In the last entry I composed, I mentioned that my 2019 has been “eventful”. I am hoping to set the record straight on some of the details of this year, and go into how I am doing, and how I’ve been recently. Such a statement would be appropriate for a Facebook post, if not for the length. I can be long-winded at times, but that’s because my preferred directness can leave some relevant details unexplored.
This year was a bit of a doozy, personally and professionally speaking. I started the year in Sarasota, where I spent the first three months singing with the Sarasota Opera chorus in Turandot, Nabucco, and The Magic Flute. I also covered the role of Abdallo in Nabucco, and actually went on in one performance to replace an ailing tenor.
I talked about this program in another entry, so I won’t go into tremendous detail about that.
Next, I went to Knoxville, Tennessee, to make my role debut as Don José in Carmen as a guest artist with the University of Tennessee Opera Theater, and had the opportunity to work with James Marvel, an amazing director, colleague, and friend. It was an incredible opportunity, and I’m so grateful that James brought me back to Tennessee for this opportunity, for personal and professional reasons, which I’ll go into later.
Sandwiched in between rehearsals for Carmen was a quick trip to Bangor, Maine, for a concert of highlights from Candide with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra. This concert was a lot of fun. It was yet another example of something in my life coming full circle, as the conductor, Lucas Richman, is someone with whom I’ve worked in the past.
In April, I came back to Angelica from Carmen. Within two days, Talia (my wife at the time) and I decided to divorce. I won’t go into the details publicly, and I’m sure you will understand why.
We decided to keep our split a secret until the Fall, as I would be leaving for my time as a Young Artist with Palm Beach Opera in the Fall. I would remain in the same house until I left for Florida. We also decided to keep the split amicable, opting for an uncontested divorce, in which we divided possessions without legal assistance or interference. The peace of mind that comes from an amicable split cannot be bought with any amount of money.
Sure, people will have their opinions on this, especially people who know the details, but let me say this emphatically: I do not regret my time with Talia. I don’t regret having loved her, I don’t regret having married her, and I don’t regret our divorce. We needed each other at the time that we met, and we discovered that we were not meant to be together for life. Things just happen this way sometimes. You meet people, you invest a lot in each other, and then you go your separate ways. And that’s okay. I wish her all of the best, and all of the happiness that life can bring. We are not in communication except for necessary business at the moment, and we agreed to that.
Yeah, it was pretty rough on me emotionally in the months that followed. I had to do a lot of soul searching and figuring out who I really am in all of this. I found God again. My grandma Judy passed away in January while I was in Sarasota. That night, I said to God “Okay. You’ve successfully beaten me to my knees. I give up. Do with me and my life what you will.”
Finding God has been an instrumental component in my ability to heal and try to move on. The power of prayer is pretty unbelievable, even if you do not believe in God. The ability to speak the darkest words in your heart and feel like someone is listening is incredibly therapeutic and I would recommend it to anyone without reservation.
I also went through a pretty extended period of burnout. I didn’t have much interest in my field of opera and classical music, preferring to focus on metal, pop music, and songwriting. I’ve written enough at this point for an EP, but I’d like to make a full album eventually. But I didn’t really have much interest in being an opera singer. It felt like something that I had to do rather than something I wanted to do. I think it’s because I neglected my spiritual health for so long that I just got tired.
I also got to the point in which I wanted to let music serve me again, rather than the other way around. I had given about 14 years of dedicated service to music, expecting nothing in return, but I realized it was time to let music heal my broken heart, and heal me it did.
Accepting the process has been crucial as well. It is sometimes said that when God says no, it is only to prepare you for a better yes. And I believe that I’ve discovered this firsthand. During my time in Knoxville, I met an amazing woman who is now my girlfriend, Hannah Marie Friend. She was the Mercedes in my Carmen cast. While I was in Knoxville, she and I had only talked a couple of times, and we had gotten along very well, but it didn’t really go anywhere until June of this year.
It was pretty amazing, actually. It seemed as if the hand of God guided us to each other, as we are both exactly what the other person needs at this point in both of our lives. We possess, and have developed, a deep, rich, spiritually-based connection that has caused our love for each other to grow rapidly and healthily. Neither of us is perfect, but it really seems that we are perfect for each other. We have both become better people, and we want to continue to grow and change together. And we want to make our happiness together contagious, infecting the world with love and joy. Maybe it’s too idealistic for some, but neither of us is deterred by that. We won’t let others convince us not to reach for the stars.
So personally, where I am right now is in a state of gratitude. I’m grateful that even though this year was pretty rough (apart from the divorce and losing my grandma, three of my pets also passed), I was able to find a path through it, and my spirit has remained strong. I’m also grateful to have found real, intense, lasting love so soon after the fact with a wonderful human being, and to have her love me in return.
Professionally, I’m also feeling a sense of gratitude, but I’ve kind of hit a wall and realized that I have quite a bit more work to do than I previously thought. I’m so thankful to my teachers, coaches, conductors, etc. for all of their beautiful work in getting me to this point. But it seems I still have a great deal more to do.
I plan to use my time here in Florida (until the end of March) to polish my singing, open up my middle voice, and figure out what I really want to say as an artist. There is so much that I think I could say, but I think it’s time to narrow it down to what I want to say. And I suppose it really depends on the piece. But if I’ve learned nothing else this year, it is that everything I do needs strong intention. No half-measures, no aimlessness. I must be present-focused and future-focused simultaneously.
I think it is only through doing the very best I can possibly do that I can silence my extremely harsh inner critic. My inner critic often tells me that I’m a bad person, that I’m not good enough, that I don’t deserve anything good in life, including any success or any love or affection. And it’s tough to silence or reject that voice when it is loud and stubborn. Sometimes, I believe that voice. And when I believe it, I overcompensate and become a perfectionist.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn this year is how to be okay with not being perfect, and being willing to give myself a break once in a while. It’s not always easy, but it’s been necessary to my emotional survival and growth.
I’ve learned a lot about myself this year. I’m not much of a self-starter. I tend to finish things once I’ve started them, but good luck getting me started. I wouldn’t call myself lazy, but I admittedly have been undisciplined. The work I do can sometimes get sloppy, because I sometimes abide by the idea that “done is better than perfect”…kind of ironic for a perfectionist like me, and this cognitive dissonance is a source of a lot of problems for me. Maybe the next step is “Done and good is better than done and sloppy.”
I’m looking forward to what the next five months will bring with excitement and enthusiasm. I’m ready to take on the task, because I know how necessary the work is. The future is there for the taking, and I just have to reach out and grab it.