When I was 12-years-old, I would dance around my bedroom to Kristen Kelly’s “Ex Old Man” and pretend I was singing at my own concert. When I was 20-years-old, I performed at the same ticketed event as Kristen Kelly. There is no way that would ever be a reality for me without COVID.
In January of 2020, I was beginning my sophomore year at UAB. I was also crying every week in my boss’s office because I was failing accounting, barely passing pre-cal, and I wanted to drop out and do music full-time.
At home, I was hitting a crossroads with the “stay in school vs. drop out” debate. My dad never went to college and has made his living working at a cement plant and running a lawn-care business. He didn’t care if I dropped out or not. My mom, on the other hand, has her Master’s degree in education, and dropping out is not an option in her book. They both love me and want to see me succeed in whatever I do, but a music career is also quite terrifying to begin.
I tried to juggle being a full-time student while simultaneously getting my name out into the world, or at least Alabama. By the end of February, I had four shows lined up for March in the Birmingham area. I felt accomplished and ready to start really getting out there. It wasn’t easy, the full load of classes and homework, then the three hours of rehearsing a setlist every two days, but I was trying to get it done.
Then, two days before my first March show, COVID was officially in Alabama. UAB was virtual. My shows were canceled. And me? I felt like my world was ending.
The virtual classes were a nightmare. It made wanting to drop out and move away sound so much nicer than it already did. I was crying pretty much every day.
“I just want to do the music thing”, I would say.
“So does everyone else,” my mom would answer.
Hours upon hours we would sit and talk about school and music and how I don’t want to be there but how she believes I need a degree to fall back on.
Summer came and went, I played a couple shows at venues that reopened at half capacity and it wasn’t too bad. Of course, I loved it and loved being able to get a little taste of what I wanted. I knew though, once August rolled around, I would be drowning in school work again.
Then UAB announced we would still be virtual.
It was kind of slow to start. I was scared to put myself out there again because the last time I did, the world shut down. In November, I decided to get over the fear and just go for it. I walked into a venue in Talladega and played an open mic night, and my life has not been the same since then.
COVID slowing everything down and forcing me to take a breather has been a blessing for me. UAB being online since COVID has been a blessing for me.
Having to stop and let the world do its thing has allowed me to really focus on what I want, which is most definitely the music. With that, the ability to spend the last year online has made that dream start to come true.
I’ve been able to open for my favorite childhood artist, I’ve booked more shows for the next two months than I thought I would book in a year. I’ve written my own songs and am getting the opportunity to share them.
And with all of that, I didn’t talk my parents into dropping out, but next year I’ll be part-time to continue working on this dream. The degree will always be there, the opportunities being placed in front of me won’t.
COVID has sucked, no doubt about it. I have lost loved ones during this pandemic whom I miss so much. I also know we will never go back to the “normal” we once knew.
I am not thankful for COVID, but I am thankful for the season of life it took me through in 2020. It helped my dreams come true.