The Class of 2020

I have been thinking a lot about how people have been affected by this pandemic and the state of the planet. How people had such huge plans for their weddings, the birth of their children and their graduations; How we look forward to these cornerstone moments in life not only with excitement but with expectation. The way we expect things to look; that walk down the aisle, or to the delivery room or across the stage for your diploma.

The pandemic has caused everything to be adjusted, everything from the way we buy groceries to the way we can celebrate large life events, has been altered. I feel grateful to not have any major life events falling into this span and my heart truly goes out to all who do. I know the stress this uncertainty is causing, I know the pain of loss. I know the difficulty of having to replace what should have been a joyful, momentous time in your life with something as heavy, confusing and devastating as this.

My heart is with the workers on the frontline, those battling their mental health, those out of work, stressing about money, those having to change their wedding date, or deliver their baby, people who are ill, who may become ill, who are immune compromised, people who have lost a loved one… my heart is really with every single person on the planet.

I genuinely believe there is purpose to this, a reason for it. I have faith in our ability to rebuild.. stronger, more connected, more empathetic. I believe that chaos is borne to teach us something, to show us the way toward peace. The truth is, there is always uncertainty, there is always something to be lost. I hope this time can help us to see what is truly valuable and important in our lives, help us prioritize and cherish the privilege that we do have.

This is all so truly unprecedented and I’ve thought a lot about its affect on the youth. A lot of my “kids” are seniors in High School. I think it’s unheard of in recent history for school to be cancelled the way it was this year. I was remembering my senior year of high school and how my entire academic career I looked forward to that year. The fun of being a senior, prom, graduation. I can’t imagine having the year cancelled without notice- not having the chance to say goodbye to my friends, my school. I’m sad for them. Not only for the loss of their senior experience but for the size of the weight they’re being asked to carry at such a young age.

I believe so deeply in the class of 2020. I believe that this will teach them to love and appreciate life and every experience while they can. I believe it will allow them to move forward with vigor and excitement. To forge into the unknown stronger for having survived this. I hope they can find comfort in the fact that they are the chosen ones, called upon to be here at this stage of their existence at this very moment in history. They are part of something, something bigger than any of us.

I’ve chatted a bit with a few of my kids and I’m so impressed with the grace and positivity they’re exhibiting while they face this thing head on. My cousin Alexa, one of my all time favorite people, is a graduating senior in HS this year. She’s a softball prodigy, an actor in her school plays and an insanely bright, wise beyond her years human. I asked her if she might share a few words about how she feels about being part of the Class of 2020. Here is what she had to say:

Thoughts from a high school senior of the class of 2020

Class of 2020 is something I’ve been hearing since elementary school. In a few short months, all of that has been stripped away from me. Of course, there is no denying that this is all new and scary to all of us and I know that I am in the best of the worst situations right now. But I can’t help but think about how my senior year will most likely be canceled and I know I’m not the only one. No senior prank, no senior trip, no senior prom, and possibly no graduation. These are the things that kids dream of their whole life; but, class of 2020 is different.

I always knew we were special. Special enough to go through a pandemic during what is supposed to be the “best years of our lives” and somehow still remain hopeful and compassionate. I can’t lie, I was really bummed that I probably won’t get to see my school friends or teachers before college but then I got news that changed my whole perspective. My aunt tested positive. Once I heard that I would have cancelled school altogether if I had the power. We all think things are not that bad until they affect us. What’s more important? My family or a graduation?

To all my seniors, I know things are tough right now and you might have been looking forward to these events for years, just like I have, but this is affecting everyone on earth. Whether you are sitting home living the same days over and over or going to work and risking yourself for others, we are all in this together. No matter what your school has announced for the end of the year, we are still the class of 2020. We graduated during the pandemic, we are part of history.

-Alexa Woluewich

We have all become part of the class of 2020 of this earth school in some way, living through something so unexpected, learning so much, graduating into the unknown. The world is changing and it is my hope that we can evolve from this and make our new normal even better than it has ever been; That we can step into the lives that wait ahead for us with renewed strength and purpose. To the graduating seniors of the class of 2020, I salute you; your bravery, humility and intelligence offer a beacon of hope for what’s ahead. We need you to help us move beyond this, into something greater. There’s a blank canvas before you, make it your masterpiece.

All love,

Dana

The beauty of the bounce back

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about resilience and the way we are souls that are born to bounce back. We are wired to heal and repair ourselves after heartbreak, trauma and loss. If you think about it, we know from the moment that we come into the world, that if all goes as it should, we will likely outlive the two most important people we know, our parents. We are hardwired to lose the strongest bond and connection that we have. To grieve, to mourn and then to move on and continue the circle of life. Some of us are even separated from our parents for reasons that don’t involve their passing and still we persevere.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how, lately as a civilization, we seem to be losing perspective- which is greatly affecting our ability to be resilient in the face of even minor inconveniences or setbacks. Perhaps it’s because of social media, always showing us the quickest, easiest ways that everyone seems to be doing everything. The way people accomplish even massive goals with not so much as a setback. I don’t know for sure, but It feels that expectations are reaching such an unrealistic level that relationships, travel, business endeavors, diets and even friendships are set up to fail before they even begin. One argument? Time for a break up. Didn’t lose 10 pounds day one? Screw fitness. What’s the point of traveling when it’s expensive and my trip will never look as good as so and so’s because I’m single and 10lbs over weight..? And so on.

The other day I watched a woman at the airport freak out because her luggage had been lost. She cursed out everyone from the poor woman at the lost luggage desk to the pilot of the airplane to God himself. I do understand the pressures of travel and the difficulty of losing valuable possessions, especially if something is an irreplaceable heirloom or if you don’t have much to begin with. However, I watched her and thought… “how important is this really that It merits this kind of tantrum?” 10 mins later a terrified employee wheeled out her luggage that wasn’t even lost, just something she herself had overlooked on the belt. She grabbed her bag in a huff and ran off. No apologies, no remorse- just pure anger over what turned out to be a standard travel mix up. 

Similarly, I was on a train from Odense to Viborg in Denmark when the train stopped unexpectedly. I waited a moment and was asked to exit the train about an hour before my stop, in a small strange city I had never heard of. I asked the train attendant if I had gotten on the wrong train and he said no. So I asked, why do I need to exit here? And he informed me that someone had jumped in front of the train and died. I was automatically filled with so much sadness. I carried my bags off the train and tried to work out my next move. While I was standing at the platform though I could hear someone speaking to their friend complaining incessantly about how this ruined her travel day and she was sick of having to deal with these kinds of inconsistencies and inconveniences …and I do understand that as well. 

However, I wondered if she might feel differently if she understood the reason for the reroute and had the perspective that I had. The perspective that things could be worse, and that unfortunately on that day, they were much worse for someone and for that someone’s family and friends and for the horrified train conductor who couldn’t stop the train, and for the people on the platform that witnessed the incident. For countless people who’s day, week, month, year, life- might never be the same because of this split second decision that trickled down and affected so many- including us in some small way. 

What If the whole point of going out and doing the hard, risky things is to encounter the difficulties that teach us resilience and patience? What if that travel delay is exactly why we should travel? So that we can learn the value of time and find a way to make the most of time and more importantly to understand that we don’t have control over the circumstances but only over our attitude toward those circumstances. What if getting into that relationship and risking heartbreak is meant to be uncomfortable and to teach you the things about yourself that maybe you need to learn? 

I used to say I have no patience. However, over the last couple years I have decided that’s not true. People assume that of me because I’m often moving quickly and I adopted their ill opinion of me as a truth about myself for a long time. However, when the train stopped and I was lost in a foreign city, I waited calmly to decide a new solution and then went on my way. When I was just two days into this trip I was alerted that the flight I had booked back to the US was cancelled due to the airline going out of business. I quickly booked a new flight and went to bed. Not because the loss of money didn’t burn, or because I don’t care, but because I understand the risk that I take when I travel and I embrace the lessons. The lesson to be flexible and resilient and to consistently be looking for solutions and not brooding about nonsense and yelling “why me?”. That didn’t happen to me; it just happened. I only have control over my response and I try to find responses that keep me moving forward. 

I hope that we can all find a way to take some deep breaths and keep in mind that in this vast and expansive cosmos we are but tiny little lights. The world isn’t working for or against us… it’s just working. It’s our responsibility to turn lemons into lemonade and to be grateful that we have lemons in the first place. There is no obstacle so great that we can’t overcome and handle it with grace. We aren’t guaranteed anything except the present moment. So make it calm, make it peaceful, make it joyful, make it helpful. You may hit the bottom sometimes, but I am confident that you can bounce back.

All love,

Dana 

** I wrote this over the summer during my trip through Europe, most of which I did solo. I found it today and thought that it is quite relevant now, amidst the corona craziness. We are so strong, this too shall pass. Stay safe, be well ❤

The loss of someone I loved

This week, for the first time ever, I went and sat in with a psychic medium as she did a small group reading. Yes. I am talking about the people who talk to people on the “other side,” AKA dead people a la the Sixth Sense. Cue the non-believer eye rolls and “oh please’s” Trust me, I get it. I am a New Yorker and as a unit we don’t believe jack shit. Plus, I am a scientist.. so there’s always that side of me that tries to disprove all the theories. However, I have always had a duality to my personality. Part of me that feels that things like people talking to the dead is woo woo nonsense for people desperate for closure. I know that “mediums” could very well be empaths who can easily read a crowd and use verbal and nonverbal cues from the people in the room to spark their “readings” and conversations with the “dead.” However, the other side of me does understand that we are vibrational, energetic beings. Do we just die and disappear? If energy cannot be created or destroyed It seems unlikely that there is nothing, no remnants of our life force energy left behind after our physical bodies pass. Why couldn’t someone be able to see through the curtain and reach that energy?

Long story short, I don’t have the answers. I remain a curious skeptic/believer. Which is why when my good friend invited me to go to this medium’s small group reading in Sherman Oaks, I said “yes.” We got into the room a couple minutes late and had absolutely no idea what to expect. The medium was a colorful woman in her late 50’s who seemed like someone that might live next door from you and have a couple of cats. The readings began and things were… awkward – at best. The medium seemed a bit nervous to be honest, even though she said she has been doing this for a while. The room was quiet enough to hear the lady next to me picking her fingernails. The medium started by saying she had a “hitchhiker” with her since the morning. Those of you who don’t know what that means, it refers to a spirit that follows the medium around prior to a reading to be sure they “get through.” She said the hitch hiker spirit was a woman named Carol and that she was someone’s mother. No one in the room knew a Carol or what the hell was going on really. She explained Carol with some more details and … crickets.

Eventually she moved on to someones spunky Spanish grandma and someone in the room did claim this spirit. However, the name was off by everything except the first letter… so I remained very skeptical, at best. The readings went on and at some point she even channeled someone’s dead pet rabbit. Some of the readings seemed pretty on, but almost all of them had at least a few points that people couldn’t connect and that honestly seemed like guesses.

About half way through the session she connected with a young woman who had walked in late. She was talking about a female spirit that was very persistent and wanted to tell this young woman to move on with her life and not spend any more time in her grief stricken state. The young woman being read cried and when the medium asked if this spirit was her mother, she nodded yes. The medium asked her what her mother’s name was and she said… “Carol.” The entire room sat up and gasped. She had missed the first 15 minutes of the session by coming in late so she hadn’t heard the anecdote at the beginning about the hitch hiking spirit. Coincidence? Maybe. Honestly though, in that moment, it didn’t feel like a coincidence.

Every reading came through with details about someone’s departed loved one as well as messages for them from the beyond that pertained to their lives now. The messages communicated love and forgiveness. Almost everyone’s passed loved one told their person to relax, not be so hard on themself, pursue their dreams and to stop holding back. The little Spanish grandma urged her grandson not to give up on his writing and Carol asked her daughter to go back to her creative side. A little bit vague and generic I thought, but also probably exactly what we would say to our loved ones if we saw the limitless potential in their existence from behind the screen of the “other side.”

About an hour into the session, as we were coming to the end of the experience, the medium commented that she was getting male energy. Interesting, as almost all of the other people who had come through in the session were female. She said that this was definitely “Uncle energy”… this was for sure someone’s uncle. She said the man was a big guy, but bigger on top and in the belly than in the legs. (My dad later confirmed that he “always joked with him about his skinny legs and him being top heavy.”) The medium said this uncle had a lot of hair and he looked very nice.

Now, I haven’t told you yet but my Uncle Tony passed away this past Christmas Eve, less than a month prior to this session. It was kind of sudden for us and we were all surprised and heartbroken. I didn’t sign up for this to talk to him, I actually agreed to it before I knew he was gone. I can honestly say I never really expected him to come through at something like this, especially because he’s just the sort of person that would eye roll this kind of function. Then the medium said this man was in his 50’s and hadn’t lived a full life. No one had claimed him yet, so I raised my hand and said my uncle had just past and truthfully every single thing she had said so far was a bang on description of him. To be honest, it kind of felt like my hand raised itself.

She looked right at me and said “oh yes, he belongs to you.” She followed immediately with: “he’s connected to your father?” I confirmed that was true. I was very careful to give simple yes or no answers and I even went to the lengths of wearing nondescript clothes and no make up so she couldn’t draw any clues about me from my appearance.

What she didn’t know was that Uncle Tony wasn’t an uncle to me at all in technical terms. He was my father’s lifelong childhood friend and we had adopted the name “uncle” as a term of endearment. Uncle Tony was part of my life from the moment I was born, just as he had always been part of my dad’s life. He and my father had a special friendship, full of laughter and love. Their friendship spanned decades, the way few things do nowadays. Uncle Tony always loved me and was always very protective. He was a worrier, to say the least. So, my recent galavanting around the globe and jumping out of airplanes made him more than a touch uncomfortable.

She said “he’s showing me a gold ring on his hand and making me feel like I should kiss it.” I confirmed that this was possible, since he was always impeccably dressed and pretty funny. Later in talking to my dad he connected the dots for me and told me of the reference in the movie The Godfather to kissing the ring. What’s funny is my dad thought it was my Uncle just being a funny Italian and making a joke, but what he had forgotten was that Uncle Tony was my godfather, so it was more than a joke. It was his clever way of proving his relationship to me.

The medium went on, “he has a nice button down shirt on and the wants you to tell your father not to worry. He wants your dad to know that he’s alright.” He also wants you to tell your dad to “pay his credit card bills in order of the highest interest” but other than that “your dad needs to relax.” She said his tone was big and funny and loud and that he seemed to be making a joke of that to tease my dad. That is exactly the kind of relationship they had, always poking fun at one another and being loud and silly. They were the life of every holiday and party and always had the whole family in stitches with their antics.

The medium also communicated that he was asking me to tell my dad to be more open to communicating with him. She said that my uncle had been trying to reach my dad to tell him that he’s OK but that my dad’s been shut down to the signs. When I told my dad this later, he confirmed that while he was cooking in the kitchen earlier that same day he felt prompted to say out loud to my Uncle that he wasn’t ready to talk to him just yet and that he needed more time. I asked him what he felt that made him say that and he said, “I don’t know. I just felt that in that moment he was trying to reach me.” Coincidence or confirmation? I’m still not sure.

Then the medium said, “he clearly loves your dad and my god does he LOVE you. He is just beaming with pride and going on about how impressed he is with you and he’s telling me that you influence a lot of people, does that make sense?” I nodded yes. She went on, “he says that you’re the type of person that on social media, you’ll like everyone’s stuff. You’re not petty, you believe there’s room for everyone and want to see everyone win. He says you are on the exact right path, you’re level headed and open and you are fearless. He says he wishes he could have been more like that and he is just going on and on about how influential you are and how he’s so excited and proud.” I was speechless. If you’re anything like me you’re automatically wondering if she had access to my name before the session… because then she could easily type it into google and know without much effort that I am an influencer online. However, I hadn’t signed up for the session.. my friend had. He had put his name down and signed me in anonymously. I saw for myself the +1 on the list, not so much as my first name was listed.

I was the only person who got a message like that from a loved one, with that kind of tone and detail and honestly, it applied to me exactly. What was very cool to me was that all of the things that scared my uncle about me when he was here in the physical now excited him in the beyond. He even said he wished he could have been more of a risk taker and less of a worrier. Now that he can tap limitless knowledge and unconditional love he gave me the gift of affirming that my path and intentions are correct and gave me the boost I didn’t even know I was looking for to keep knocking down walls and running after what I want and doing so with love in my heart. I don’t know what’s real and what’s not but I know that that experience lit me up and felt very genuine. She was spot on about Uncle Tony and the thing I remember the most about him was his huge contagious smile. I could feel myself smiling just like him throughout the session and for hours after.

He wished he had taken more risks and admired that in me … that really resonated. So how do we learn to take more risks? I don’t have all the answers but I know for me personally that setting boundaries has made it much easier to be a risk-taker. I have found that I can take risks more responsibly now, if you will, because I have decided exactly where my limits and boundaries lie. For example, I will take risks at work but never go so as to surround myself with people who are doing things I don’t respect just to get ahead. I will jump out of a plane but only after doing all the research to know I am as educated as possible on the safety measures and statistics.

So was it really him? I guess I will never be able to say for sure; but what I can say is thank you. Thank you Uncle Tony for the years of love and laughter and the way you have protected me and continue to protect me. Thank you for being the friend you were to my Dad and for loving our family so much. It’s truly a blessing that we became family by choice. I have the best memories of our time together and it was a privilege to have you here with us, bringing light and laughter to our lives. I will never forget you or one moment of the life we all shared. Our small apartment in Brooklyn came to life with music, stories and fun every time you came through the door. Thank you for the way you cared for me, loved me and have supported me and continue to support me. Your big laugh, huge smile, and superman sized energy will be greatly missed. I’ll think of you often until we meet again, I love you always, oh and I promise to remember to be careful.

uncle tonyuncle tony 2

A note to end the decade

As a decade comes to a close tonight, I, like most of you have taken a look back at the last ten years- to take stock of my choices, successes, failures and everything in between. Honestly, at the risk of sounding like an asshole, I’m ridiculously satisfied and even a little impressed with what I’ve managed to do with the time. It’s not that every moment has been a resounding success, sometimes things went so poorly it was almost comical.

However, I’m satisfied with my decision to LIVE- to take risks- to grab life by the balls and hold on for dear life. I smashed through ceilings and shattered expectations- mostly my own. When the decade began I struggled with anxiety disorder and I was a prisoner to my own mind. Any of you who are currently battling a mental illness and are in a hell of that sort will understand my willingness to celebrate my victories and risk the “she’s conceited” crap talk to say: I’m proud of myself.

In the last decade I have: traveled to 50 countries, six continents, won the amazing race, been engaged, been un-engaged, taught sold out domestic and international workshops to thousands and thousands of students, been put on staff at Millennium Dance Complex, worked for companies like: Vogue, Disney, Lexus, MTV, Netflix. I’ve performed around the world, in commercials, music videos and movies, went skydiving(twice), went on safari, swung off the end of the earth, jumped off a building, a bridge and then bungeed off a bridge to nowhere. I have hiked a million hours, danced about a billion hours, laughed with friends, adopted a dog, done hours upon hours of charity, stood at stonehenge, macchu picchu, the Eiffel Tower, the pyramids of Giza. I’ve ridden camels, loved on elephants, traveled to 48 of our great states, marveled at the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore, cooked meals for Friends, laughed until my insides hurt, choreographed and directed an international tour. I took my parents to Italy for the first time in their lives, I took my cousins to Mexico. I surprised my family with a night on the town in NYC and threw myself a 30th birthday I’ll never forget. I was a bridesmaid, gave the keynote speech at my HS graduation. I’ve made new friends around the world and held on to friends from my childhood. I’ve fucked things up, lost my patience, lost my temper, done things wrong- made things right. I celebrated love, I grieved loss. I moved across the country, hung out of a helicopter, flew an airplane. I moved across the world to be a judge on Indian TV, I snorkeled between two continents, descended into a volcano. I became a healer, camped in the Serengeti, rode in a hot air balloon over Morocco. I lived abroad in Europe and in Asia. I read a bazillion books, started a blog- a merch line- a brand. I hit rock bottom and I climbed back up. I created tons of online content, for someone else.. and then for myself. I lost loved ones and watched new ones be born. I bought my own car, paid my own rent and all my own bills. I took care of myself, loved myself and learned how to love others better.

To be honest, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I have learned so many lessons and feel like I have lived a hundred lives in a hundred different forms. I have learned to let my life flow and to consistently evolve with it. Once I freed myself from my cage, I promised to never put myself into another one, and I think I’ve honored that promise to myself. As the year and the decade comes to an end I encourage you to take a look at the last ten years of your own life. Celebrate them, rejoice, pat yourself on the back for making it this far.

Then ask yourself, in the years to come: What do you want to do more of? Who do you want to be? What are you capable of? Lift the limits and the restrictions and go after your life full speed ahead. Time is not promised, tomorrow is not promised. So decide right now to live your life without fear- not to be reckless- but to really fucking live. Decide to see yourself as the magical, powerful being you truly are and to pursue all that inspires you. I promise you, you can be anyone you aspire to be. You can make your life a shining pillar of success and love. You can make a positive impact and live in abundance. You can be stronger than your setbacks, stronger even because of your setbacks. You can overcome. You can if you so choose. So, Take a deep darling. Take a deep breath, and decide.

10 important things I’ve learned in the last 10 years in no particular order ❤️

1. I never regretted taking a risk, seizing a moment or falling in love. (Even if it turned out poorly or broke my heart)

2. My most vivid memories are the ones I spent laughing with my friends and family

3. In hindsight, it all makes more sense

4. The suffering makes you stronger, if you pay attention. If you learn the lesson. Get comfortable in the darkness and in your solitude. When you can be still in the chaos, you become limitless. Meditate.

5. In making an effort to understand my failures and short comings, I was able to avoid making the same mistakes twice (in most cases)

6. Treat every conversation with those you love like it could be your last… in some cases it will be

7. Save the photos, cards, voicemails.. when they’re gone those things become priceless

8. If you spend your money on anything, make that thing be travel. It never stops giving and offers a perspective and a calm that can’t be learned elsewhere.

9. Give back. Show up for people as much as you can. Being kind and supporting others doesn’t mean they’ll do the same for you; show up anyway.

10. Don’t hesitate. Don’t doubt your intuition or your God given gifts. Your life will become a reflection of the standards that YOU set for yourself. Speak highly of yourself. Decide who you want to be- today. Let go of any past beliefs that don’t support who you want to become.

11. One more for good luck: YOU GOT THIS BABY ❤️

All love for another phenomenal decade ahead.

-Dana

Go It Alone

Today I stepped foot on my 56th country, Greece . People often ask me if I’m afraid to travel alone and I always respond with “why would I be?” I’m sure people have all different reasons for thinking it could be scary for a woman to travel alone, but none of them really ever occur to me. If I had a euro for every person who has already asked “where you boyfriend?” “You not married?” This trip I’d have enough money to buy this island and outlaw those questions altogether. Would people ask me the same if I were a man? Would they care that I was alone? Probably not, but don’t get me started.

I have always completely trusted myself and my instincts. I am attentive, intelligent and together. I don’t know for sure that nothing bad will happen to me abroad, but I don’t have that guarantee if I stay home either.

Today I roamed around Mykonos completely alone. I walked the winding cobblestone streets, sat and ate a meal, made a friend, did some shopping – all completely alone. I left my phone on airplane and opted to take very few photos so that I could fully exist in and experience this moment and this new place, completely on my own.

Is it always easy to have to be alone with your thoughts? No. Is it always comfortable to sit among tables of couples kissing, families laughing, friends sharing food- and to be completely alone? No. But I have found that in those moments of discomfort I grow the most. My eyes open, my heart opens – to all the love that really does exist in a world that is so often painted to be bleak. In the silence of my solitude I can see clearly the way that humans connect to one another. I can feel how small I really am in this vast cosmos of souls and stars. I can monitor my own thoughts and truly get to know myself and what my needs are. I can start to create new dreams, without judgment or restriction. I like to spend time with myself, I am a pretty good friend to myself.

Some might find it scary, but I find power and beauty in it. Today I was lost and alone, far from anyone I know or anything familiar and I thrived. I experienced this exotic land and I laughed, I played with alllllll the stray animals (including a goat that let me hug him), I bought myself a beautiful ring and had the best hummus I have ever tasted. I watched the sun set behind the beautiful white and blue homes that have painted my dreams since I was a little girl. I got here, on my own. No help, no push – just me – bringing to reality yet another lifelong dream.

Does it scare me? No. It revives me, inspires me, empowers me. What scares me is the possibility of spending my life waiting – for the perfect moment, or the perfect partner, or the perfect financial situation – that may never come. What scares me is how close I am to having missed this opportunity or having talked myself out of the chance to explore this magnificent place and reconnect with the only person I know will be around for the rest of my life- me. What scares me is the thought of letting other people scare me out of what I know I was born to do. Sitting at a taverna attempting to translate for a group of 10 from Hong Kong who are trying to order Paella but calling Pilar …. that doesn’t scare me.

The world calls to me – I am drawn to exotic lands and wild adventures. My life has become a tapestry of memories, moments scattered across landscapes from the cities of the east coast of the US to the jungles of the South Pacific. Some of them are of me alone, some with a significant other, some with best friends and some with my family… But all of them significant. All of them beautiful in their own transformative way.

I feel confident that because I have done that which few are willing to do, and spent the time to really get to know myself, that if and when I do meet someone that wants to share these crazy journeys with me, that I’ll be fully prepared for that. I’ll have the opportunity to travel with someone out of desire, not necessity. I’ll be fully strong and capable on my own and only be complemented by a partner. I have never been one to wait around. I don’t believe in waiting for someone or some

Perfect moment to begin your life. This life is mine, and I don’t have any guarantees. So I’m going to make the most of it the best I know how. I’m going to honor every pull in my soul that draws me to places like this. Is it always exactly what I thought it would be? No. But nothing ever is… and you know what? Sometimes it’s so much better than I ever could have imagined.

Take the chance, buy the ticket, float in the sea, drink the wild air. Say yes to your life. You are strong, you are capable and you are free. The time is now my darling, the world is waiting.

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.