For me, it first happened in a grocery store and now it happens all the time at my dance school. 

When I was younger, I had this great friend. His name was Michael and actually, he continues to be my friend, 22 years later. Every time I felt overwhelmed with life, every time I felt like just the world is crashing at me. I would call him and say, hey, can we go for a walk? 

That was our signal to go to the grocery store, the local one called Dominion, where we’d go through the aisles and I would just share, I would share what I’m struggling with.

We’d walk through the aisle, we would walk through the frozen aisle, and I would tell them about the fact that my mom had cancer, and I couldn’t handle it. We walked through the chip aisle, and he would tell me how his mom and dad are getting separated. We would walk through the fruit aisle and I would tell him, I’m not so sure about taking over a dance school.

We just kept showing up for each other and listening without judgment accepting and understanding, and validating and believing in each other. I don’t know which walk, he became my brother from another mother, but 22 years later, he continues to be my family.

What I’ve learned is it’s hard to just even make friends these days, but it’s especially hard to have your friends, become your family. 

Here are two things you can do today, to have your friends, become your family, 

  1. Practice Vulnerability: Everyone is waiting for someone to open up. Why not you? As hard as it is, the reason we became family is that I opened up about what I was going through. This in general used to be hard for me. I never wanted to be a complainer. I never wanted to feel like I’m dumping my things on my friend. I’ve had to learn over the years that me sharing with a person and having them listen to me, doesn’t mean that they carry that. I still have to live my life, but it just makes me feel I’m less alone in the world and it makes the person I share with feel important. As we became adults, unfortunately, we began to have a lot more surface-level superficial conversations. The only way through that is genuinely opening up (I know, it’s hard) and letting people you care about in more. 
  2. Be genuinely curious about your family:  We’re living in such a distracted world that even when our friends are saying and sharing things, it just blows past us because we’re thinking about ourselves and what we need. When I think of family, I think people who are genuinely curious about me and how I see the world. They make the effort to not just listen but ask questions to delve in and understand what your values are. So if we work towards being genuinely interested in our friends, ‘Why they picked their career?’ ‘What motivates them’ ‘What did they love?’ ‘What are they hate?’ Actually, listen

The world’s greatest problem is loneliness and I work hard that when my students arrive in our classes they don’t just build a connection to me, but they build a connection to each other. We do that not only through dance, through the music but every class when students come in, we also ask them self-reflecting questions.

When they put on their name tag, they also put their answer to questions like:

“What are you most grateful for in your life?”

“What’s one piece of advice you would give your younger self”

The idea is that if everyone is a little bit vulnerable, with total strangers, through those shared moments, connections begin to blossom. 

I hope I get to see you one day, walk through my studio, so I can give you a high five and a hug. 

Sending you lots of positive energy and love.

If you have any questions you would like me to answer here are some ways you can contact me: message me on Instagram (torontodancesalsa), on Twitter (#torontodancesalsa), on Facebook (Toronto Dance Salsa) or email me at [email protected].