I’m tired. I mean really tired. And not that “Oh, I just need a little nap to perk back up” kind of tired, but that trifecta of mental, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion that leaves chin nearly glued to chest at the end of another 12-hour workday. I trudge home at night with the weight of competing priorities, unfinished business, and second guessing thudding like lead around my consciousness, and I wonder if God is taking my prayers (“Use me, Lord, to do your will”) a bit too literally. The aspiration of true servant-leadership feels more like martyrdom these days, and as I’m sure any saint (not that I am one) will tell you, sacrifice doesn’t feel good!
I crawl out of bed in the wee hours of the morning, unable to sleep because something for work needs to be finished, considered, or planned. I plug away for three hours, bleary-eyed but focused. I dress and discuss work on the way to work just to work when I get to work. Then I drive home, reflecting on work and planning for the work I need to do before I return to work tomorrow. My kids, my husband, and my personal self all take the back seat, graciously but unfairly, and I know all the while that something, anything, has got to give. But I feel all given out, and I’m not exactly sure how to balance what I know I need to do with what I feel compelled to do.
I often reflect with my mentor that I understand intellectually that I can’t lead all the change that is needed in my organization in one year, but emotionally it is so hard for me to walk by and not feel obliged to celebrate, champion, fix, negotiate, or enlighten. It’s this struggle between the head and heart that keeps me from prioritizing my task list although I’ve calendared and scheduled skillfully. I take on too much, widening my gaze, when more often than not, I need to stick to the plan with concerted focus. But when I am successful with following my calendar, I feel guilty: Did I blow Mr. ___ off when he tried to talk with me in the halls? Should I have stepped in to support Ms. ___ even though I had an evaluation conference starting in 15 seconds?
I really want to be what I didn’t have as a young teacher: a coach, a thought-partner, a cheerleader, a willing and honest advocate, but I find myself unable to do that and all the other things being a “good” principal demands. “I don’t know how you do it!” someone said yesterday. My reply? “I don’t do ‘it’ very well.” I’m still trying to figure “it” out, and most often, those whom I love most are left the scraps from my day to squeeze in a conversation, quick kiss, or lullaby.
“The first year is always the hardest,” they say. I know that is true. After all, I was a first year teacher many moons ago, but somehow, this feels new and nearly insurmountable again. And just like a first year teacher, I have to get up everyday, put on a courageous, steadfast face, and head into the world with confidence and care, even if what I really need is an uninterrupted, peaceful night of sleep.