Alternate Title: Pressing that “SEND” Button is Really Hard!
One of the benefits of writing this blog is renewing connections with old friends. In fact, a friend, who is a regular reader, and I have actually become closer because of our interactions regarding my writing. After over forty years of knowing this person, I had no idea that he wrote poetry. I didn’t know because being a poet is certainly not his day job, and most, if not all, of that creative writing is seen only by him. Part of that reason is his humility, and the other part is something I know all too well – publishing anything that invites scrutiny is frightening.
As a principal, a superintendent, and a blog writer, pressing that “SEND” button on a newsletter that goes to thousands of email inboxes has always made my pulse go up. Is it really ready? How could it be better? Is there a typo somewhere? (Note: I hate publishing something with a typographical error. Hate it. I look and look, but eventually, even after proofreading it for the umpteenth time, I somehow miss an error that is just staring me in the face. My friend (and awesome neighbor) Jack is always quick to point out the errors he finds. Though he is a little too gleeful about it, I try to think of it as just another way for me to bring joy into a friend’s heart. I do take some pleasure when I don’t hear from him, because I know he scoured it and found nothing.) But, more important than the absence of typos is the question of whether the piece of writing is interesting, inspiring, humorous, insightful, or anything else that makes reading it a worthwhile and pleasurable experience.
So yes – it’s still stressful. After all these years, publishing is still stressful. That being said, it’s easier now. I have more confidence and I am comfortable with what I’ve written. And even when there are errors, I will be OK.
My friend Tommy, the poet, is not there yet. I’ve encouraged him, but he’s not quite ready to share his creativity with the world. I feel beyond fortunate that he shares some of them with me. I always marvel that the meaning he conveys in just a few words is more impactful than what I say in far too many. Recently, he let me read this one:
My best friend retired today.
He sent me a screenshot
As he sped from the parking lot
Giving his life’s work the finger.
How blessed are they
Who on their Job’s last day
Drag their feet and linger.
I love this sentiment – the blessing of not being entirely ready to close the door on your life’s work. Not everyone can have a job they absolutely love. I feel beyond fortunate that for the last 39 years, I had the privilege of working in a field that inspired me, gave me meaning, challenged me, and pushed me to give all I could give. I understand why Jackson Brown wanted to Stay at the end of a concert – and I certainly wanted to linger at the end of my career.
I always thought that I would be an attorney. Part of that was just wanting to be like my father, who has been practicing law since 1964 – almost 60 years! I am told that when I was three or so, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said that I wanted to be just like my dad. When asked what my father did, I proudly stated, “He’s a lawnmower!” To be fair, lawnmower does sound like lawyer, and being a lawnmower seemed way more understandable than whatever a lawyer was. My dad’s friends got a big kick out of that.
I think I could have been very happy as a lawnmower/lawyer, but I lucked out by trying education first. Many of you know I recently retired. Again. Leaving the stresses of the job was not hard on the last day. In fact, if it weren’t for the stress, which only got worse over time, I would probably still be there. But leaving everything else tied to it – the sense of purpose, the challenges, and the people – did indeed make me want to linger.
As I mentioned earlier, not everyone can luck out and find a job that is also a meaningful and challenging vocation. But almost everyone can find a job where the people they work with infuse beauty, humor, hope, and inspiration into their lives. I know that in every place I’ve worked, I have fallen in love with the people I worked with. My colleagues and I struggled to overcome incredible challenges together. Teachers, principals, and nearly everyone in public education aspire to help all students overcome daunting challenges: a lack of basic needs, incredibly challenging disabilities, difficult home lives, debilitating insecurities, and so much more. Great teachers have always prioritized students and all of their complexities over subjects and all of their details.
When I first met Dr. Zander, Dawson’s music teacher in high school, she was speaking before a concert. She said, “I love music. I adore it. But way more than that, I love teaching students how to love music and how to create it.” With just those few words, I understood why Dawson loved her class so much, and I knew that she was an extraordinary teacher. That stands in stark contrast to another teacher who once told me, “I teach history, but I consider myself more of a historian than a history teacher.” I’ll take Dr. Zander’s attitude every time. She is working hard and finding joy trying to understand each student, overcoming all the barriers that she can, and in the end, like she did with Dawson, helping her students climb remarkable heights.
I was proud to do my best for students with my colleagues in San Lorenzo, Lodi, Malibu, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, and Placentia/Yorba Linda. Every day, we sought inspiration from one another, developed creative solutions together, shared our successes and failures, and came to work appreciating each other’s passion, humor, professionalism, and talent.
It is these relationships, on top of all of the purpose and challenges, that made me linger on my last day before retiring, on my last day in all of my jobs, and even on the last day of each school year. So thank you, Tommy, for your beautifully expressed and compressed thoughts. You have given me insight into my own life that I certainly needed. And I hope that one day, you’ll press that “SEND” button yourself.
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Banksy Photo by Zorro4 on Pixabay