Never underestimate the power of performance.

Damn, 2020. Will the chaos ever stop?

Job loss is one of the most common hardships we are feeling right now. COVID-19 has forced many small businesses to involuntarily close, has required large companies to lay off mass numbers of employees and has compelled many people to re-evaluate their lives.

Today I got an emotional text from my sister, who lives in Florida, telling me that Disney World has just laid off thousands of equity performers. Many of her friends are performers and are being forced to leave their dream career. Two of these equity performers, a husband and wife with 3 beautiful daughters, happen to be two of my friends who are very close to my heart. I worked with them both at World of Disney NYC over 10 years ago. They also happen to be two of the most talented performers I have ever known.

Brooke Finlayson, Disney Performer & Friend
Travis Finlayson, Disney Performer & Friend

Not only did this news make my heart crumble with feelings of empathy for their family, but also for every single performer. Not only is this heartbreaking for the arts industry as a whole, but also for every audience member who fell in love with the Finding Nemo show, Festival of the Lion King, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and the Beauty & the Beast stage show. For every Disney fan that loved the equally charming and comedic moments of Turtle Talk with Crush and Citizens of Hollywood.

Aside from losing a job, they’re losing a huge part of who they are. Their creative means of expression, their outlet. Not only for performers on stage, but the crew who works to create the magic. Lighting designers, sound engineers, stagehands. This news compounded with the announcement that Broadway will be closed until May 2021. Where are these performers able to continue honing their craft? How can they continue to shine their light to bring hope & encouragement to us all during one of the most challenging times? Take away the performing arts… it’s as if the lights have gone out on the world.

So many performers chase their dreams and sacrifice so much to have a career that allows them to share their gifts and inspire the world. It is what makes them feel alive. It’s what they were put here to do. Not only does it fuel the performer’s soul, but it simultaneiously brings so many humans to life. Do you remember when you went to a concert, or saw a broadway show or watched a performance that brought you to life and inspired you? Live performance creates a ripple effect, inspiring us to live more vibrantly; to see things differently. Art heals. Art saves. My heart is broken to hear this news, and not only because more jobs were lost, but because an artist’s career that was preceeded by sacrifice, determination, hard work, courage & discipline is put on hold.  

As a friend reminded me a few months ago … “be ever-mindful of silver linings” ( thank you, Marianna Litovich). This simple mantra allows everyone to continue to hold onto the hope that this is only temporary and perhaps this opens the door for something even more beautiful to come about.

The world is not the same without performance. The energy is not the same. I know this, because I’m living it. Keep dancing. Keep singing. Keep acting. Keep playing. Keep having kitchen dance parties. Keep singing in the shower. Keep writing. Keep creating.

Art is a powerful catalyst for positive change in the world. Keep supporting the arts.

Don’t lose the piece of the puzzle that makes you feel whole.
And no matter what … just. keep. swimming.


Grieving the loss of what I always wanted: a “nuclear” family

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Have you ever asked a child this question? Their responses often range from common to comical. My son wants to be a football player and a youtuber. My daughter wants to be a hairstylist. Some kids want to grow up to be a teacher, a scientist, a veterinarian or a race car driver. I’ve heard some really fun things, like clown hairstylist, dragon breeder, a mailbox and cat ninja (what even is this?!).

If you asked me this when I was a kid, I would have told you that I wanted to be a dancer on the castle stage in Magic Kingdom and to be a mom with a family. We were just like the Griswold’s; the quintessential nuclear American family with a touch of dysfunction. Sunday meals, annual traditions, sibling arguments, family vacations, family “camp outs” in front of the fireplace. I was eight years old when my little brother Doug was born and I was his “little mom”, as everyone called me. I remember thinking, “When I grow up, this is exactly what I want to have.”

Fast forward to growing up, for real: I went to college, dropped out, went back to college, left again. Though I did work for Disney in NYC, I never made it to Orlando to dance on the castle stage in Magic Kingdom. Yet, my other life goal was coming true. I had met “the one”. We got engaged, got married, bought a house and started a family. My dreams were now becoming a reality.

An insidious disease began to cripple my dream. It slowly eroded my vision for family vacations, Christmas cards, “camp outs” in front of the fireplace. My idea of what I saw for myself was not a reality. My husband was an alcoholic. My life was falling apart. After 6 years of hoping things would change, I realized I had to be the change.

How could this be happening? This was not part of the plan I had for myself.

In 2016, I quit my day job, filed for divorce and pursued my passion by opening up a dance studio for all ages and abilities. During a very dark time, I put my focus on what I could bring to others’ lives.

For a long time, I was grieving the loss of what I always wanted: a “nuclear” family.

I have found happiness in the sincerity of my life. I don’t have the “normal” nuclear family, but, what actually defines “normal” when it comes to how family’s look? I have found an amazing boyfriend who brings me so much joy, love & support, my 2 children are happy & healthy, my extended family is always around, my friends are more like family and I have a career that I absolutely love.

I define my joy and my life by the way I feel, not by the definition of what society says is “successful” or “normal”. Seeing nuclear families smiling on social media has made me feel less than, thinking back to my childhood dream of having a family. How easily we can be influenced by what we see online and how we think everyone’s else’s “perfect life” is.

But now, I decided to rewrite that narrative.

Why can’t my Christmas card be the three of us? Why can’t we take our own family vacations? Why can’t I live in a home on my own, snowblow my own driveway and be a strong, empowered mother? Why can’t I be the one to define what a “memorable childhood” is for my children?

It’s very important for me to say this: my ex-husband is over 2 years sober, is the most amazing father to our children and continues to show what it means to be courageous and committed. I’ve learned many lessons in my life, and one is that alcoholism truly is a disease that cripples families. It’s an evil drug that completely alters a person’s judgment, behavior and personality. But, there is always hope for recovery. Where there is a will, there is a way. I’ve seen the transformation firsthand and couldn’t be more grateful.

Here I am now, sitting on my couch writing this as a single mother in my home, with my two children sitting at their desks, remote learning from the room next to me. If you asked my eight year old self what I would be doing at 34 years old, it wouldn’t be this. And, just because it does look different doesn’t mean I’m a failure. Or that I haven’t succeeded. My heart is full of love and genuine joy in this moment. This life, just the way it is, is a dream come true.


Dear Kirk, You changed my life.

Dear Kirk,

   My name is Ashley Kohl and I am a BIG fan of yours. I met you about 8 years ago when you spoke at a Springfield YMCA breakfast event. I attended the event to support the Springfield, MA youth and wasn’t aware that there would be a keynote speaker. Before the program began, we crossed paths while mingling. I shook your hand, not knowing who you were or what you were there for. You looked at me and said, “You have a certain energy about you. I feel it. It’s really special.” At the time, I remember feeling flattered to have a stranger tell me that. But it wasn’t until after I saw your performance that I fiercely held onto that quick comment you made to me. 

I remember listening to you speak, and holding onto every word. I was captivated by your energy and the intense sincerity behind your words. You didn’t just say these words, you believed them. You lived them. I got choked up listening to you speak. I left the event and like everyone does when they feel impacted by something or someone … I googled you. I was so happy to see that your speech was on youtube. I watched it again. And again.

There are so many quotes I have repeated to myself. 

“We were not sent here to invest in someone else’s idea of what we should be”

“Because if you set yourself on fire the world will come watch you burn.”

“I know that the richest place on the planet is the cemetery. There you will find books that were never written, loved ones that were never forgiven, ideas that were smitten and dreams that were forbidden.”

“So don’t you dare die with your greatness buried within you!”

“And I’m not leaving until what I came to give has been given.”

These have been my mantras! There I was, working as a TV host/producer, with 2 kids at home and a marriage that was falling apart. I would listen and watch your speech often, until I decided to change my life:

I quit my day job, filed for divorce, and pursued my passion. Was it scary? Yes. Why did I take the chance? Because I didn’t want to die with my greatness buried within me! 

I opened a dance studio for all ages & abilities to come together, celebrate life, flourish, grow, learn & dance. It has set my soul on fire. I feel full. I feel as though I have purpose. I know that whenever my time is up on this earth, I will feel content knowing that what I came to give has been given. And I’m not going to stop sharing this message because more people need to hear it.

Kirk, your message and your performance served as a catalyst for me to change my life. I continue to share your speech with others. I speak of you and your words often. I will not stop sharing this message, and have made it my mission to share my story so that others’ stop investing in someone else’s idea of what they should be. So that others’ believe and realize that there is no such thing as the impossible dream. 

 I wholeheartedly believe in “everything happens for a reason” and fully support the idea that the energy of the universe guides us to where we need to be. At that moment, at that breakfast, 8 years ago…it was less than 20 seconds of my life that consisted of a brief interaction with you that will forever be engrained in my memory and my heart.

Thank you for sharing your voice, your words, your passion. You have changed my life. I am forever grateful.

Peace, love & good vibes always,



How do you want to be remembered?

One of my Dad’s dearest friends for over 40 years was quarantining at home with COVID-19, when he died suddenly of a heart attack. The news shook me.

My mind began racing.
I immediately thought about his family, the sudden heartbreak that they are feeling.
I thought about if that were my Dad and the sheer devastation I would be feeling.
I thought about my Dad, losing a dear, life-long friend who always had his back.
I thought about how he was healthy, happy, and had so much life ahead of him.
I thought about what really matters during our precious time on this earth.

All of these thoughts happened within a span of 20 seconds. I then thought about how amazing the mind is and how it can think so many different thoughts in seconds.

30 seconds later, I’m crying in sadness & smiling about moments & stories I remembered.

Now, I’m processing it all.

Your brain is capable of so much. It can dig through the archives of memories and pull up all of the snapshots with a particular person. It can simultaneously bring you to tears as you smile about the happy moments. It can quickly bring life into perspective and remind you what is important.

After thinking about this for longer than 30 seconds, my takeaway is this:

How would you live if there was no tomorrow?

It wouldn’t matter how many bathrooms you have in your home.
It wouldn’t matter if you can’t park your car in your garage because it doubles as a shed for bikes, toys & storage.
It wouldn’t matter if you have smile lines or wrinkles on your forehead.
It wouldn’t matter if you are up two pant sizes since last year.
It wouldn’t matter if you use fancy name brand soap or the cheaper store brand version.
It wouldn’t matter if you have a swanky, shiny car with heated leather seats.
It wouldn’t matter how many followers you have on social media. Or how many “likes” you got.

What does matter?

How you are remembered.
The mark you leave on people’s hearts.
The way you treat people.
Your character.
Sharing your gifts with the world.
Living to give love.

To quote Hamilton: The Musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda said, “Legacy. What is a Legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see”.

Today I am thinking about what I want to accomplish during my time here.
Thinking about the seeds I am planting. Today, live like there is no tomorrow. And continue to plant seeds in a beautiful, amazing garden you never get to see…
but the world gets to remember you by.