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October has become something of a transitional month in recent years. This time around I find myself in a completely new position at work that I could not have foreseen a week ago. In a nutshell I’ve been asked to lead a demoralised and bruised Key Stage that has been haemorrhaging staff and students for over a year now. That such faith in my leadership style has been bestowed upon me is humbling while the challenges ahead are numerous. But having got my head around leaving my current position I have a palpable sense of excitement about what lies ahead.
I made it clear that in all likelihood I’ll be going back to Australia next year but they still wanted me to take the position. Having had time to think things through it occurs to me that it might be enough to keep me here another year. There’s a lot that needs to be done and my ideas for turning things around have been favourably received. Opportunities like this don’t come along each day. I’ve no doubt I can make a difference in a year but over two years those changes could be really bedded down for the long term.
For some reason I’m not feeling remotely nervous about the prospect. With each passing day it’s as though it was meant to be. I’m not a fatalist by nature, even if I have been in the past. It’s just that there’s a pattern to it all. Perhaps logical progression is a more apt term; that, and professional confidence. I’m not kidding myself it’s going to be a walk in the part. Nonetheless, I can’t help feeling that if anyone can turn things around for the better, I can.
Let’s hope I don’t have to end up eating my own words.
There is a discrepancy, I know, between what I’m imagining and what I’ll be taking on but I can’t help feeling incredibly upbeat about it. I’m also feeling upbeat about the arrival of James and Fusun tomorrow. It’s extraordinary the way the bond between us seems to strengthen with each passing year, and while it’s going to be a tight squeeze while they’re with us the thought of spending so much quality time together cheers me no end. So all in all I’m in a pretty good place at the moment and there’s a lot to be looking forward to.
Airports: you either love them or you hate them. For some they represent the sadness of departure from loved ones; the last loving glance or heartfelt embrace before a long period of separation. For others they’re a potent symbol of pending adventure and new beginnings. Some see them as places of homecoming and reconnecting with friends sorely missed.
For me the airport today was a place for celebration as James and Fusun arrived tired and a little worse for wear after the long flight from Melbourne.
I’ve waited a long time for this day and at last, here it is.
I can’t quite get my head around the fact that this time next week I’ll have started the new job. There’s still so much to be done before I finish up on Friday – work to be marked, grades to be entered, paintings to be displayed and labelled, resources to pack, not to mention briefing my successor. Amidst all of this is the realisation that what I’m taking on is a very different kind of role. It’s only now starting to sink in. This position has been a real high water mark of my career.
I hope it’s not the last.
At a time when billions are being wiped off the stock market each day and terms like global crash and economic meltdown are being bandied around like so much small change, it serves to bring into focus the whole concept of value and worth and the way we as a society bestow such qualities and put such faith in things that, if current events are anything to judge by, can so easily and effortlessly disappear seemingly overnight. At the end of the day, a tender smile, a warm hug and simply knowing someone cares – these are the things of real value.
I’m disappointed that I couldn’t accompany them to the Island but talking to them on the phone today it’s clear they’re having a brilliant time. For James it’s the first time he’s met his extended family. I’ve been telling him for years what a brilliant bunch they are. For Fusun it’s a chance to discover one of the world’s best kept secrets. The island is such an inherent part of my life and to have Andrew there to show it to them is nothing short of a blessing.
Bringing people together and forging new friendships is such a sweet pleasure.
Sometimes when I try to write my mind goes blank. Try as I may, nothing is forthcoming. It’s not that I don’t have anthing to say. Sometimes it’s that I have too much. I don’t know where to start. At the moment I have so much going on in my head I can’t seem to get a handle on any of it. Every time I make a start it turns out to be a blind alley. I’ve learnt over the years not to confuse this with losing the knack. Rather, there are simply days when the tap is turned off.
My last day in the current job and, as usual, I was the last one out at the end of the day. So many things needed to be done but there are only so many hours in a day and by the time I left I hadn’t done half of them. Ah well, it’s somebody else’s responsibility now. It’s strange to think I won’t be going back there on Monday.
I remember the day the place opened. It seems a long time ago now. One chapter ends and another one begins.
Let’s hope it’s a good one.
Time will tell.
A day trip to Paris. The four of us up at the crack of dawn, tearing across the countryside on Eurostar, arriving at Gare du Nord elated, if a little bleary-eyed. First up to Sacre Cor, then to the top of the Arc de Triomphe followed by lunch and a stroll down the Champs Élysées, culminating in the exhilarating ascent to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Then the journey back: James and I drinking a little too much, Fusun and I collapsing into fits of laughter, Teddy dozing sleepily after the meal. And finally back home, safe and sound.
You are amongst other things an amazing friend. The depth of what we share can at times leave me feeling breathless. Your honesty and integrity never fail to amaze me while your frankness and trust are nothing short of – of what? Words can be so inadequate. It’s as though we have always known each other; always cared for each other and always been there for each other. When you speak your mind I hear the echo of my own mind and when you speak of love it’s as though I’m being recognised for who I am for the very first time.
One day into the new job and if I was to allow myself to I could become completely immobilised by the enormity of the task ahead. If I can pull this one off then I think I could do just about anything I set my mind to and it’s not lost on me that this is the very reason I’ve been drafted into the post. The pressure of expectation is weighing heavily upon me. What is required is nothing short of a complete sea change in the way the place is run. I just hope I can deliver the goods.
I woke up too early this morning with my heart racing and my mind full of the day ahead. I tried to ignore it; tried to keep it all at bay but it wouldn’t be held. It seeped through into wakefulness through the cracks of self-doubt, a gnawing anxiety the likes of which I haven’t felt for a long time, while the question - have I made a big mistake? - kept hammering in the background, refusing to allow me to go back to sleep.
For all my initial optimism and brazen confidence, what if I’m really not up to the task?
It’s a process I know but I can’t help feeling overwhelmed. They’re a lot more difficult that I had bargained for. Well maybe, maybe not. At any rate the model is very different to the one I’ve become used to. How long it’s going to take depends on a variety of factors, not least the way I grow into the role myself. Leadership is very different to deputy leadership. The buck now stops with me and that’s both scary and exhilarating in equal measure. Perhaps the greatest challenge is the ability to disengage the ego; to remember it’s not personal.
I’m feeling spooked. After another restless night I feel strung out, both intellectually and emotionally. Three things have converged simultaneously, none of which I imagined would have had such a debilitating impact. The early rise and dark mornings don’t help either. I need to get on top of the situation at work sooner rather than later. There’s no question but that it’s the key element to how I’m feeling all of a sudden, which is an uneasy combination of over-emotional and vulnerable. It will pass. It always does. I always manage to bounce back. It’s just a question of when.
I think the crisis in confidence may be passing. I can feel the magic returning. It’s a huge task, I know. My colleagues from other areas ask me how it’s going, nodding sympathetically when I tell them my concerns, yet the thing I keep hearing from them over and over is, “But if anyone can do it, you can.” Well, I think I’m just beginning to believe it. And it
about an alchemy of sorts. It’s a process that can’t be rushed but one that I can already see has begun. And with that the confidence kicks back in.
After such a manic, overwhelming week at work, to wake up in another city in another country is amazing. I arrived just before midnight and was soon feeling more relaxed than I’ve been for a long while. Amsterdam is such a tonic! James and Fusun are both completely enchanted by it. My worries about the new job seemed far away as we spent the day strolling streets, ducking into cafés, posing for photographs beside picturesque canals and screaming our lungs out on fairground rides.
There’s a lot to be said for hopping on a plane and just taking off sometimes.
It was a peculiar thought. While walking past the Van Gogh Museum today it occurred to me that when I first passed this way some 26 years ago you didn’t weren’t even on the planet! What an odd thought! I mean, we’ve become really close and age doesn’t really feature in our relationship beyond an occasional cursory acknowledge- ment. Philosophically however, it is weird to consider someone I care about having not existed at a time when I did. It makes me realise I’ve been an adult a very long time.
And, no doubt, one day the tables will be turned.
I thought I’d be wrecked after such a full on weekend but I wasn’t. I actually got one of my Annual Reviews out of the way and that was a bonus.
A couple of the students came in to chat to me while I was sitting in my office today. One even asked if I could take the class instead of the teacher he had, which is something I wouldn’t have predicted a few days ago.
But it’s early days yet and I’m not kidding myself. I’ve little doubt in my mind it’s going to be a long, hard haul.
What was I thinking? I’d pretty much decided that I didn’t want the job but I allowed myself to be swayed by a trusted colleague and now I’m stuck with it. I’ve never had such a short-lived honeymoon period! I’m waking up at 5 am each day in a panic, unable to go back to sleep and dreading the day ahead. What’s worse is that I can’t see things improving. I’ve let go of the best job I’ve ever had for one that I fear I’ll come to dread getting out of bed for.
And that’s such a depressing prospect!
Eight days into the job and I’m feeling an irrational desire to quit the job, sell up and go back to Melbourne. It’s not the team; they’re fine. It’s the prospect of having to face feral kids each day who are rude, abusive and have absolutely no intention whatsoever of doing anything remotely connected with work. Worse, they have every intention of being as disruptive and defiant as possible, hurling insults as readily as they might draw breath. It’s so damned draining!
Had I realised how dire things were I would never have allowed myself to be talked into this.
I’m sitting on a bus on a cold, dark morning feeling utterly exhausted, strung out and wishing I’d never taken on this job. I’m also feeling down about the prospect of James and Fusun leaving tomorrow. Their departure is going to leave such an absence. They’ve provided such an emotional counter-balance to all the anger and misplaced contempt I’ve been on the receiving end of at work. More than that, they’re just such fun to be around. Their youthful energy and playfulness never fails to bring a smile to my face. Unlike these miserable people here on the bus today.
It’s a little sad to think that within a few hours they’ll both be a long, long way from here. I’m a sentimental old git I know. I always have been. I prefer to think of it as one of my endearing qualities. The past three weeks have been such a refreshing change to the regular routine and while juggling so much travel and social interaction with the new job has been challenging it’s also been memorable. We’ve had so many laughs that we’ll continue laughing over for years to come. But for now it's time to say Bon Voyage!
At last, a few days to recover. Since I arrived back from Australia in August we’ve had a constant stream of visitors staying with us in our modest London flat. It’s been great but we’ve had so little time to ourselves. I also have a week’s respite from work. I’ve had no time to gather my thoughts or reflect on what’s been going down. I’ve been in reactive mode rather than responsive mode. For the next few days I don’t even want to think about it. I just need some time to chill and enjoy a bit of down time.
I’ve been having dreams where I’m trying to get somewhere but I keep finding myself thwarted by circumstances beyond my control. Something is left on a train but by the time I realise it the train has left the station. I’m trying to get from one part of a building to another but I keep finding obstacles that prevent me from getting where I want to go and stopping me from getting what I want. It’s a discomforting feeling than underpins a pervading sense of uncertainty that I can’t seem to shake. And I really don’t like it. It sucks.
It occurs to me that what’s needed is nothing short of a complete reappraisal of everything; that maybe I was enjoying my previous job a little too much and in the process was becoming complacent about other areas of my life. Clearly I have some decisions to make, not least of which is what kind of mindset am I going to adopt in order to view this whole thing more positively? If I allow uncertainty and a lack of confidence to undermine me I might as well throw in the towel now. And let’s be honest: that’s not an option.
I miss you. I miss your smile. I miss your open face. I miss being with you. I miss hearing your voice. I miss your warm embrace. I miss the way you take an interest in me. I miss your strength and your vulnerability. I miss hearing your take on things. I miss your energy. I miss your honesty. Indeed, there is much about you that I miss. But it’s not a debilitating kind of feeling. It’s not about being unduly dependent upon you. Rather, it’s like missing the warmth of summer when being faced with the onset of winter.
It can be really unnerving at times.
It’s like the meaning goes out of life and I find myself feeling naked and vulnerable in the face of everything. At my age than can be difficult to admit. I mean, I’m supposed to have it all together by now.
From outward appearances it probably looks as though I have. And let’s keep things in perspective here: very often I feel like I do.
But when it hits me it usually hits me hard and I’m left floundering about trying to regain some sense of balance and perspective.
Like now for instance.
Your honesty took me by surprise. It’s been a long time since we levelled with each other in such a manner. Funny how we tend to avoid the important things for fear of what we might stir up. The thing about honesty is that it’s not always easy to digest and our capacity for self deception sometimes knows no bounds. Today though, you chose to take the risk and because of that we understand each other a little better now than before. So that when you tell me you love me, I get it. And vice versa.
Autumn has truly settled upon us now. As I gaze down on the street below people are rugged up against the mid-afternoon chill. Capped, coated and gloved they go about their business while a pale sun washes down from a cool, blue sky. It’s been a busy month marked by dizzy highs and crashing lows but at last I feel a sense of equilibrium returning. The panic has receded and after a good chat with Bronwen today I feel much clearer about what needs to be done. More importantly, I begin to believe that it’s doable. It just takes time.
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