Last May I expounded on oval pegs and told you I was gonna fill you in about my most recent elliptical cylinder epiphany–

–when I realized I was tryin’a hammer an oval peg into a circular hole–so I bagged up my peg purchase and headed to the customer service counter at Lowe’s. 

I told you they have a flex return policy.  

Last spring, I got an email from the Chair that Elon University was not offering me a full time contract for next academic year. 

It felt like that scene from Bridesmaids when Rebel Wilson tells Kristen Wiig that she needs to move out. 

Administration said I could fill a part time contract.

When I did the math, it meant I’d do 90% of the work I did as a full time faculty and get 35% less salary.

I cried.

I’d known in my gut-heart for a while that my season at Elon was ending. 

But I love my students, my alma mater in general, and I’d become cozy in that well dad didn’t mean to miss my recital again kinda way. 

When I read the Chair’s email, I was sad. 

At the same time, I heard down in my gut-heart, “This is a good thing.” 

Or as they say in the 12 Steps: rejection is protection.

I did weigh it. I cooked up ways to cobble together the adjunct salary, cover benefits, and fund groceries and mortgage payments from private teaching. 

But the choice became clear once I did a little role play. I imagined you sitting in front of me. You asked, “Dan, should I take this offer?”

My immediate answer to you was, “Absolutely not.”

Melissa agreed. She was there before I was. She’s good at sharing her POV and letting me get my own answers.

I took a deep breath and had the phone call with our program director. He was classy, kind, and wished me well. I hung up, and I felt lighter. I felt excited. And uncertain. Future = 🤷‍♂️

Luckily, many years as an actor made the hmmmm what the hell is gonna happen next sensation very familiar. I didn’t have health insurance for a family of four to think about at those times, but still.

You’ve been here, too, right? I can tell by your face. 

Are you there now? I sense you may be. And I’m here for it with all the empathy.

And I want to give you some tewlz 🔧 to make the what’s going ooooonnn-intensive portions of your life a little more civilized.

Here they are. 

💛 Tewl Number One: Talk to yourself like a decent parent talks to their kid. 

Do you know about Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

It’s the animated spinoff ofMister Rogers’ Neighborhood where you can learn things like anger management, that grownups are sposed to come back, and giving yourself squeezes.

I recommend their short life lesson jingles for effective adulting.

Daniel’s Dad–

–always speaks in this low laryngeal whisper, and I think, who talks like that? Daniel’s dad–duh.

One day I was real barky with the boys, and it wasn’t going well. I decided just for funsies to talk like Daniel’s dad. I felt ridiculous, and the boys calmed the boop down. 

Cool! I put on the DT-daddy voice on the regular now. 

I even infuse my self-talk with a little low breathy parental patience. I slow down and get gentler. And I also have a good laugh because I’m all PBS Kids up in my psyche. 

Have a little practice with your vocal tract shaping and choose your most comforting parental/caretaking figure. Give a go at saying things to yourself in their voice. 

Even when I can’t help being a meanie to me, switching up the vocal sends me in a kinder direction.

And your Julie Andrews impression will be on point. 

💛 Tewl Number Two: Write down what you do have some planning power over

There’s always something you have agency over. 

Even if it’s, “I’m gonna sit here, breathe slow, and listen to these birdies singing.” 🐦🎵(There’s a really good Daniel Tiger song about deep breaths, BTW)

When things shake and you don’t know what’s up–hello 2020/21–there’s always somewhere you can exert some influence. 

Make your bed, donate a box of stuff that’s no longer sparking joy :), or Venmo 5 dollah to a friend and tell them to buy a coffee.

On the actor-singer side, you can visualize who you want to be when people start getting back into rooms and pretending to be characters expressing their in-most feelings through song.

Do you want more confidence with something vocal technique-y so you know it’ll work well in front of people? Reach out to someone who can help with that. Or Google! (ps I know a guy.) 

*tiny action → call voicey person or google that thing

Are you recalibrating your self-relationship/ID in being a singing storyteller? Terrific. 

A little journal barf is helpful–also reaching out to a friend who’s going through their version or a mentor who’s been through it (and undoubtedly going through a different iteration now).

*tiny action → invite friend or mentor to coffee 

Do you feel generally stuck in a morass of Cheetos and Netflix? 

Talk to yourself as your chosen caretaker archetype, put on your outside shoes, and go for a walk. Without some form of input from your phone. 

You may still want to take it though, because you’ll get ideas and want to talk them into Google Keep.

*tiny action → go for a 30 minute walk, breathe, listen, look, smile, record your ideas when they percolate up.

💛Tewl Number Three: Have a fro yo 🍦 and make a God box.

You know I’m a faithy person. 

On my dresser, there’s a box with several folded pieces of paper inside. 

When there’s a thing I can’t solve or want to know the outcome of yesterday, I write it on a slip of paper, fold it, and I put it in the box.

Then when my brain wants to ruminate, I say in my best Daniel Tiger Dad voice, “God’s got it.”

I have to do this a lot. And sometimes I don’t, and I obsess. But when I remember to say God’s got it, I’m more peaceful.

No need to call it a God box. It can be just the place where you put things until life does its sorting out thing.

This helps me, and I hope it’ll help you, too.

Oh, and then you go get a fro yo. If there’s a Menschie’s near you, all the better. 

There you go, my friend. 

I hope you’re becoming more discerning about pegs and their respective compartments in your life. 

And I hope you’re growing in love for yourself so that you choose what’s joyful. And to the things that aren’t a match, I hope you’ll say, “Thank you for the offer, and that’s not a good fit.”

And always remember–there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story that only you can sing.

Love much, 

ps So, the leap from Elon worked out a lot better than I even knew it would. 

The Callaway family is heading north to Boston where I’ll be starting a new position at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee in September.

I couldn’t be more grateful and excited for this new chapter. Stay tuned for all kinds of news from the Dunkin Donuts mothership. 

pps My friend Jeanette Thompson, a remarkable human and world class soprano now serving on the voice faculty at the University of Miami shared this with me this week–

In this interview she shares her journey through bafflement, struggle, racial oppression, hurt, forgiveness, and faith to find herself in the perfect spot–a culmination of many slips of paper in her God box over many years.

I’ll tell you, my jaw dropped a few times as I listened.

I got to sing with Jeanette when I was in NYC, and she is just the best. I learned a ton from her life, stories, wine expertise, and musicianship. Enjoy. 30 mins.

And she’ll take you to church at the end when she sings.

ppps Even though I’m gonna be bizzy in Boston, I’m still available on the Zoom for lessons and such, so reach out if you need me. Best way is to email me here.

I’m also cooking up ways we can work together in the fall that centers on you, your goals, and community that’ll support each other, so stay tuned for that. 💛