The Beacon: Accepting my Blessing

Ever since I was a little girl I have had this power to connect to and relate to people who were struggling through a hardship. As a child I could find the loneliest or most pained person in any room and would offer them a hug or a smile. I never let a kid sit alone in the lunchroom or passed a homeless person without offering a hello and spare change. I don’t know where this empath ability came from but I do know that both my dad and my grandpa were hypersensitive and so I think I got some of it from them in my DNA coding.

My mom became sick with cancer when I was in third grade and I internalized her suffering so much that I would become physically ill. The closer someone is to me, the stronger the connection to me, the deeper I can feel their pain. As I grew into a teenager this ability to feel people’s pain started to drive me crazy. It eventually would grow into a full blown anxiety disorder. I’ll share the details of that disorder with you all in another passage.

In High School and college this ability, which felt more like a disability at the time, became even stronger. I could walk into a room and scan it and within just a few moments have a feel for who was in a fight with their boyfriend, who wasn’t feeling well, who had an eating disorder, trouble with their finances, etc. Physical touch, like a hug or handshake would literally transfer the energy to me so quickly that I would become sad or heavy or sick myself. Sometimes, it was deafening – so much so that I began avoiding large public places all together and eventually didn’t even want to leave the house for any reason.

Around this time I entered into a merry-go-round of sorts. Because I could feel peoples hardships, I consistently felt called to help. So I would step in and try to help someone close to me carry whatever heavy burden was weighing them down. This person would stay with me long enough for their hardship to pass and then be on their way. At the time, I didn’t know how to protect my energy so I would be left drained and exhausted. I would take some time to try to recuperate and then I would step up to help someone new; and so it went, over and over.

Sometimes, I would feel anger or feel like I had been used. Why did people only come to me when they were in need? Why once I lifted them up did they continue on their way and leave me in the dust? Eventually, I started to feel resentful toward these people who only passed through on their way to greener pastures and I started to feel like I was some kind of cursed cosmic doormat. I fought through my anxiety disorder completely alone and never asked anyone to assist me with anything really. Why was I always showing up for people who would use me and then move on?

It’s no secret that since my childhood I have consistently been a magnet for those in need. People become drawn to me when they are suffering somehow. Sometimes even strangers will come up to me and just start talking to me to lift some heavy weight off their heart. My private dance lessons often look more like therapy sessions, where students, sometimes people who just met me, open up to me and cry and vent their trauma.

It wasn’t until about 2 years ago that I began to realize something very important that has fully shifted the way that I see this gift, that I now know to be a blessing and not a curse. For my whole life my prayer every day has been for God to lead me to my highest purpose and calling so that I can impact the world in the most positive way and have the absolute best influence on the lives of those around me. What I didn’t realize is that I have always been led to that path- but my perspective was broken – and until I shifted it I couldn’t be lifted.

I am constantly called to sit beside people in their darkness because I CAN. Because I can sit in darkness and understand it and I can offer light and perspective and I am and always have been strong enough not to let it affect or drain me. This ability to walk beside people in their hard times and then let them move on with their own beautiful path, hopefully a little stronger or happier, is my gift and is the path to my highest purpose. Selfishly, I was clinging to attachment and not letting life flow the way its absolutely meant to. Things do not need to be permanent to be significant. I would feel that since we bonded through their hardship that it was abandonment somehow for them to take what they needed from me and go. Now I see it for what it is – the absolute highest exchange of energy and my life’s calling and purpose.

I don’t have people to lift me up because I don’t need anyone to lift me up. I think everything about my life and the way it has unfolded, including being born an only child has played into my independence and prepared me for this. My super power is my ability to regenerate my own strength and to remain calm in dire situations. I can sit with the heaviest hearts and cry with them and then I can heal myself and move on most times even stronger than before. I have learned how to empathize and be present but not let things fully infiltrate my heart and take me down. I have come to see myself as a beacon of sorts, much like a lighthouse. My role in your life might be to safely guide you into one harbor, so that later on I can watch you move on to other journeys and other harbors.

I have now found so much joy in this and in my “temporary” presence in the lives of those in need. I love to look in on people I have had those moments with and see their abundance and joy and know I have had even a small part in their life. I have learned to operate out of love and not out of obligation and that allows me to find fulfillment in these exchanges and not resentment. Now it has become quite the opposite of the drain it once was…now the more I do it, the stronger I become.

This is definitely not to make myself out to be some kind of martyr or saint, absolutely not. I have done plenty of fucking things up -especially when I had anxiety and didn’t understand my power. I was always insulted or taking something personally. I was always getting my feelings hurt because I had “overextended” myself. I was the toxic person in a couple relationships and sometimes just an asshole to strangers for no good reason other than I was cranky. One time I even yelled at a pigeon, my bad Mr. Pidge if you’re still out there. I paid my karmic dues for bad choices and character flaws but in the end I have learned from every misstep. I have asked for forgiveness and I more importantly have changed and continue to adjust on the daily as more facets of this incredibly complex path are revealed to me.

I have recently fallen in love with a principle called Amor Fati, which translates literally to “love of fate.” It basically calls you to fall in love with your fate, with your life. To love both the good and the bad, the high and the low points. Not to judge it or to try to change it but to love all of it as it is in the present. I have come to love my ability to not fear the darkness and to love my fate as as a lighthouse. I now know I am strong enough and awake enough to not fear this path or curse it or resent it – but instead to follow it where it leads me. To only allow people in my life to become permanent if they can understand and support my commitment to this calling. It is not an easy perspective to take. People will often feel I’m allowing myself to “be taken advantage of,” and sometimes people who love me become angry for me if someone I have helped doesn’t step up for me when I am in need. I think that is totally understandable but it is just misguided. I don’t need anyone I have helped to come back and help me – in fact I don’t want that. I want to help them back to their feet and then watch them take off running – towards their own highest path and self. If that includes a relationship or friendship with me that’s fine and if not, that’s fine too. People in my life may just be passing through and because I open my door to everyone, many people will come and go. I just want them to go a little stronger than when they came, a little happier, a little brighter – maybe as their own beacon to someone new; That way, together, we can help to light the whole world.

The Speech

This year I had the incredible honor of being asked to deliver the keynote speech at my High School’s graduation. I was so floored and overwhelmed to be asked to go back and speak to the graduates of the school I graduated from. I was invited back to the school for a luncheon to meet the students prior to the day of graduation and it was such a surreal experience. It was the first time I had been back on the campus since I had been a student there myself and it put in to perspective how crazy and unpredictable life can be, in the best way. I went back to my 17 year old self and got to see my life now from her perspective and I don’t think I would have believed it if someone would have told me that this is where I would be. It took me some time to decide what to say, to think about what I would have needed to hear. After a great deal of thought, this is what I said:

 

good evening

First and foremost I want to thank you all for the incredible honor of inviting me here to speak at this momentous occasion in your lives. It was in 2004 that I sat exactly where you are sitting, graduating from this very high school, preparing to take on the next big adventure of my life. And let me tell you, I was an absolute nervous wreck.

I had somehow convinced myself that at 17 years old the choices that I made, what college to go to -what major to study, would be the be-all and end-all for the rest of my life. If I had somehow made a mistake in choosing the wrong major or the wrong school then well— I’d have to work a job i hated and accept a life of misery until it was time for retirement. I blame the drama on the fact that I’m an artist and that I was a teenager. 

I know that today, many of you probably feel that same pressure. What I want you to understand is that first of all -that pressure is a good thing. It means that you care, it means that you have high expectations for your life. It means that you want to do important work and you want to leave a legacy. In a generation where somehow it has become cool to not care- caring makes you special, it makes you powerful. 

I made the decision to go to college at Lehigh university after my graduation from LMG. I studied behavioral neuroscience and English and I loved every second of it. I was enraptured with psychology, neuroanatomy and classic literature. That degree went to incredible use,  as now- I am a professional dancer, choreographer and influencer living in Los Angeles. Yes,  Influencer- that’s a real job now.

 Nowadays I only use the expertise I gained from studying for my degree when one of my friends is trying to figure out what exactly is wrong with their ex boyfriend…. Does that mean I regret going to college?  Absolutely not. Heres why: 

I’m here today to tell you that your life will be a series of choices. If you learn to trust yourself and to be resilient you will gracefully accept the consequences of the choices you make and continue to forge forward. The choice to acquire knowledge or be educated can never fail you. Intelligence is priceless.

You are all standing at the precipice of an incredible period of transformation. You are about to change and begin again. You will shed some of the old in order to make room for a new phase of your life. But this will not be the last phase of your life or the only period of change, absolutely not. It will be one of many. Your path will have many routes and reroutes and go back to square 1s. Each one will teach you a beautiful lesson and each lesson will help to elevate you to the next level of your life and potential. 

Please be kind to yourself in this process and in all the  phases of your life that are ahead of you. When I graduated college I knew that it was time for me to spend some time with the other great love of my life, Dance. I gave myself one year to pursue dance before I would go back to get a masters in Neuroscience. In that year, I booked my first job as a dancer for the NY Knicks and my career took off. 

As a kid i used to to take the subway into Manhattan to take dance class and I would walk past Madison square garden and say to myself “someday I’ll perform in there.” My very first professional job became that someday…and somehow  at 22 my life began to come full circle…but only because I honored the pull in my soul that said- “do not give up on that  dream.”

I know this is what I am meant to be doing and I have found success only because I have been patient; because I learned to accept each challenge with grace and with honor, even when the result of those challenges looked like failures. I have been told “no” more times than I ever cared to count. 

Failure is often the temporary result of the fearless pursuit of big dreams. We mustn’t fear the failures, but embrace them. They will be our greatest teachers. Your intelligence and resilience will allow you to adapt, adjust and bounce back stronger after every set back.

 It is so important to have faith  in your ability- and to trust the divine timing of your life. I know people always say to dream big and  that’s a bit cliché. I would say dream bigger- bigger than the sky, and then leave a little bit more room for an even bigger dream than you could possibly imagine to take shape. 

I have already to this day lived a life that has so far exceeded any dream I could’ve had for myself at your age — sitting in those seats. I’ve gone skydiving over Fiji, been on Safari in the Serengeti, went swimming with great white sharks off the coast of Capetown, sorry mom. I have performed on stage for 50,000 people in Madagascar and swung off the end of the earth in Ecuador. 

It’s funny because I remember distinctly one afternoon when I was a senior in Mr. Wayner‘s AP History class  here at LMG and we were looking at the pages of the textbook with pictures of France. I remember thinking to myself what a dream that would be to be there—but at the time it was such an out there idea, to think I could ever see a place like that in person. 

Growing up my family was of limited financial means, we weren’t rich with money but we were rich with love. I called the airline and they said “You can’t pay for a ticket to France with love, kid”-  so I had to let go of my Eiffel Tower filled aspirations and keep my mind off the crepes… and for a while, I did.

Then a few years later after graduating from college, when I concluded my contract with the NBA – I booked my second big dance job. And that dance job brought me on my first world tour- the very first stop?  France.

 I performed my choreography live on stage at the Bercy in the heart of Paris for 30,000 people. I went on to live in France for three months after that and I’ve had the pleasure to return seven times since then. I have since traveled to 55 countries and to 48 of our great states and I have never bought a plane ticket. So it turns out Love can fly you to France, and it can take you absolutely anywhere else on this earth that you want to go. Pursue your passions, trust that pull in your soul. 

I think so often we rule out possibilities and limit our potential because we can’t see the immediate plan that could bring us to that major goal. Somehow though, when you live your life with integrity and make hard work and excellence your calling cards -life opens up and makes lanes for us towards what once seemed  impossible. 

I urge you to not set limits on your life or potential and to live every day filled with love. With the right mindset you can accomplish absolutely anything. It is my heart and passion for what I do that has carried me, not money in the bank or any other asset. 

After several years of success in NY I knew it was time to push my boundaries and head west. 8 years ago I landed in California after a wild road trip across the country; for what would become the biggest challenge I was yet to face. 

I hit the ground running, pretty much the only way I know how to hit the ground- and started booking work immediately despite knowing only one person in the whole state of California. 8 years ago social media was just starting to open up, Instagram was in its infancy and so I went after the only available route for professional dancers at that time. To audition in order to book jobs behind recording artists as a nameless back up dancer. 

Very early on I became disillusioned with the process. I didn’t enjoy the audition culture and I didn’t feel I fit into the Hollywood scene quite right. I was unwilling to live uninspired or unhappy- So I had two choices, to quit dance and move on to something that was a better fit, or to create a lane where there wasn’t one. 

Naturally, i wanted to go for the crazy build a new lane option B. Not only did I not love the audition process and lifestyle- I didn’t love the lifestyle after the work was booked. So much financial insecurity and lack of a voice in ones work along with a lot of mistreatment by bosses and higher ups. I didn’t like the game, so i decided to change it. 

I saw potential in what was beginning to grow on social media platforms like YouTube… so I partnered with a like minded individual and got to work. It was the happiest and most creative I had been in a long time- up all night every night hatching up new concept ideas and then spending all day bringing them to life. At first, I caught a lot of opposition- people saying “ are u crazy?” “you’re not making any money” “ you have to get out and audition- that’s the way things are done.” And I would just pause and say  to myself “for now.”

I didn’t know for sure if what I was helping to build would sink or swim but I knew that I felt alive and that that excitement was something that needed to be chased. For a little over a year I  ignored the naysayers, kept my head down and kept laying my bricks. Those bricks would become the foundation on which I’ve built my brand. 

Then one day, a video hit.  The view count hit 1 million, 4 million, then 30 million. Then the whole industry sat up to pay attention- and all the tides began to turn in our favor. An industry that always needed to be chased down, started coming to us. Brands, artists, studios… everyone. 

Now I have over a million people watching me across my platforms and I’m going to make sure I lead by example. First others in our industry  asked why…? And then they asked -how?

Everywhere u go find the opportunity in the struggle. Don’t accept “that’s the way things are” as a permanent fact- the world is ever changing and you can easily be at the forefront of that change. Stay true to your vision- even if you are the only one that can see it. Don’t be afraid of criticism or hard work. If you see a need for something or a way to elevate, create or inspire- do it. Don’t get caught up in tunnel vision, or one way of thinking. Keep your mind open to all of life’s possibilities, even the ones that don’t exist yet. 

I know that this age of social media can be a blessing and a curse- the blessing is in the connection and the curse is in getting caught up in comparison. This comparing yourself to others can breed a feeling of competition; A feeling like someone could just jump in and take something you love or care deeply about right out from under you at any moment or like other people are always doing things better or faster or more efficiently then you are. 

 But as you get older you really start to realize that what is meant for you, will never miss you. Your divine path, your calling, your highest purpose can only be lived by YOU. It can never be stolen from you or taken away from you or fulfilled by anyone other than you. When you realize that, you realize the competition has never and will never been with anyone outside of yourself. 

Once you realize that you start to wish that the competition was with other people. Because let me tell you, the hardest battle of all is the one that you will fight with yourself. The battle to rid yourself of excuses and self doubt and negative habits – the battle that will ultimately teach you self-love, self respect, gratitude, resilience, integrity, humility, authenticity. 

These are not easy traits to cultivate, but they are necessary for you to fulfill your highest purpose on this earth. It’s difficult to learn accountability, to learn that every loss and every win will be the sum total of your efforts and your heart. That your life will be YOUR responsibility- no one else’s. That is scary but it is also so empowering. 

Use whatever talent, knowledge and skills you acquire throughout your life to reach out your hand and help those around you. Allow it to breed humility so that you don’t succumb to ego.

If you stay strong in this battle with your mind you will not only live a life of excellence but you will feel called to live a life of kindness and service. I have come to find that it is through one small act of kindness at a time that we construct a life of great significance.

Think about the people here who have lived their life in service of you. The teachers that have nurtured your education, that have brought you to this point where you can sit in a cap and gown with your entire future before you. 

Think about the long hours they’ve spent and the love they’ve invested in service of your future. They have left an indelible mark on your life, they have left a legacy within each of you. It was my AP Bio teacher Mrs. Fanning that led me to want to pursue my love for science at University. She’s here tonight as my guest to support me, a friendship that has lasted 15 years- and a passion for science that will live within me throughout my lifetime.

Think about the people surrounding you, your families and friends that have served you throughout your life. Think about the fact that your family and loved ones are here to support you and clap for you and cheer you on during this moment of great success. My family is here too…my mom and dad have been beside me for every loss and every win, tonight is no exception. That support is not an easy thing to come by and that unfailing love of family, mentors and great friends is paramount. 

Remember to lead with kindness and love within the walls of your home and anywhere else that you go. Remember that the people you surround yourself with will greatly affect your potential for success. Keep the people who genuinely love you close to you so that no matter how focused you become on where you’re going, you never lose site of where you come from. 

I had the privilege of coming back to the school last month to meet and interact with some of you . I hadn’t been back on the grounds since I left in my cap and gown in 2004. I guess I half expected to come back to see kids on hover boards or something. That’s definitely not what I found- what i found was that you all looked SO much like me and my graduating class that halfway through the tour I had forgotten I wasn’t a student – I almost expected to turn the corner and run into my old friends hanging out by their lockers and laughing like we did in our senior year. 

After speaking with a lot of you I found one of the things that scares you the most, is time. You feel like TIME is  this big monster chasing after you and any minute the clock is going to run out. I get messages every day from kids your age who ask things like ..:“ I’m 18 and i want to pursue a career in dance, is it too late for me???” I always giggle to myself because you’re all just as dramatic as I was at your age and I respond – “how can it be too late for you??” If we have air in our lungs, it’s never too late – for any of us.

I know that feeling and I know that consciousness of the fact that this earthly experience is not permanent or promised. Your perspective will hold the key to finding the joy in the impermanence of life, rather than the fear in it. We are given this miraculous gift…Each morning don’t awake to the ticking of the clock and feel fear or pressure… feel gratitude for this privilege to be alive. 

Understand that each day is another chance to make life better, to  make it great. Use the time to pursue your passions, heal old wounds, connect with your family, laugh, eat good food, travel the world. Time is not promised, to any of us- and worrying about when the clock will run out out is the biggest waste of that precious time. Have fun with this life. Take every single chance to dance.

Im going to leave you now with one last story. My parents always loved to make me put on a show at every holiday and every party. My communion party was no different- my parents wanted a performance. Luckily, I was born an entertainer so I was easy to convince.  I told my mom I needed two things – My fiery red unitard and the Song “Ya Gotta Be” by Des’ree. Trust me it was a hit and it had my favorite line ever -“ all i know is that love will save the day.” 

The day of the big party came and in true procrastinator fashion, I had absolutely nothing prepared. I pulled my best friend into the restroom during the party and said “listen we’re gonna wing this thing and we’re gonna rock it.” She looked at me shocked and said, “let’s go.” We went on that floor and the music took over, my friend frantically tried to copy me while I freestyled each spin, kick and split. We were an absolute— hit.  To this day its one of my favorite memories. Surrounded by the people I love, doing something I love- Thats what life is about. So you see- sometimes all you need is a good friend, good music, the right attitude and a killer outfit.

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. ❤

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