eMbracing the chaos
if you’ve read many of my columns through the years you
know that I am an advocate of choosing change before changes
Jacque BoyD phD
choose you! That attitude can also add more to any situation than
you might have originally bargained for. So, along with choosing change, I’ve also learned
to embrace the chaos that seems to accompany it.
A very good friend of mine has found a niche in aviation doing what she’s best at. I’m going to be purposely vague about
the details here as it serves no purpose to point in her direction.
After some struggles from an earlier aviation “down-turn” she
finally realized that she needed to go back to what she loved,
start her own business and roll with it. When the aviation industry is in full-swing her life is fantastic. As the industry’s stability begins to swing wildly, so does her income. But we both
know that she loves what she does. So, when the times are good
she enjoys it and when the times aren’t as good she rolls with it
and plans a little extra padding in the savings account. In my
estimation she’s learned to embrace the chaos.
I have a t-shirt with that phrase embroidered on it. I have
note paper with the phrase printed on it. I have a sign on my
front door with the phrase painted on it. And I believe it.
This is my second year as the director of a charter high
school in northern rural New Mexico. We were ranked 51st
in the U.S. by the Newsweek/Washington Post Challenge Index
based on our participation and excellence with the College
Board Advanced Placement program and our graduation rate.
This is a good gig. I get to work at 6 a.m. and it’s a rare day
if I’m home before 7 p.m. No day is ever completely placid, although my problems are far more ‘innocent’ than most high
school principal’s problems could be. I’m trying to get a new
building built while working within the political system in
New Mexico and juggling the politics of a small town.
Last year left me frazzled and feeling guilty about the
“other work” that I wasn’t getting done. I neglected things that
I’d never neglected before. I wrote in this column that I’d become the “world’s worst friend” and I meant it. I screwed up
commitments and for the first time in a long time I made excuses for why I wasn’t doing what I should have been doing.
Although I loved my work, I felt terrible about my life.
When I made the choice to take the position of director I had
also made the choice to give up teaching my two aviation classes. Last spring I once again chose change before it chose me. I
made my life busier—but busier with something that was going to help me stay in focus. I went back to teaching in addition to my director-duties. My class is a combination of the former Aviation I and Aviation II, but there’s a familiarity to it. It
also serves to get me out of my office for at least 71 minutes every day. I have to walk across the courtyard and be out in the
elements. Those elements include the possibility of elk in the
morning, wind, rain, snow and raucous teenagers. Aside from
making the decision to take this job, the choice to make my life
busier with teaching again is one of the best things I’ve done in
a long time. I’ve embraced the chaos.
There’s a fine line in making a busy life a busier life. The
first thing I’ve learned—and it’s been a difficult lesson—I ask
for help. For better or not, my brothers and I have carried the
credo “Don’t Be a Quitter” emblazoned on our brains. And we
were taught not to ask for help. The outcome wasn’t always
pretty, but by golly we didn’t quit and we did it on our own.
Don’t judge my parents harshly. I know they were tap-danc-ing just as hard as they could and we have turned out to be
respectable citizens. But, stubborn and independent is not always attractive.
I had to learn that just because I can doesn’t mean I do. I
have a guy who plows my driveway pad instead of shoveling
it myself. I instituted some committees at school so I share
the workload where I can. I put all my reports on a memory
stick and email my budgets to my Governing Council instead
of printing out and copying the reports for them each week.
I don’t always go into the office on the weekend. And sometimes I let my answering machine do what it was made to do.
Whatever your position in the work environment the first
thing you need to do is to be honest with yourself about
the state of “you-and-your-job.” I recently read one of Jenny
Beatty’s columns concerning making choices and deciding
what you really have to do to be where you want to be. Jenny
and I have been very good friends for a lot of years and have
traveled some tough roads together. Having a friend to help
you be honest about what you want and where you’re going
is a basic necessity. You need to know what you want, but I
firmly believe you also need to know what you don’t want. I
also believe that you should try not to make excuses for either one. That’s embracing the chaos. ✈
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Jacque Boyd, Ph.D. (WAI #32) is the director of a Charter High
School and a freelance writer living in Angel Fire, New Mexico.