Being a Principal is Hard. So is Not Being a Principal.
Over the past few months, I've been working with my coach to figure out what retirement means for me and who I want to become in this new phase of life. Looking back, I realize that my days as a principal followed a clear routine: up at 4:30 AM, out of the house by 5:00, at school by 5:30, 10 hours of work, home by 5:00 PM, dinner with my wife, and bedtime around 9:30 PM. Rinse and repeat. It seemed straightforward, and I knew what was expected to be a successful campus leader. It was a very hard job to do.
Now that I'm retired, maintaining a routine is challenging. Clarifying what I want and who I want to be is even more challenging. I've discovered that I excelled at thinking within defined limits. I had a set budget, a specific staff size, and a limited number of days to accomplish our goals. I felt restricted at times, but I developed the skills needed to thrive in that structured environment.
Today, I face a different world with no such limits. Most days, I can do whatever I choose—work, play, tend to the yard, volunteer, sleep, binge-watch TV, explore any topic that catches my interest, socialize, and more. It's a world without boundaries, and I've realized that I lack skills in navigating this new terrain.
In my consulting work with school districts, I mentor new and struggling campus leaders. They often confide in me about the difficulty of achieving work-life balance, and I empathize wholeheartedly. I'm learning that balancing life and work in retirement is equally challenging.
The transition from the role of a principal to retirement has been quite a shift. I've come to realize that my drive for self-improvement and personal growth remains as strong as ever. Just as I've supported campus leaders in their challenges, I'm now facing the challenge of creating a new routine and purpose in retirement. It's a journey of discovery. It’s uncomfortable and hard.
This journey of rediscovery in retirement has reminded me that growth thrives in discomfort. Just as I've guided others through their challenges, I'm embracing the challenge of crafting a meaningful routine and purpose in this uncharted territory. It's an unfamiliar path, and yes, it's hard, but that's where growth happens. As educational leaders, we've always been driven by the pursuit of improvement, and that drive doesn't diminish in retirement. It transforms into a new quest – one where we continue to learn, adapt, and inspire.
So, to all my fellow educators, whether you're in the throes of leadership or savoring the freedom of retirement, remember that the journey never truly ends. It evolves, and so do we. Together, let's keep seeking out the hard stuff, embracing the uncomfortable moments, and moving forward with the same determination that defined our careers. Being a principal was hard, and so is not being one, but the beauty lies in the growth that emerges from each challenge we embrace.