I asked Cheney Munson, a Comparative Literature alumnus from some ten years ago, who has recently decided to put creative activity more at the center of his world, to talk about why it might be valuable to maintain a relation to creation, about the role that words and music have in his life. He responded thus:
I was sitting down to have breakfast with one of my childhood friends at a diner in Harlem and we started talking about how exhausted I was from teaching middle school English for the last 8 years. Before the meal, I didn’t really see an alternative – teaching is what I had dedicated my life to. I’d been obsessed with eduction since I was a junior in high school. I worked at an amazing school and loved my colleagues and made good money. But I was tired and had lost my zeal and drive for it over the last few years.
What made me happy, what gave me energy, what made me smile the most, was writing and playing music. My band Tacoma Narrows was starting to play better venues in New York. But music in my head was always just going to be a side project or hobby.
Through out the course of the conversation, my friend pushed back on the idea that teaching was the only path for me. That in fact, pursuing music in a more serious way – making time to focus on practicing, recording, promotion, performing and the countless other things that are required when ‘taking something seriously’ – was actually more practical and feasible than I thought.
That week I told my principal that I would not be returning. I started planning a kickstarter campaign to raise money for recording an album. That was more than 6 months ago. We’ve raised 20,000 dollars and I will be spending this year focused almost exclusively on music. I couldn’t be more excited. I’m excited that I’m giving music the time, energy and money I think it deserves. I’m excited about all the things I’m doing and learning in relation to production, distribution and promotion. And I’m excited that I don’t know what I will be doing this time next year.
I wouldn’t trade in my 8 years of teaching — I learned so much about the world and myself by being in the classroom. It was also very practical in the sense that I have a marketable skill at which I will always be able to make money. But I feel lucky to be able to take the chance on pursuing something I truly love to do. And I would hope that anyone who has something creative they love to do, that they would set aside the time to nurture it. Doing so doesn’t necessarily have to come at the expense of practical decisions but can be in service of them.