A reflection on failure and success: Preparing for the school year

Eight months ago, I wrote a list. Today, I found and reread it, feeling as if it it was lightyears away. As summer winds down, and I finish my preparation for the new school year, I feel lucky to have found this list. I feel lucky that I was motivated enough to write these thoughts down a difficult moment, so that I might look back on them. I am lucky to have the opportunity to reflect on where I was, to be thankful for where I am, and to know that I have been working toward being better in the future.

Failure is:

  • An egg sandwich dinner at 10:30 at night
  • Driving around looking for last minute holiday gifts before winter break, because you’ve let time slip away and forgot the important things
  • Disappointment that you spent the last 5 hours with a basketball team that you love, watching them pour effort on the court to come up well short of a goal that seemed firmly within your grasp
  • Wondering why your coaching failed and whether you can get this team back on track
  • Feeling overwhelmed with the balance of work and life
  • Frustrating your partner because you’re too frustrated to communicate when you finally arrive home
  • Struggling to make a choice about what to eat for dinner
  • Struggling to fall asleep when you finally get to bed
  • Sleeping through your alarm, but still needing to pick up a Dunkin Donuts gift card for your secret snowflake
  • Forgetting to pack a lunch, or put your order in by 9:30
  • Surviving the day on munchkins, pretzel bites, holiday themed cookies and cupcakes, and the multitude of leftover veggies from the healthy snack trays sent in by well-meaning, optimistic parents

Success is:

  • Getting ready for and arriving at school within 30 minutes, including the Dunkin Donuts stop
  • The smile on my eight year old son’s face when he gets his Dear Santa donut with an obscene amount of icing
  • The smiles and thanks from the early morning crew students for their small, but surprisingly well received gifts (I guess it really is the thought that counts)
  • When PreK students offer you waffles leftover from their classroom waffle party
  • PreK students arguing over who gets to hold your hand on the long walk to our holiday celebration and then finding a solution to only having two hands, but having more than 2 fingers
  • Singing almost every word of a song along with all of our lower school students, including ASL signs, which I learned through countless rehearsals and concerts; and enjoying every minute of it
  • Watching two preschool students steal the show by dancing hand in hand in front of 700+ teachers and students as the middle school choir sings
  • Having a tough, but productive and positive conversation with a concerned parent
  • Having a tough, but productive conversation with a young teacher working through the challenges of a new teaching position
  • Reflecting on a stressful week with a boss who knows I’m overwhelmed but supports me with endless patience

I am extremely fortunate. I love my job and work with great people in a great place. This summer has been rejuvenating, relaxing, an ideal balance of work and play. We have been able to spend quality time as a family. Yet, I feel like I’ve accomplished a great deal at work. I know this relaxing feeling will change soon and the balance will be harder to maintain, but the contrast from my recent past to my present is a powerful reminder of what I am capable of.

I don’t just need to work harder when there is more to do. I need to work harder to balance it all. That means delegating and it also means choosing to put things aside. It means setting boundaries – leaving working at a specific time, regardless of the to do list; setting aside time for my family and friends; calling a friend to just say hi; playing with my son for a little bit longer. As a good friend recently reminded me over lunch: when I look back, I’m not going to remember the to do list. But I will feel either a sense of regret or a sense of pride over the times I chose my family, my friends, and myself over the busy work, the emails, and the checklists.

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