This weekend was a big moment in my life. On January 30th I received the Arts Alliance of Michigan’s Lifetime Achievement Medal. At first when I receive the news that I had been selected for this award, I thought perhaps this could be a bad omen. I am still in my 30’s and I hope that my life won’t be over anytime soon! Of course I was very honored to accept, especially as Michigan is my home state, and still have many friends there as well as my parents. It’s the place where I grew up, and as such will always be “home”.
Receiving this news made me think about my life and what I may have achieved that was noteworthy. This was quite a different exercise from what I had been so focused on before: thinking about what it is that I want to achieve in my lifetime; ie creating my bucket list. The list I was now compiling looked something like this:
-learning to tie my shoelaces
-learning English as a third language (especially the difference between “their” and “they’re”)
-Moving from Ypsi to Ann Arbor (though I will always be an Ypsi girl at heart)
-Starting a dog park committee in Montreal
-Making a few true friends
-Working with kids, especially the orphaned children in Mexico that I had become close to
-having a fantastic relationship with my better half
This got me thinking about my life in terms of two categories 1) chance and 2) choice. I realized that many of the greatest things that have happened to me happened completely by chance. This includes my mere existence. In a pre-internet era, what do you think the chances were that a Bulgarian man would meet a woman from Mexico, and that they would fall in love, that they would be able to seek a life together as a married couple in the US, AND that they would have me as their first born child? Not great odds, I think.
As a performer, we have a lot riding on chance. We are told to hope for that lucky break. When I was a music student, I was constantly training in order to be ready for my big shot. What I didn’t realize then is that even more important than being ready for my big chance was being ready for my big choice.
That moment came for me in 2014. By a choice that was out of my hands (ie chance) I was selected to become the first singer to win the Sphinx Medal of Excellence. This presented an opportunity that was unprecedented and a blank page for me to fill. Though I didn’t feel that I had done anything to deserve this award, the award was given to me based on choices that I had made with my career. And so I started to think about the power of choice and the choices that I could make in the future, choices that would perhaps take me from a position of waiting for my lucky chance to choosing a better future for myself and for those that I care about.
And so my journey began. I decided to make a choice-to use my voice, both literally and figuratively, to help others. I decided to use the chance I had as the winner of the Sphinx award to start my journey toward my goal of helping others, and this is what led me to a different path as a singer/entrepreneur/advocate.
We may not have the power to control our destiny, but we each have the power to make choices for ourselves. In a time when there is so much uncertainty and turmoil, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and unsure of how we can make a difference. I believe that through the choices we make each day, we have a chance to make the world a better place.
I encourage anyone who reads this to start with one simple choice that they would like to make for themselves.