Looking back on a short “long, strange trip”
I’ll forever remember the moment when the trustee in charge of Darrow’s last head of school search let me know I’d gotten the job. “Let me be the first to congratulate you,” he said. He had barely finished the sentence when I grabbed him for a big hug and burst into tears of relief. Mildly awkward start, but also unavoidable because in that moment the pressure of months of waiting was over and I’d gotten the chance of a lifetime to lead a school I loved.
Flash forward to the final quarter of my fifth year and I’m still as tickled as I was five years ago for this opportunity to lead. I have more gray hair now. The stresses of being responsible for the educations and lives of 115 teenagers and the professional lives of several dozens adults was greater than I’d imagined. And I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Here is a quick accounting of how five years have changed me:
- The pressures of budget and vision, and what sometimes feels like limitless stakeholders, have made me a far better problem solver than I was before. Better in that I seek input more broadly and recognize the limits of my own knowledge and perspective to see possible solutions.
- I have more compassion for the limits and frailties of humans of all ages than before. I also have less tolerance for adult B.S. and more empathy for what teenagers have to navigate now than in decades past.
- I understand and appreciate the power of organizational culture more now. It exists in every workplace and is ignored or unconsciously tended at the organization’s risk.
- Finally, these five years feel at once longer than five years and much shorter. Shorter in that the list of things I still want and need to do keeps growing over time, even though much has been accomplished. Longer in the sense that I’ve never had a job consume so much of my waking and dreaming attention and energy. I now cherish vacation and family time in a way I never had before.
A short “long, strange trip” for sure. I can’t wait to see how the next five years unfold.
Read Simon Holzapfel’s bio.