doing.

Why? Because truthfully, I was afraid. What if I went for it and looked stupid? Wouldn’t everyone constantly be comparing me to everyone else? Every other dancer, every other instructor? The answer was yes. I probably would look stupid occasionally, in my case maybe more like semi-daily lol and people would probably compare me to everyone else constantly- but, so what? Is that worse than giving up and not ever going after something you feel in your gut is part of your purpose on this earth? Trust me the agony of regret is worse than anything else.

About 5 years ago Millennium asked me to hop in last minute and sub a class. I remember thinking, “are they crazy?“ There is NO WAY I am ready for that. I went to talk to someone I trusted and got a confirmation of my self-deprecating belief. Basically, they also felt I was way out of my league. So, I declined to accept the opportunity to teach that day at Millennium. It would be several years before I ever had the opportunity to teach there again.

A few years later I accepted, I should say reluctantly accepted, but accepted nonetheless, an offer to teach at a different studio in LA, one with a bit lower profile. I still caught flack about not being ready and there not really being any point to me teaching my own class from this trusted opinion in my life… and I almost let that opinion stop me from going to teach my first day.

However, I had been a dance teacher since I was 7 years old. I started by teaching all my barbies the hottest moves and when that got old and I needed bodies I moved on to my uncooperative friends and sometimes my incredibly unamused cat. By 12 I started assisting with the baby class at my dance studio and then my love and passion for teaching started to grow into an obsession. I have never claimed to be the best dancer in the world, but I have a genuine love and passion for teaching, one that I know gives me a voice that can help to guide others toward their highest, truest selves as artists and hopefully also as humans.

I genuinely care about every soul that stands in the room to train with me, whether it’s a class of one person or one hundred people. I watch my students, I learn from them, I check their facial expressions to see how they’re feeling and what they need. I LOVE to see people succeed and have break-throughs and to be full of love and happiness within this art that we all feel so connected to. If I can contribute to that joy and passion in any small way, I am all about it. I take pride in being consistently prepared, knowledgable about my choreography and treating every single person in my classroom with respect. It is an honor to me that people are spending their hard earned money and valuable time to train with me, it has been since the first class that I ever taught and it will continue to be until the last one I teach.

When I stepped into the room to teach my first official class in Los Angeles, something clicked. I felt the universe shift and everything inside me that I had been stifling for so long bubbled up to the surface and I couldn’t continue to make myself small after that. My voice started to become louder and louder and I made a promise to myself that the next time Millennium called, I wouldn’t count myself out. It has been two years since I said “yes” to subbing my first class at Millennium, since I said “yes” to myself and said “yes” to the universe as it led me towards the role I know I was born to fill. Now I finally can say I have a permanent place on the faculty in this place that I once ran from, once felt unworthy of. I did a lot of work to shift my understanding of my worth and to earn the ability to accept this position. I will never take it for granted.

Nowadays my classes are full, wall to wall with students who are bursting with such positive energy. They yell and support each other, the make friends, they laugh, they go through the rough class days and the struggles but always come back guns blazing ready to tackle it again next time. I can’t explain how honored, humbled and fulfilled I am to be able to do something I love every day and to hopefully create a classroom where people feel inspired, motivated and most importantly, loved.

The universe has a funny way of betting on you when you won’t bet on yourself. When you’re clinging to a security blanket (be it a person, addiction, bad habit, etc.) and hiding from your purpose the universe will find a way to set that security blanket on fire to try to redirect you toward your path. This is why we need to trust that oftentimes a relationship ending, being let go from a job, falling ill – all things that seem like losses- can be important steps toward your greatest win. The process doesn’t always look pretty but sometimes it is necessary to strip away the comfort of a toxic connection or something that is hindering you from truly reaching your highest path in order to create room for new blessings to blossom.

Let us not get caught up comparing ourselves to others. Let us not get caught up in the negative or limiting things people may say about or to us or in worry about being labeled a “failure.” Instead, let us flourish in the opinions of those who appreciate us and who see the unyielding power within us. May we be lucky enough to find someone that sees us the way my mom sees me and if not, may we ALWAYS be that person for ourselves. My promise to you, is if you ever step inside my classroom, I will be that person for you. The one who sees your potential and never lets you count yourself out. ❤

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The Year of Hold on and Wait for It

My year last year (2017) was a whirlwind. A beautiful blur of travel, movement and accomplishment. It was also a year of rebuilding and rediscovering. Having broken up with my fiancé and lost the most significant relationship in my life, my personal and professional lives were thrown into the blender. I basically had to start again, re-discover myself as just me (cue sad violin music) at a new point in my life and decide what I wanted my life to look like moving forward.

After my break up everything I knew was called into question. The life I led in California as a professional dancer had been lived only with this one person by my side, as a team and a unit. I met him just weeks after moving from NY and we were inseparable for the entirety of my life in LA until the moment he left me and then I never really saw him again. We built a network of close friends and also business contacts, shared a home- a whole life that disintegrated in an instant.

That kind of adjustment will rock you, make you question if you can trust anyone and make you wonder what you were doing for so long accepting a situation as permanent that would in fact turn out to be temporary.

I took a month and reassessed my whole life. What did I want to do? Who did I want to be? Where did my relationship go so awfully wrong?

I considered giving up dance, I considered moving away from LA, I considered opening an animal sanctuary in the foothills of mount Tibidabo (Friends joke.) I didn’t know if I could live in a place that would always have so many memories of my past life and past love. I didn’t know if I could reinvent myself the way I would need to in a place that was so fully tied to my past relationship and in that way, so full of sadness now. Did I want to move forward on the same path, but alone? Did I want to find a new path?

I thought long and hard and ultimately felt like my time in LA wasn’t up. I felt compelled to stay and to rebuild. I decided that leaving would feel like fleeing and I might always feel “chased out” in some way by my past relationship. I felt I needed to become strong enough to face the reality of my circumstance, accept responsibility and move forward from where I was. So I did.

For the past 5 years I had said no to a lot of opportunities for myself in an effort to preserve the “we” that no longer existed. (One of the many things I discovered about where my relationship went so awfully wrong, but thats neither here nor there). Now there was only a me and it was time to decide who this new me was. I felt that I needed to maximize the amount of experiences I would have in the coming year; jump start this new single life by getting out there alone and trying everything out- and when I say everything, I mean everything.

I decided to sign on to “a year of yes”- which is pretty much exactly how it sounded. I said yes to pretty much everything. I went skydiving, bungee jumping, shark cage driving, taught classes all over the country and traveled to 15 countries abroad. I dated, I moved, I was even on bumble for about 15 minutes (15 horrifying minutes- no thank you.) I did it all, I tried it all and by January of the “year of yes” I was booked solid til’ December. I opened myself to opportunity, I embraced my life full force and it embraced me right back.

What an absolute blessing. Seriously. It confirmed every gut instinct that told me to stay and continue and I was so so beyond grateful.

Every year in December, no matter how well or poorly things turned out for me in the year that’s passed, I take the whole month to reflect- on where I’ve been, where I am and where I’m going. It was that reflection in December of 2016 that created my year of yes and jam-packed my 2017.

As absolutely grateful as I was for all the amazing experiences I gathered in 2017 I knew the feverish pace of a year of yes was not sustainable over the long term. I moved so quickly that its hard to believe I accomplished all that in just one year. My mom said I did more in 2017 than she had done in her whole life time.

I didn’t want to get caught in busy-ness. When you’re recovering from heartbreak, or any kind of trauma or stress really, I think staying busy is an awesome idea. Being productive, on the move and in transit is a great way to help time pass and the more time passes between you and the injury the more perspective you can gain for healing. My year of yes had accomplished exactly what I needed. I was restored or more so I was reborn.

Fast forward to now… month 12 of my “year of yes”… time to reassess. So what revelation did December 2017 bring? Well, that I needed to take a breath and not fear the calm. I got so used to being constantly on the move that staying still, even for a moment, felt foreign. I am a firm believer in seeking discomfort in order to move to the next level of your life, so when the idea of not booking 2018 solid by January 1st, as I had done the year before made me feel nervous, I knew that was what I had to do. It was time to open up to the idea of leaving space; I wanted something bigger, something that would challenge me, something that would force me to level up. I knew achieving that would be a function of pumping the brakes and allowing for the universe to bring me something bigger, something that would require me to grow to another version of myself. I knew that would demand two things from me that are far from my strong suit- patience and faith.

I committed to this cause for 2018- the year of hold on and wait for it. My inbox was flooded with emails with invitations to teach master classes, collab, create videos, etc. All opportunities that I love, appreciate and enjoy- but also opportunities that are comfortable to me now after all the work I put in in 2017- opportunities in my element so to speak. I didn’t say no, but I didn’t automatically say yes, as I had done the year before. I just waited.

It took about 6 minutes into January 1st 2018 for me to have a full scale meltdown about this decision. Was I insane? I have rent, bills, why am I passing up opportunities? My calendar for the year was empty. I had agreed to NOTHING. I wanted to be uncomfortable, well I freakin nailed it, I was so ridiculously uncomfortable that I called my mom and cried- like the 31 year old woman that I am. I freaked out about the year ahead and about having to leave my nice apartment to live under a bridge. Luckily my mom has seen me over-react once or twice in our three decade long relationship and she handled it like a pro. She took a deep breath and told me, for lack of better words, to calm the fuck down.

And so I did.

Well, I kind of did. I was less 07 Britney but not quite the Dalai Lama. I took a few deep breaths and re-committed to my goal of being patient, which clearly I suck at. Two agonizing weeks of being relatively patient later I got a call to jump on board as a TV personality for a new dance television show… in India. I would have to move to India and live there to be a judge on a the panel for a brand new reality show. It was by far the biggest, highest paid opportunity I’ve ever had presented to me in my career to that point. The catch? It required a 2 month commitment living abroad. If I had booked out my 2018 like I had done with the previous year, I wouldn’t have been able to take the job. Luckily, I had held out and stayed strong in my conviction to be uncomfortable. I embraced the lesson and I took the job. I think the key in continuing to grow is to learn to stay uncomfortable. When something comes too easy it’s time to switch it up, create space for new opportunities and new ideas to grow. Most importantly it’s key to listen to your instincts and trust your heart to guide you to the right choices that will lead you to your highest path. It’s not always easy but hey, if you want big rewards, ya gotta take big risks… right?

Butt First

When you go sky diving they count to three and then give you about one second to jump on your own terms. If you don’t, they effectively toss you out of the plane. They don’t ask “are you ready?” Why? Because for most people, even when they are “ready” the answer is almost always “no.” Its like sheerly contemplating the concept of “readiness” makes us doubt ourselves and call into question everything we know; it makes us wonder “who in the hell do I think I am?”

I’ve learned to approach my life like one big sky dive. Every day the airplane door opens I am presented with some kind of opportunity that leaves my knees knocking and leaves me wondering “can I do this? Am I ready?” Then, instead of dwelling there- I count to three and say “yes.” “Yes” is the verbal equivalent of launching yourself out of a G-D damned plane.

I can’t tell you how many people come to me and say “this is what I want to do… but first.” “But First”— two simple but lethal words standing between you and your goals. If you were skinnier, smarter, faster, richer – then you would be “ready,” so before you say yes you should lose the weight, read the books, run the mile- blah blah blah. I can’t tell you how many people NEVER get past – “but first.” There’s a graveyard full of dreams lying between goals and “but first.”

I urge you to forget readiness- to replace it with willingness. Willingness to rise to the occasion, to fail and learn from that failure, to ask for help. I accept challenges every day that I have no idea if I am ready to handle. What I do know is that if I want to grow, if I want success, I have to move on in the face of fear and self doubt and rise to accept the challenges placed In my often quivering hands.

I am the queen of “wing it.” It’s a running joke between my assistant and I. She’ll say, “how are you gonna pull this off?” and I’ll  say “I’m gonna wing it.” Then she fights every urge in her mind thats telling her to try to talk me out of winging it, because she knows that will just be futile. She can say what she wants- in the end, I’m gonna wing it. Here’s why I’m OK with that: I work my ass off. I do not sit idle and rest on my laurels. My mind spins endlessly in pursuit of how to advance my life, the lives of those around me, my industry, my community- it’s never ending for me.

I know that all that hard work and conscientiousness has left me with ability and cultivated talent and I need to trust those things. I need to trust that God’s will doesn’t take me anywhere that his grace cannot protect me. I don’t believe the universe places any challenges in your lap that do not belong to you.

I believe in sweat, hard work and sometimes blind faith. I believe in dreaming a dream and accepting a challenge so large that you physically can’t accomplish it without becoming a different, larger, more evolved version of yourself. I refuse to settle for mediocrity. If I do something I am going to do it at the top level of my ability and then when I reach the glass ceiling of my ability I’m gonna blow through that shit, Willy Wonka Glass elevator style. Sometimes the risks turn out sensationally and sometimes they become a mess of gargantuan proportions- but regardless of which outcome I experience, the next day when the airplane door opens again, I jump.

If you’re looking out the airplane door and wondering if you can do the same- you can. You ABSOLUTELY CAN. Just turn around- count to three and jump, butt first.

Had I Known How to Save a Life

I recently learned that a friend of mine took her own life. My beautiful, fun loving, kick ass, vibrant, young friend… killed herself. When I tell you the news shook me, I mean it shook me- rocked me straight down to my core. First it was shock, then denial, then just the deepest grief.

She was 34 years old; beautiful, sweet, adorably country, a fantastic dancer and always such a good friend to me. She was brilliant- the valedictorian of her class, the head cheerleader, she was always put together- her clothes were always an outfit, but there was not even an air of condescension or arrogance. She had a beautiful smile and a beautiful soul. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel sadness in her. I am super sensitive spirit and I always felt something was not completely right. That almost made her more beautiful to me, she was honest about her struggle in her own way.

I’d frequently check in and see how she was doing and it was always good stuff- she’d say she was dancing a lot or going on one of her many trips with her husband. She had a home she seemed to love in Oregon… a life that I am sure many envied looking from the outside in. She opened up to me a few times but never enough to let me even consider the possibility that she would do something like kill herself.

I think back now on every conversation, every text… was there something else I should have said or asked?… how did I not see this potential in my sweet friend who literally ALWAYS found something positive to say to me? Always wanted to shop with me, always complimented my outfit, always offered congratulations….I know it is no ones fault and we can never truly know what is on the mind or heart of another human- but you just can’t help but wonder.

She had asked me to go to Thailand with her in December- but I ended up extending my South American tour and I couldn’t go.. would that have changed anything? Could anything have changed it or was it inevitable for her? Why did she feel this was the only answer? All questions I will never have the answer to. I planned to go and visit her soon in Oregon but never set a date- why didn’t I set a date? I wanted to go. I just prioritized work and other things and I am so sorry for that now.

Someone once told me suicide doesn’t end sadness, it just moves it on to other people and now I know that to be wholly true. I will always carry some sadness in me for her. Every time I think of her and of our very limited, oh so precious time together, I will feel some heaviness in my heart for a life that was lost way too soon. I see her in her wedding dress all lit up at her wedding, lying next to me on the beach LOVING girl talk, running next to me on the treadmill asking how I was going so fast, In the aisles at Nordstrom Rack asking for advice on what to buy, dancing together in her studio or her backyard or wherever we could, her cracking up at game night and lighting up the dance floor on double date nights.

She was one of a kind and I am so thankful I got to have her for a little while. My sadness is that I didn’t tell her enough how much I loved her and adored her and really thought the world of her. She moved away some time ago and over the last couple of years it was just texts every couple weeks. I saw her pictures on Instagram and that made me feel like we were “in touch.” I think we let social media fool us into thinking we are doing the work, but we need to do more. We need to do more than press like and comment and repost… I wish I had picked up the phone more. I’ll always wish I had done that. We need HUMAN interaction, we need to work harder.

I never loved her any less or valued her any less -life just gets in the way sometimes. More than anything I hope she knows that I cherished her friendship and if there was anything on this earth I could have done to keep her here I would have done it.

“Love and miss u so much” – the last words she ever said to me. Heartbreakingly perfect- I do too Nic, and I always always will.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts please contact the national suicide prevention lifeline 1800-273-8255.

The choice is yours 

I think at the end of the day life boils down to being a series of choices, the salad or the Big Mac, college or trade school, marriage or a single life, swipe left or swipe right, say yes or say no. A choice is always available to you, even if it doesn’t feel that way, even if it’s not your ideal choice.
I don’t think that choices can be right or wrong or good or bad ( I’m not talking about choices like murder here by the way). I know that’s a revolutionary thing to say given we live in a time where the value of everything is qualified by likes and views. We keep a running tally of the approval of strangers over our decisions in the form of hearts or thumbs up…. and then we decide if the choice was good or bad. “200 people like my status about politics, I must be right.” To me though, that seems like a dangerous road- to gauge the value of our choices based on their popularity. 
Our lives are incredibly personal. Yes, we are interconnected with others and there are intricate dynamics between one and their friends and family, work associates, peers, loved ones and sometimes even strangers on the street. Ultimately though, your life is your own and no one else’s. The choices you make must reflect what is in your own heart and I think in order to truly be in touch with our own destiny we need to strip away the desire to label everything with a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
What if the choices were just choices? What if it didn’t matter what road you went down as long as you went in kindness and love. What if in the end, we find that all these roads lead to the same place? Wouldn’t that make all the time spent arguing over “the right road” seem pointless?
I don’t believe that we get a finite number of chances. I think we are all being called toward something… and we are being led to it, one choice at a time. With each decision we are being taught lessons that will shape us into the people we need to be to fulfill this calling. No time is actually wasted. Surely there are short cuts and round-a-bouts and long way arounds….but if you’re enjoying the journey then those minor things don’t matter so much. 
People come to me sometimes and say ” I made this horrible choice and I’ve ruined my whole life.” I get it, I know how in moments life can feel that way. Like you made a single choice and it just destroyed everything – but look at it this way, if one choice is strong enough to destroy you, then surely one choice is strong enough to save you- so you’re always one choice away from a brand new reality. Even in your darkest moments, you are one choice away from the light. It’s not always easy to make choices, I understand that feeling of powerlessness. I assure you though, that feeling is an illusion – created by doubt and fear.
You have all the power of the universe inside you. You must acknowledge that and not fear it. Lead with you heart and control your mind, silence the voice that says “I can’t” or “I’m not good enough” and make a new choice. You control your life- and in every moment you have the power to direct your path. 
My path calls me to travel. As a teenager I suffered with anxiety that literally crippled me- made me afraid to live my life. I wouldn’t even ride the school bus and now I fly all the time to far away lands that I’d only ever dreamt about or saw on the pages of my history books. I don’t want to be confined to only see and experience life from one place. I want to go into the unknown and see culture, religion, family, love… I want to see what it looks like to people through their eyes, on their soil, in their truth. 
I’ve searched far and wide to see what it is that people value. I’ve spoken to people in all walks of life on almost every continent and asked them about their life. I’ve sat in their homes, met their children, attended their weddings, taught them, learned from them and laughed with them around tables full of exotic foods. 
And What I’ve discovered is this: Though it looks different to us all on the surface deep down it’s all exactly the same. The way we love, marry, pray, laugh, mourn, fail- The customs are different, the language is different, the scenery is different; but the values and the goals, the fundamental truths are all the same. 
Last week I watched a wedding in Romania and three months ago I sat at dinner with my friends and their new baby in Israel and between that I danced with Maasai women in their village in Tanzania… all different moments in so many ways, all so incredibly similar and deeply connected through a very common thread. Love. 
We all want the same thing- to love and be loved, to know God, to find peace, to feel free. How we seek it doesn’t matter, so long as we find it. The most important thing to do is to pay attention. Whether you make a choice that calls you to the other side of the world or to your own backyard you won’t see what your meant to see unless your looking for it. 
I had a flight cancellation on my last trip that led me to an unexpected day in Warsaw, Poland. I hadn’t been there in a couple of years but oddly enough I remembered the streets in Old Town like I had lived there all my life. I followed one street down to a church that I remembered loving. A church that’s not particularly ornate but stands in such a way that it catches sunlight and looks like it’s on fire. It’s such an incredibly beautiful thing to see.
I walked about a mile to get back to this church, I didn’t want to leave Poland without seeing it again. Why? I don’t know exactly. Maybe it was a desire to be standing in the same spot I stood in years before and to feel the difference. Sometimes there is healing in that, sometimes there is heartbreak – this time maybe it was a little bit of both. 
When I approached the church I stood quietly in front of it, thought about the last time I stood in that exact spot… about where time had taken me since then and about how I had been led back to this spot at this moment in my life. I began to feel a sense of loss- loss of the life I had 2 years ago maybe, loss of the person I was or just loss of the time- of people I loved- or maybe some combination of all of those things. 
Then out of the corner of my eye I saw two women on a bench. One was a nun and the other was a young woman, clearly battling cancer, she had lost her hair to the fight and had her head wrapped in a pretty blue scarf that reminded me of the ones my mom used when she battled cancer a few years ago. The woman with the pretty blue scarf on her head as crying and the nun was listening. 
After some time, the nun took the crying woman’s hand and spoke to her, calmed her and I felt it calm me. I felt a sense of loss again but this time for that poor woman in the pretty blue head wrap who felt so much pain. I went inside the church and prayed for peace for her, and in the process found peace for myself. 
I saw someone else’s grief, a stranger who didn’t look like me, live on the same continent or speak the same language as I do- but I understood her and I recognized it. I saw myself in it, I saw my mother in it and how I would hold her hand that way while she was in her battle. Clear as day I understood the purpose of this choice, of this moment, of the series of choices that led me back to that single location on this great big earth. The purpose was to remind me that we are all connected – we are all in search of the same thing and that we must make choices. We most choose to follow our intuition, to ask for help, to find new love, to find God, to be kind. We must take a deep breath, decide and then go forward with eyes and hearts wide open. 

May 22nd 2017

May 25th 2015

A gust of wind, a flash of light and it’s gone….

When I’m in Los Angeles my schedule is bananas. Straight up insanity. I wake up early and get going and don’t stop until the suns nearly up again. I start around 8 a.m. being active- hiking, pilates, yoga, dance classes, teaching private lessons, teaching weekly classes, creating choreography, editing videos, blogs, vlogs plus an entire personal life full of regular, mundane demands like laundry PLUS a group of friends that I love to the ends of the earth and love to spend time with. I feel so ridiculously blessed at the fullness of my life and I am never as joyful as I am when I’m productive. 
Long story short, I can move for 18-20 hour days in LA and I know it sounds crazy but I LOVE it. I don’t just love it, I thrive that way. The more I do the more I want to do, the more I create the more I’m inspired to create. I am a mover, a New Yorker deep down in my soul and busy-ness is the life blood that lights me up. It turns out I love being busy so much that just me being busy wasn’t satisfying enough so I hired an assistant, so I could make someone else busy too. 
Fast forward.
I’m writing this to you from Africa. I’m somewhere in Tanzania- I don’t know exactly where because I’m in about hour 6 of a 16 hour bus ride from Arusha to Bagamoyo. Let me repeat that one more time: a 16 hour bus ride. 
16 hours of sitting still on a bus with no wifi, no work, no nothing. Now that would probably be a struggle for even the most sedentary human, especially since it’s about 90 degrees here and this bus has no AC- but for ME!? Holy crap. This is like a next level type challenge. 100 to zero, real quick.
I boarded the bus, took a window seat -and felt restless within about 2.6 seconds. I figured I had two choices- run off the bus screaming and return immediately to Los Angeles OR sit still in this seat and learn this lesson that God has placed in my lap. I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so of course I stayed put.
 At first I thought the lesson was in patience. It’s no secret that my lack of patience is my Achilles heel. My dad always said I was like a Tasmanian devil. That you’d just feel a gust of wind and see a flash of light before I was gone. 
So I sat in my seat, boiling hot, staring silently at the seat back in front of me and without busying myself with any tasks at all I tried to stay calm and quiet. I didn’t fidget and I vowed not to complain. After about 3 minutes of that, I turned my head when something out the window caught my eye. 
It was a young boy, running from his home (a poorly constructed shack with dirt floors and no electricity or water supply.) He was running towards me with the biggest smile I have ever seen. He was calling to me and waving. I smiled and waved back and he literally jumped for joy and screamed with laughter. 
That’s when it hit me- this lesson was not only in patience but in presence. By being present in the moment and being still I noticed that young boy- I made his day by seeing him, and he made mine by greeting me that way. Had I been busy with something else or distracted with something outside the present moment, I would have missed him. That thought alone could almost bring me to tears. I saw him for just a brief moment, but I’ll never forget him.
The challenge now is to find that stillness in the craziness of my everyday life- to stay connected and present in each moment as it passes and not fret over moments gone or ones that have yet to come. I will find that balance, the quiet in the chaos and I know you can too. 
This lesson was also in empathy and in gratitude. You cannot be in Africa and not feel the utmost gratitude for all the worldly luxuries home waiting for you. Most of the people here live on the bare minimum, about $100 US a month if they’re lucky. They don’t have AC or heat or even running water… but my God they are JOYFUL. They always say hello with a smile and laugh and dance, they sit outside with their children and bathe them and hug them and watch them play. There is real happiness and life here. It’s not squeaky clean or dressed up in designer clothes- but it’s breathtakingly beautiful. 
We visited a Maasai village where a Maasai leader took us into his home. A very small shack built with cow dung, no windows, and a cow hide on the floor for a bed. I asked the Maasai leader if he enjoyed living there in the home he showed us. His answer was simple: “I would be happy anywhere.” 
The simplest, most poignant thing I’ve ever heard. Happiness is not dependent on one single external factor. It’s a choice. One you can make whether you’re surrounded by cow manure or Italian marble. 
That young boy has every excuse to be miserable. He doesn’t have money or any of the material things people tend to value, he wasn’t even wearing shoes. Still, he had one of the happiest faces I have ever seen. Just beaming- utter and profound joy… to see a stranger through a window on a passing bus. He is creating joy in small things and spreading it around like wild fire. After a $100,000 college education I learned one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever been taught from an 8 year old African boy I saw in a blink. A gust of wind and a flash of light, and he was gone.
So now, I choose to be happy; right now, on this endlessly long bus ride. I will continue to choose to be happy whether I’m home going a million miles a minute or sitting completely still on this bus in Africa or wherever my next adventure leads me- I will choose happiness, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad…I’ll think of that boy and choose happiness every single time and every once in a while I’ll make sure to stop (or at least pause for a second) and smell the roses. Please don’t forget that the time is now, we aren’t promised tomorrow. Life is funny that way. A gust of wind, a flash of light and it’s gone. 

The Yes Effect

I’m writing this from inside a tent in the Serengeti. It’s already been 3 days without a shower, wifi or any contact with anyone outside this group I’m traveling with. It’s my first time camping- it’s my first time on safari- it’s the first time in about 8 years that I’m on a trip with a girl friend and not a significant other. I have been having a lot of firsts lately; Throwing caution to the wind and instead of having a list of things I want to do, I’m writing my list of things I’ve done. 
How did I get here, is a question you might be asking yourself. Well, I don’t know if you’re asking it but I sure as hell am. How did I get here? I guess the real answer to that is in every choice I’ve made, large and small, over the last thirty years- that has somehow culminated in me lying in a tent in the Serengeti, single at 30, next to my other single female friend- trading war stories about relationships past, soul searching and finding peace in this great unknown. 
We came here to disconnect from the physical and reconnect to the spiritual. I needed to get in touch with my soul and what’s deep in my heart at this new point in my life and I knew that meant needing to lose touch with my daily life and regular routine. So here I am. I’m not sure I could be any further from my daily routine- I just had to hide my sneakers from a baboon for Gods Sake. 
They say that time heals all- and I like to think travel heals all too. Coming here I was close to feeling like my old self again..and then I asked – why would I want to feel like my old self? I don’t want old anything- and I guess that desire for newness is one of the many ways I got here. 
After Matt left I decided I was going to become a “yes man” – yep, just like the movie. I felt I had said “no” to a lot of opportunities and passed on too many personal goals. So naturally, I decided that in order to make up for lost time, I ought to start saying yes. To everything. Immediately. I’m not much of a take things slow kind of girl- if I’m in, I’m all in. This was no exception.
This wasn’t a situation where I would arbitrarily say yes to any and all things- but rather say yes to things that struck a cord in me, things I wanted to do but hadn’t, things that excited me. 
One of the first questions anyone asked me just hours after my Yes Man conversion – was “do you wanna go to Africa?” And here I am. I shit you not. Even though I’ve never really understood that expression. Yes. I do want to go to Africa… and here I am. In Africa, in a tent with a friggen hyena outside, talking to you. 
This yes commitment for me is about living my life in every possible way. I don’t want to die with shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I want to experience the world and understand people in a way that only comes with travel. You can only truly relate to people when you’ve walked in their shoes and seen life through their eyes. The world is a vast, crazy place with adventure after adventure waiting for you, calling to you. It’d be a shame to hit ignore.
Travel will challenge you, and it will change you. I come back from every trip refreshed, renewed and a different version of myself; a better, more empathetic, more patient version of myself. So far my yes journey is wonderful. It’s led me to so many new people and experiences that have affected me so deeply- and this trip is no exception. It has also led me to reconnect with old friends and become closer to the people around me. 
As I lay in this tent in Tanzania, looking up at the stars, I feel a peace that I haven’t felt maybe ever before. I feel completely confident that I am exactly where I’m meant to be in this moment. I truly believe there are no accidents- the universe is bringing me exactly where I’m meant to be. Every day, I wake up and ask the universe to guide me to my highest path and help me live in accordance with my highest purpose. In saying YES and trusting the little nudges I’m being given, I trust that I’m being led toward my destiny. I don’t know exactly how I got here, or why I’m here- I’m also not sure exactly where I’m going- but I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. 
For now, I’m learning to trust the process, have faith in myself and in others and to relinquish some of my precious “control” to go with the flow. I don’t need to know all the hows and whys. I just need to say yes and let go. I need to be present and prepare myself for the journey that lies ahead. I need to live in this completely perfect, very wild moment.