Who was the first musician or musical group you ever saw in concert?
My answer is Simon & Garfunkel.
I was 13 when I saw the two of them together -- it was impossible in the late 1960s to imagine
I can still see Garfunkel in a pool of light down on the stage, leaning into the microphone, with his soaring voice and poof of blond curls. I can see Simon stopping abruptly -- in the middle of "Homeward Bound," if memory serves -- glaring at the audience and announcing that if one more flashbulb popped, he'd walk out.
The cameras quieted down, and the guys sang on. It doesn't seem so long ago.
It was, however, a while ago, and now, according to news reports Tuesday, Simon, who's 76, is scheduled to do what's being billed as a "farewell performance" this summer in
"It's an act of courage to let go," he's quoted as telling
These are questions that confront many people eventually, even if the average person's reckoning with them doesn't make news and the average person lacks the money to choose as freely as celebrities like
For some people, the famous as well as the down-to-earth, letting go of a work identity isn't a choice. They're forced into the decision, by illness, family strain, the company squeeze.
Other people have the luxury of choosing to walk away.
In recent years, the writer
"I was not going to get any better," he said in a 2014
"All my life, I've mouthed off about how I should stop acting," he told
All the celebrities I've mentioned have had the privilege of being able to do the work they love beyond the age that many people are allowed to do good work for decent pay.
Still, when they talk about leaving their jobs, they don't sound much different from the not famous.
Many people I know have mouthed off at some point about how they should stop doing the work they do and do something else. This includes people of all ages, many who love their work and are good at it.
A number of people I've met have thought about embarking, in Roth's words, on "the great task of doing nothing" and for the same reason -- they weren't getting any better at what they did and were afraid of getting worse.
Since the announcement of Simon's "farewell" show in
But the questions he poses are worth considering anyway:
What would happen if you let go of the work that defined you? If you had to make yourself up again, who would you be?