Gioia is one of those people who I knew would change my life from the first day I met her. There was just something about her that I instantly connected with.
She is exuberant and courageous and she inspires me so much.
It was my very first class at the University of Central Florida. Eight o’clock in the morning. Ballet. I walked from my dorm all the way across campus to the Performing Arts building and sat in the corridor with the other eager dancers who had already arrived. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure Gioia’s hair was straightened (which for those who know her is hilarious because she has incredible, crazy, curly hair, but hey we were 18 and we were still conforming in some small ways) and I just remember her being really confident and energized. I was drawn her.
We flooded into the dance studio, which was then brand new, and Ms. Judi started taking attendance. I remember distinctly that she got to Gioia’s name and mispronounced it. As I probably would’ve with how it’s spelled. It’s gee-uh by the way. And from there, every day we would stand next to each other at the barre. We were fast friends. One of the many reasons I love dance. It brings my favorite humans into my life.
Gioia and I decided to become roommates the next year with her best friend from high school, Allison and the rest is history. There aren’t many college memories that don’t include Gioia, both good and bad. And we definitely had our low points. Times when we didn’t get along. Different groups of friends pulling us in different directions for a while. Different priorities and learning how to communicate with each other. To be fair, living with anyone you love is difficult and it’s no different with close friends.
Nowadays, Gioia and I don’t speak often. But when we do it’s like nothing’s changed. She’s someone I know I can always count on to say the right thing when I feel like a shit dancer who’s not booking anything or when my body dysmorphia is out of control or when I’m freaking out about a man. Even if we don’t have a full out conversation, just a few texts are all we need to know we’re always there for each other.
But I think that even if I wasn’t friends with Gioia I’d be inspired by her.
When Gioia decides she wants something, she makes it happen. Quite literally. When she decided she wanted to be a Denver Broncos Cheerleader, she was living in Orlando working as a bartender and not dancing as much as she used to. Do you know how far Florida is from Denver? Do you know how difficult it is to become a DBC? Gioia was determined. She changed her diet cold turkey, she got back into class and got on a workout regimen, she saved up the money (I remember helping her pack up her house and we found about $2,000 cash in a Ritz Cracker box that she had stashed and forgot about. Cracks me up still but seriously, how fucking amazing), she flew out to Denver, and she auditioned.
Gioia is now a fourth-year vet and captain of the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders.
Most recently, Gioia summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. I can’t get over this one. Not many people can say they’ve even attempted something like this. Since moving to Colorado, Gioia is climbing mountains regularly. I feel like every day she’s on a mountain. Whether it’s with her dog (named Denver who I claim as my nephew because I lived with him in the crazed, puppy days), with her boyfriend, with friends, or simply with herself. She just lives such a beautiful life and it inspires me every time I see it.. She’s taking the time to explore and show love for the beauty of the Earth every single day. I’m actually struggling to find the words to explain how I feel about it. She’s just a stunning person who I’m so proud to know and wish I could spend more time with.
So anyway, she found this new love of climbing mountains and decided to travel to Africa to climb one of the tallest summits on the planet, Mt. Kilimanjaro. And since Gioia never does anything half ass, she won’t deny that she’s pretty much addicted now and plans to summit all the most massive mountains in the world. Which is incredible.
But I think my favorite thing about Gioia is the combination of small, thoughtful efforts she makes on a daily basis in Denver. Yes, summiting a huge mountain is major, but it’s only possible through the small mountains she climbs every day. And it's so parallel to how we should all live. To remember that it’s the little victories that add up to a rich life. She’s always been a do-er. It pumps me up so much and it’s always been what I love most about her.
When the going gets rough I just think: What would Gioia do?
You are who you surround yourself with so choose people who inspire you.