I never thought I'd return to teaching piano. I swore it off during my Master's program, mostly because the free time in my Master's program was gently (sarcasm) padded with several students as well as six+ gigs per week. After a 7am alarm, a rushed thirty-minute dress-n-run, an hour commute, and an often-hungover, but always exhausted $5 breakfast at the South Loop's Dunkin Donuts location, I'd barely make it to class on time. At 9:30am I would find my usual seat in Electronic Music class and try to get through the lecture's heady contents. After dismissal, sometimes I'd take a quick 15-minute nap in the studio next door, hanging onto the day by the skin of my teeth. Then, I'd go through my classes until 5 or 7pm, grab food, and hit the bar to work until 2am. I'd crash around 3 or 4, get up, and do it all again.
I did this during my undergrad as well, though I'm not sure if I worked harder then, or during my masters. Chicago is a different beast than Kalamazoo, but all I know for certain is that I was tired. I was tired in high school, too. In my 29 years, I don't think I've had much time to simply chill. Even as I write this, I'm coming off of 5.5 hours of private piano teaching, 2 hours of livestreaming, and an hour phone call. After all of that, I still have a few thousand words to plow through to hit my daily goal and this is a Pandemic with "free time" to burn. Do I have an off switch? And if I do, would someone please tell me where it's located? I'm finding ways to make every minute count. It's in my blood. It's how I was trained.
I paid off my student debt in 2019. This is because I worked my face off in a relatively lucrative, yet abusive field starting at the age of twenty. I have, at times, felt resentment and confusion surrounding talks of student debt forgiveness. Where's my 10-50K check for time/life/friendships/opportunities spent on singing in bars to clear my credit score? I paid my dues! (Stay with me, my fellow 90's kids. I'm on your side.)
I'm a millennial living in a major city who owns a home. I also owe the years of insomnia and anxiety to this as well.
I think we need to place more value in the accountability of our education systems to ensure that students who go into debt can get out of it. I got to my financial status (not great, just stable...) in a field that is only tangentially related to my degrees. I don't compose for money. I don't perform art music for a living. I write and perform pop songs.
I will do another post about the rungs of accountability and possible solutions that I believe in for everyone who paid to attend higher Ed. But right now, the crispy, candy-coated M&M-like outer layer is this:
Student debt means money, yes. But more importantly, it means the emotional debt assigned to the minds and well being of college students. No one should have to pull all-nighters to please a professor, let alone endure degradation for one. By signing up for a career path, one should be guaranteed a job, or at least a shot at one. And for god's sake -- why is college so damn expensive these days? And the branded colleges that might get you a better shot at your dream gig...? They're unattendable (yes, I created that word) for most middle- and lower class families. How can we aim to thrive when most of my peers struggle daily with anxiety, depression, perfectionist complexes, and self-medication to turn off academia?
Student debt means the repercussions of mental health for years to come. Student debt means the fear of unemployment. Student debt means giving of yourself beyond the resources that you have. College is a paid service. Often times, it doesn't pay dividends. There must be a solution, or at least a middle ground. I think smaller class sizes are a start, but that's for another post, dear reader.
What did you get out of school? I'm honestly curious, and I'm open to experiences unlike my own. As far as my payout, I got some great friendships and a few extra tools in my toolbox, but we all deserve more than that.
I am a curious person by nature. I love to read, write, and study whatever catches my attention. I will always crack the next book I can get. I will always turn on NPR to hear what's going on in the world. I will always splurge on museum tickets or concerts or travel. I was probably always going to be okay. But I always felt like I needed the diploma-stamp of school to validate me.
I know this is a divisive issue, and a painful one for many. Some will call it a privileged conversation. Some will think that I'm being snarky or out of line. This type of post certainly bars me from higher-ed gigs in the future. But it shouldn't. therein lies the f***ed up paradox of academia (just like the starred-out use of an expletive in a vErY rAtIoNaL ArGuMeNt). Debate should be not only entertained, but welcomed with open arms in these institutions, as well as their hiring panels. Prove me wrong. I'm here for it. And by the way, I'm extremely qualified with a MM + 9 years' professional international gigging experience in several genres. *Yawn* But I'm sooo self involved! And I refuse to play by the rules, that is, after I played by them for many years.
So I'll keep hanging around here and sharing my thoughts, expecting to be shut out of the very circles I graduated from with nearly 4.0 GPAs. In the meantime, I just want a few trauma-fried brain cells and 100K back. Is that too much to ask?
This post was sponsored by my own homemade Yellow Scorpion and Scotch Bonnet pepper hot sauce: Spicy.
Until tomorrow, stay well, stay safe, and stay kind.