A collection of essays on life, teaching, parenting, and finding the good in this crazy world.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
My eye had been on the prize for more than ten years. Over a decade of planning and anticipation, of maneuvering in place to claim the reward. After thirty-seven years on the job, the founding head of my school finally announced her retirement and I knew I had put myself in great position to assume the mantle.
I alone, I believed, had the vision to carry this school forward for future generations. I knew the philosophy like the faces of the children I taught. I had built excellent relationships, not only with the students and faculty, but with the movers and shakers in whose hands this decision lay. I understood that this school had a spirit like no other. I embodied that spirit and I was uniquely qualified to articulate it and give it opportunities to thrive. I had the energy and the passion to be the leader and the visionary whom the school was seeking.
The search committee asked for a cover letter and references. I gave them a portfolio to knock their socks off. It was indexed and cross-referenced, a feast of essays, anecdotes, photographs, and dozens of letters from every corner of the community. I hand-delivered it to the committee chair, feeling like all he had to do was hand me the keys to the new job. I bought a fine suit and aced the first interview, dazzled them with charm, knowledge, and grace. I was confident and proud to be taking over the reins.
A second interview never came. The chairman of the board called me the afternoon that school was out for winter break. Not qualified. Better candidates. Lacking the experience. I was numbed into silence. And then I collapsed. Hurt, devastated, I let out my anguish. Ten years of built-up anticipation and preparedness came crashing down in the space of a single phone call. This had been the grand plan. There was no other. Humbled and dispirited, I later watched as other candidates were paraded in front of the faculty. I could hardly stand it.
Before the school year was over, the intense pain lifted and a voice called out. “You’re not an administrator,” it said, “you’re an artist!” And I listened. Over time, the voice became clearer and more playful. It told me of a new path. A path of theater and of writing. It convinced me that leading a life of meetings and long range planning, of financial analysis and the buck stopping here was not for me. I like our new Head of School. He’s a good guy and clearly the best man for the job. I thank divine spirit every day that I’m not wearing his shoes.
Instead, I create. I bring stories to life. Three weeks after the phone call, I took my family to a pottery studio for my daughter’s birthday. I wrote about the experience, my first piece of creative writing in twenty-five years. I read it at the Deadbeat Coffeehouse and before I knew it, I was in the newspaper. I’ve been writing ever since. There are so many stories to tell, so many words to share.
I bring stories to life on stage. I write, adapt, direct, envision. Seeing thirty or one hundred and thirty kids act, with common purpose and joy, on a play that I have guided onto the stage is truly an awe-inspiring experience.
I am a writer and I remain ever thankful for the twist in the road and this creative life that is my prize.
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I commend you for writing this piece. It took great courage and insight to come to this road in your travels. Bravo Steve!
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