Holiday Reflection: A Change of Perspective

Landon and I after a little bit of eggnog.

Every year at Thanksgiving, I get a chance to think about the people and things in my life that I’m grateful for. Then, once Christmas/New Year’s comes around, I’m hit with this feeling even harder, realizing that the end of the year is upon us. Most importantly, I’m reminded of just how easy it is to reach out to someone and let them know that you’re grateful for them. On these holidays, I will usually spend the morning sending out novel-length text messages to my close family and friends, thanking them for being part of my life. I try to get to as many people as I can think of, though regrettably I don’t get a chance to get to everyone.

The first time I really started to think about this sort of thing was back in December of 2016. That summer, going into my second year of college, my family lost our dog Harley, who we got when I was only 7, so we basically grew up together. The next few months were tough, but it was our first Christmas without him that really hurt. Anyone who has ever had a pet knows they’re truly family, and it truly felt like there was a person missing around the tree that year. Not having things to put into his little paw shaped stocking was tough, and it was really the first time as an adult the loss of someone struck me. Now I get to pour my love every day into my current dog, Landon, who gets hugs and kisses every day, and a new fancy bow tie for Christmas every year.

From 2015 to 2017, for my first two years of college, I had the honor of having a man named Kevin Kees as my voice teacher. He was a true professional, friend, and an absolute powerhouse of an opera singer. As a teacher, he could be tough, but he did it because he cared, and because he truly believed in me and the other students in his studio. Eventually I switched to a new voice studio half way through school, to explore more contemporary styles with my friend, confidant, and life guide Kelly Bird, who on top of making me a better singer, has helped me discover things about myself that I otherwise would have never learned without having met her.

As a student of music and life, I don’t regret making the change in teacher. What I do regret is not keeping in touch with Kevin after the switch. I got into my junior year and felt overwhelmed with school work. I would see him teaching from afar, and he could occasionally text me, but I didn’t respond or catch up with him nearly as often as I should have. It seemed like it was only a few months after I left his studio that I started to hear he was having some health problems. He unfortunately had developed stage IV prostate cancer. I reached out, telling him to be strong, and he replied that he would, telling me to keep working hard. It was barely over a year after I had left his studio that he would be gone.

Kevin Kees, my teacher and friend.

I was blindsided by the news, as were many others. He was only 45 years old, at the time about ten years younger than my dad. I was overwhelmed not only with guilt for not reaching out more, but I was also overcome with sorrow thinking about how much he still had to do and offer to the world. He taught me not only how to become a better singer, but looking back, he imparted to me lessons about life that I think have contributed to me becoming a better man and adult. I will always be thankful for my time with him.

Fast forward all the way to last year. It’s the summer of 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. I was over a year removed from college, and I found myself lost. I had graduated and got my degree, but I didn’t know what to do with my life. The things I knew I wanted to do, seemed out of reach, or I felt I wasn’t ready for. I couldn't find a job in the music industry, let alone get an interview anywhere. I’m sure I wasn’t alone, but at the time it seemed like my peers were starting to get jobs, move out of town, and figure it out. I had friends who were younger than me getting dream jobs of mine, manager positions at big companies, and wages/salaries that I couldn’t comprehend, while I was still having to contemplate whether or not I could afford buying a coffee.

I found myself receding further and further away from friends, honestly out of embarrassment. I couldn’t bring myself to go see a friend who had just scored a new position somewhere, all because I was afraid of having to reply to the dreaded question “So what have you been up to?” Because the answer was “Nothing at all.” That was just something that was tough for me to do. Several of those friends have since moved away, only furthering my regret for not spending time with them. However, something happened that July that changed my perspective though: the passing of a friend, Kyle Robinson.

Kyle Robinson.

When it first popped up on my social media timelines, I thought it had to be a mistake. It couldn’t possibly be true. Unfortunately it was confirmed shortly thereafter that he had been lost in a tragic accident. The College of Saint Rose music industry family was distraught. We had lost someone who was brilliant, kind, funny, and an absolute joy to be around. His laughter would fill up the halls of the school, and his optimism had the ability to brighten any dark day. However, I can’t remember a darker day in recent memory. While Kyle and I didn’t know each other as much as I would’ve liked, I, and anyone who has ever had the pleasure of meeting him, knew they had a true blue friend in Kyle.

Like with my teacher Kevin, the thing that got to me most was not just that I wished I had let him know sooner how highly I thought of him, but knowing how much potential he had, and all the great things he was going to do. Kyle seemed to have more drive than I had ever had in my entire life, and a massive amount of talent. I felt so sad not only at his passing, but to me it also felt unfair that someone with so much passion was gone, while I was sitting around not doing anything. It has taken some time, but I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can accept that instead of feeling guilt, I can channel that feeling into doing the most with the time I have.

Nowadays it feels like every person has a million different things going on in their life. Managing the balance between work, school, side hustles, projects, hobbies, and artistic endeavors, with friendships, relationships, family time, and alone time is a struggle that most people have to deal with. Making time for responsibilities, everyone else in your life, as well as time for yourself is pretty difficult. Everyone at some point gets sucked into the grind of the rat race. When that happens, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and look only at the current trouble on your plate. When focusing on the stress of it all, you can find yourself ignoring the good things you have around you.

This holiday season, I write this not to be glum or dreary, but as a reminder to myself, and to everyone, that if you’re here right now reading this, you have the greatest gift of all: a chance. A chance to start every day fresh. A chance to start over. A chance to reach out to someone you care about and tell them you love and appreciate them. A chance to reconcile with someone. A chance to go out and become what you were destined to do. A chance to take a breath, consider, and move forward.

The people in your life that truly love you don’t care how much money you make, what kind of fancy car or house you have, or even “What have they done for me lately?” What they care about is that you are in their life, and they love you for being you, and being present. As we move into 2022, be kind to others, but never forget to be kind to yourself. There are only so many hours in a day, and you can’t beat yourself up for not reaching out to everyone or doing everything you set out to do. The only thing you can do, is do your best with what you have, and be grateful for the people and things you have around you.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and as always, much love.

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