I’ve had some passing interactions with friends in various parts of their careers and lives recently. Some are retiring. Some are losing loved ones (far too many of those this year). Some are leaving tenured jobs, either for new opportunities or just because they feel it’s the only real choice left to them.

There’s a high bar, a respect, in which I hold anyone who can say “I” and “enough” in the same sentence, in a non-quitting, non-suicidal context. I found my career late in life, having taken far too long to figure out what might be a viable career path for myself – at least compared to most of my family, who went straight from college to grad school to careers, or otherwise knew themselves quickly.

Hell, I’m still trying to figure out how I can define myself based on what employers might be looking for, in a Venn diagram of personal satisfaction, supporting my family, my actual strengths, and viable career paths. I have no idea if I’ll ever be able to actually retire, or whether I want to or not. The person whose position I stepped into here at Case passed away still teaching, and there are many Americans who will never see a point where they either want to or can step away from their jobs.

One inspiring yet tragic story comes from the passing of a loved one in our fight family here in the US, and it’s the kind of story I can only aspire to myself. Ed Baker and many others have been saying goodbye to the beloved Danette Baker, and this story of his just hit me in the feels while making me feel even more inadequate myself:

Here’s a story:

We have a Hospice Nurse assigned to us at the hospital. We met on Wednesday just hours before Danette moved from a critical care patient to a hospice patient. When the Nurse, who I will call Michelle, came into the room, I was reading a Dylan Thomas piece to Danette and she stood there quietly in the door. I, being me, found a place to stop reading and turned to say, “Hi.”

“Oh,” she says, “A Runner?”

We started talking, me and this nurse, about what we would be doing in the coming hours and how it would all happen, as we walked out to the quiet room. She casually asked if I’d been with Danette the whole three days that she’d been in CCU and I said, “No. she was, up until this last year, an Athlete and it’s hard for me to see her like this.”

Well, it’s never easy to explain Physical Acting and Stage Combat to Muggles, but I started talking about swords and stunts and clowning.

She said, “My son did The Three Musketeers in high school and he just loved the sword fighting and the choreographer that they worked with. He quit football and was an actor and went to college on a full ride scholarship and found his passion in geology! And it was all because of that Sword Fight Teacher!”

I thought, ‘That’s nice. Her kid did a play.”

Until it hit me… “What high school?” I asked

“Mulvane.” a small town south of us.

I stopped in the hallway and said, “That’s her.” throwing my thumb back over my shoulder, “My wife is that Choreographer!”

“What? Really? She’s Mrs. Baker?”


We talked and as it turns out his love of acting and storytelling changed Her oldest son’s life and got him through high school and then college. Then he went on to tell his two younger brothers that they really need to take the drama classes… And the Middle son went to college on a Theatre Scholarship. Then her youngest was in his first high school play the past weekend and she ended up on our case because she had gone to see him in Mamma Mia and that had changed her schedule so that she was there, then with us.

So, as we were talking over the paperwork and all of the details of this journey, she was flipping through her phone, and, I thought, “Geez, Rude Much?”

Until she stopped and stared at the phone then turned it towards me. There was my Sweet Baby, with three high school kids, all with swords in hand! 

That was a photo from a rehearsal that the kid had hung on his bedroom wall all those years ago and then framed and took to his college dorm and now sits on the mantle of his grown-up home.

And, names are changed to protect the blah, blah, blah…

When she called her son last night and said that Mrs. Baker was one of her patients, he asked, “Danette? Danette Baker?! Wait, if she’s your patient… that’s bad, right?”

I interrupted her and said, “Please tell him that it’s not bad… It’s a great gift for all of us, especially Danette.”

She got to hear that story straight from Michelle, a mom who twelve years later got to meet the person who changed her family’s lives.

Share your interests with all the energy and passion you can muster. You’re always leaving a piece of yourself with others.

Godspeed Danette, happy retirement friends, and congratulations to any of you who have reached a point where you feel you’re enough. And cheers to all of you who, like me, will likely never feel like we’ve gotten there, no matter what we accomplish.

Life is a series of compromises, and time is the ultimate zero-sum game. You can be there for your kids, or you can act in that show. You can take that teaching certification, or you can hustle more gigs. You can take the guaranteed crew slot, or keep auditioning for a role. You can work on building a local industry or relationships, or you can move to NYC, LA, Atlanta, or somewhere else and try to break into the existing power structures in search of legitimacy. And sometimes, you get COVID, or cancer, or something else, and that pulls you out of all of those possibilities. But nobody can do it all, and whether you feel in retrospect you made the right choice or enough probably has as much to do with your personality, or the random comments of your colleagues and students, as it does with the caliber or your work.

Celebrate what you’ve been able to do. The online Theatre Teacher Summit is live today, featuring me, and several colleagues around the country, some of whom have new books out through the same publisher mine are through. Cymbeline opened last night. I have another online meeting with Kari Margolis coming up, and had a lovely chat with Will Kilroy from the National Michael Chekhov Association today. The world keeps moving, and so should we. But “enough”? That’s subjective.

How do you know when you’re ‘enough’?

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