Cup 12

Person: Chad Badgero 

drink: small latte from Gone Wired Cafe

A slushie changed Chad Badgero’s life.

Seriously.

Chad’s first job was teaching high school in a small Michigan town. Chad taught English, but loved theatre, so after school he assisted with the school’s drama club. He enjoyed working with the kids, but the director was another story. He was a longtime faculty member who never seemed happy and often yelled at students. Chad could never understand why.

Then the slushie incident happened.

During a heated moment at rehearsal, the drama teacher threw a slushie in the face of a student (yes, just like in Glee). Chad couldn’t believe it. And later that night it clicked.

The Drama teacher wanted to be up on that stage performing, not sitting in the audience directing. The loss of a dream had turned him into a bitter old man.

Chad came to a cold realization:

Someday that could be me.

Chad had fallen in love with theatre when he was in fifth grade and had been involved in the drama club throughout high school. Yet, he knew a degree in theatre wasn’t practical and chose an education degree instead. He had always been interested in education and knew it was a good fit. But he never stayed away from theatre long.

In fact, the summer after his senior year of high school, Chad didn’t have much going on so he decided to direct his first show. He gathered his friends, picked a show, found a venue, built sets, made costumes, and directed his stars. They called themselves the Peppermint Creek Players.

Chad quickly found out there was more to directing than he originally thought, but nonetheless, on opening night there were people in the audience. They felt a sense of accomplishment. When summer came to an end, he left for college with the assumption that the show was a one-time occurrence.

As his freshman year was coming to an end, his friends asked about another summer production, so he once again—and much to his surprise—found himself in the director’s chair. The summer shows continued throughout Chad’s college years, but he considered it a hobby. He focused on teaching. He was content with teaching English and helping with the Drama club after school.

But after the slushie incident, he couldn’t shake the thought from his mind:

Someday that could be me.

He knew he was happy at his job, but would he still be happy in 20 years? Was he about to settle for a stable job that he would turn him into a bitter old man regretting not trying his hand at a life of theatre?

A few weeks later, Chad told his boss he was resigning at the end of the year.

It was one of the hardest decisions he had ever made. He loved his job, but he knew he had to leave. The reaction from the boss surprised him—but not in the way he expected. He was supportive of Chad’s choice and left him with words Chad will never forget,

“Never let something good prevent you from something great.”

And with that, Chad packed everything he had into a U-Haul and moved to New York City to try his hand at acting. The move wasn’t easy, but things started to fall into place. Within two weeks, Chad found an acting job that eventually led him to an Off-Broadway gig. He had taken a leap of faith to follow his dream—and he had succeeded. He should have been singing from the rooftops!

But he wasn’t. Instead, he was blasé about the whole situation. He loved acting, but he realized to survive in New York, he had to take the roles he was offered, even if they weren’t particularly interesting to him. He missed the power he had during the summers when he chose projects that meant something to him. He also missed the Midwest, so he left the glow of his newly found success to move back home to start something new.

The Peppermink Creek Players became the Peppermint Creek Theatre Company.

That was in 2002. Eight years later, the company has made a name for itself in Lansing producing three shows annually. Chad also started the Renegade Theatre Festival, which is a free festival that brings together the various college and local theatre groups for a weekend that hosts 23 different productions in three days. Oh, and Chad is teaching again too—drama at LCC.

I asked Chad if he thinks about how his life would be had the slushie incident not happened. He thinks about it all the time. Without that wake up call he would not have faced the decision to sacrifice a good situation to take a risk on something great.

Cup 12 with Chad made me realize important change often requires a wake-up call. We cling to good because it is safe—in a stable situation, we know exactly what to expect. Conversely, the potentially great things ahead of us are intangible, uncertain, scary.

It is difficult to trust something better is out there waiting for us—something we are capable of achieving. So we settle because we are afraid to trade stability and contentedness for the hard work and unpredictability that comes with striving for something bigger. Because if we fail, we will have lost both good and great.

But Chad proves how the reward can far outweigh the risk. He trusts his gut and repeatedly takes a stable situation and turns it on its head. As a result, he has created a life that he looks forward to each morning. A life he finds fulfilling.

I know at some point in my life, I will have a proverbial slushie thrown in my face that exposes something missing in my life. When that happens I hope Chad’s story will give me the courage to take a risk and shake things up.

To sacrifice good for a chance at great.