1. My mother. She is my best friend, my role model, my confidant, and my guidance. “I’ve been beaten down. I’ve been kicked around, but she takes it all for me. And I lost my faith in my darkest days, but she makes me want to believe.”
2. My family. They love me, always. They challenge me and encourage me. They laugh at my jokes, and they call me out when I need to be called out. They support me through bad choices, and they catch me when I fall. To the women in my family, you’ll always be my example of strong, successful wives and mothers. To the men in my family, you’ll always serve as my example of loving, understanding husbands and fathers.
3. Dance. My life was changed once I fell in love with dance. I so strongly believe in everything dance has taught me and shared with me. Dance has opened doors in my life to opportunities and people that I would have never met. I am forever thankful for dance.
4. My teachers. Your passion, dedication and inspiration has helped me grow into the person I am today. You dared me to ask the difficult questions, to discipline myself and never give up. You taught me how to take my life into my own hands, and you taught me what it is to be a teacher.
5. Traveling. When I was 16 years old, I went to Japan to perform “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” Stepping out of my country and into a new country showed me that love and education pushes through language barriers and touches lives. I will never forget the families who supported me, a complete stranger to them, in an unknown world. Also, to all of the oceans, mountains and cities I’ve visited. You all reveal God’s work.
6. Reading and writing. My grandfather, a preacher, has his own library. He always encouraged me to read as many books as I could, and to use language to express everything I observed. My mother loves writing poetry, and always gave me time to finish a chapter or write in my journal. Their undying respect for the written word taught me a great deal.
7. Music. It has the power to change your point of view and mood. Music helps us better understand our lives and work through our problems. I grew up singing with my little brother, which later turned into music history classes, and how to read/write music. Having grown up in a musical family, I have a deep respect for music and everything it does to alter our reality and change lives.
8. Broken hearts. To all of the relationships that didn’t work out… thank you. You helped me learn what I want and what I don’t want. You freed me from insecurities. You helped show me what love isn’t. To all of the people who hurt my feelings or embarrassed me along the way… thank you. You helped me pick myself back up and become stronger.
9. Friends. You know who you are. I need you when I’m down. I need you when I’m scared. I need you when I’m lonely. You deal with me when I’m working through things. You never leave my side. To all of you: Thank you.
10. Faith. From faith in God to faith in myself and others. You must have faith; always believe in what’s waiting for you just under the horizon.