I spent the final weekend of 2017 in the place where I call home – Chattanooga. I was able to spend time with so many of my favorite people, people I hardly get to see anymore, that I really couldn’t have asked for anything better. The year has been crazy for everyone, but for me it was the year I doubled – down on believing in myself and achieving my goals. As I walked around downtown, I remembered being a young, naive 21 year old kid who moved to Chattanooga with a dream in his heart…
…which isn’t entirely true. I moved to Chattanooga for a girl. I moved to be close to her, and to get my degree in Pastoral Studies (haha, yup, that was a thing one time) from Bryan College. My whole life I was told that God had a plan for me, and that I was destined to be a pastor. I believed them, including at one point going before my church and accepting a call to ministry. People had me convinced that this was the way my life was supposed to go. In my heart, though, I always wanted to perform. So when I made the decision to move to Chattanooga, I made sure to fill out the actor application at Vaudeville, just in case.
Obviously, the girl and I split not long after we moved to Chattanooga. I left Bryan College before the first semester was over because I hated it. Looking back, I wish I had went to Lee (the only reason I didn’t was because the girl was there and she thought we would be “too close”. Crazy that we didn’t work out) and enrolled in their theatre program. But everything happens for a reason. Out of the 3 reasons I moved to Chattanooga, Vaudeville was the only thing that remained in my life after the first 6 months.
3 years later, I was standing on the Vaudeville stage now as one of their featured performers preparing for my first stand-up set. It was only 6 minutes long (and you can read all about that here) but it was the scariest few minutes of my life. I can remember everything that happened, yet it went by so quickly at the same time. That was when I knew this was what I had to do forever. I had finally found my purpose.
Thanks to Michael Malone and a few other comedic friends, I was able to get on the road and perform, but my heart was at Vaudeville. I called it “loyalty” and to an extent it was; it was also me being scared of not being good enough to get work. While I should have hustled and gone out of my comfort zone more, I decided to stay where I was comfortable, to stay where I knew I was loved and didn’t have to try as hard. Honestly, I had settled without even realizing it.
Of course you know the end of the Vaudeville story: without warning it was closed. The Vaudeville family and myself were blindsided and heartbroken. I was lost at sea. Vaudeville had become my identity, and now I had to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do.
2016 was a rebuilding year for me. Well, the latter half was. The first half of 2016 was trying to overcome the depression from my life turning upside down. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think. I was a zombie who thought his life had peaked. I contemplated killing myself. Things got really dark, darker than I’ve ever really admitted to most anyone. I didn’t know what to do, and I felt weak for reaching out for help. So I stewed by myself, trying to figure out what comes next.
As fate would have it, I had booked a stand up show in Knoxville on July 5th. I came close to canceling it several times, as I was just not in a good place. The last thing I thought I could do was make people laugh for 30 minutes. I almost didn’t make the show due to forgetting I lived in Central time and the show was in Eastern, but that’s beside the point. I hadn’t been onstage in months, and was incredibly nervous to see if I could still be funny. I’ve never told anyone this, but I had planned to announce that show as my last. I felt like it was all over.
That changed as soon as I hit the stage. That night reaffirmed to me this was what I had to do forever. It reignited the fire in my soul to go after this dream with everything I had. I can’t thank Shane Rhyne enough for putting me on stage that night. I’m honestly not sure I’d be here now had I not.
After that night, I knew it was time to suck it up and make ish happen. I started hustling, trying to get as many shows as possible. Luckily, my calendar began to fill. Around this same time, I was able to reunite with my longtime friend Kyle Price. He was embarking on a new business journey into fitness and nutrition. He needed some test subjects. I quickly volunteered my services, figuring that it would be like any of time I’ve tried to get in shape. It would start great for a couple of weeks, and then fizzle out. I was hoping because of my friendship with Kyle, I could stay at it. I didn’t have to. I found a love for working out and for fitness that I never knew I had. With his leadership and guidance, I’ve been able to find the right workout plan and diet I need to help make me who I’ve always wanted to be. I am forever grateful for him and his beautiful wife Leah (P.S. if you’re interested, give them a visit. Their food is delicious)
2017 became the year I went all in, the year I finally jumped. At 31, I knew it was now or never. I was able to have my most successful year in comedy. I was able to start headlining comedy clubs and shows. I filmed another role for a movie. I did TV work. I put together my first tour at the end of the year and it turned out to be better than I ever could have dreamed. 2017 wasn’t a perfect year, but it was one of the most fulfilling years of my life.
Obviously, the biggest thing to happen to me was signing with The Dixie Stampede. That chapter of my life begins soon, and I’m terrified. But, at the same time, this is the culmination of the last ten years. I moved to Chattanooga with a dream to become a full time performer. For the next year, I get to make that a reality.
What comes next? Soon you’ll see.
Thanks for reading. Rooting for you.