A Collection of Thoughts On a Musical Life
I have found myself as a volunteer creating face shields for medical workers with the Charlestown Face Shield Project. The project arose because of the national lack of preparedness for the coronavirus pandemic.
It is absolutely no coincidence that it was a group of artists and artisans who quickly stepped in to devise a way to build 20,000 masks (so far) by hand, without manufacturing machinery. The creators are connected to the circus performing world, where they create equipment for the performers.
The shop has the feel of backstage during tech week for a small opera company, where everyone pitches in, and the official crew provides the performers with ways to create the set and props.
Every part of the face shield is made to precision, using newly made jigs. You may have never looked at a theatrical set and wondered how it was created. The process is much like this one—There is a new need, and an artist finds a way to make it happen.
Artists and artisans have the creativity, flexibility, and skills to step up to this kind of challenge, to take a vision and make it physical reality.
So, when you support the arts, remember that you’re not just giving yourself entertainment; you aren’t just supporting the healing of souls, the celebration of culture, and communication between generations.
When you support the arts, you are creating a workforce that may just literally save your life.
I am a millennial, and one who hasn’t strayed far from the financial norms of my generation. My student debt was part of that $3 trillion that is cited so often. But not anymore! I have unburdened myself of this debt, and I am still processing what it means.
I was very lucky to have received enough grants and parental help with undergrad that I graduated with only about $17k in loans. Unfortunately, between the job market at the time giving me no options but minimum wage, and my signing a lease on an adorable apartment before realizing that, I still only had about a hundred dollars a month after loans and rent, if that. I only took one year off before grad school, and found much cheaper living situations, so that my grad school life actually had a little more financial flexibility.
Then I finished my masters, signed up for a “pay what you can and all will be forgiven in twenty-five years” plan, got a slightly better paying job, and ignored the fact that I wasn’t even paying all the interest each month. My loans ballooned to almost $90k. A huge part of me didn’t want to think about the future, and an even huger part of me assumed there wasn’t anyone else in my future that I needed to plan for.
Then I met my significant other. Things got serious. I was honest about my loan situation, and he rightly convinced me that paying my loans down was a better strategy than assuming my income would always be too low to have to pay them. Around that time, the option to refinance student loans became available. Refinancing cut my interest rate by about 2%.
By this time I had a well-paying church job, and I started working up to better-paying day jobs. I kept my standard of living the same, and threw any increased income at the loans. It became almost an obsession. I even grew my hair out because longer hair is cheaper to maintain than a pixie.
And this month, I paid them off. It’s an amazing feeling, and I’m proud of myself.
But I also wonder what I could have done with that money if I had been from Europe, where people don’t take out tens of thousands of dollars in loans. Maybe I’d own property or have a retirement account with the recommended amount in it. As it is, I can’t really rest and enjoy some, what do they call it, ah disposable income. My efforts need to go to retirement and maybe property. I still need to play catch up. I’m still a millennial, even if my student loans are gone.
I write all this as encouragement to those paying off their loans (you can do it!), as a critique of the system (student debt is a crisis for a whole generation), and to throw my story out there among all the rest that tell of millennials who graduated into a terrible economy with piles of debt.
And I’m excited. Regardless of the outside circumstances that led me here, this is the life I have, and I am proud of what I have done with it. It’s just money, after all. Nothing really changes from here, though don’t be surprised if you see me with shorter hair in the near future.