“Nothing in the real world is as beautiful as the illusions of a person about to lose consciousness.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
I have started to run.
When you run there comes a point of exhaustion in which breathing hurts, a point where your mind is finding every excuse to stop moving. You lurch and you stumble… you push on. Your mind tricks you into ‘giving up’. Ironically this low point, this wall , once overcome starts a new stage and you can move on with renewed energy. Get through this barrier and the run becomes easier, your muscles relax a little, the pain in your legs ease and your breathing regulates.
Headship has much in common with running. There are many times when you want to give up, feel the utter exhaustion, break down (either privately or publically), face the demons of the soul – physically and mentally and ride the long night of the knives. I have found that in running I am able to feel the pain of headship more acutely than I did when I sat in the chair and drank wine. In running I am building a resilience I did not know I had.
When I run I feel the edges of my abilities and I realise that I am not perfect. I often come to the conclusion that I am ‘cracked’ and ‘weak’ like a punch drunk fighter staggering from the ring exhausted I know that I am beat. It is hard to admit ‘defeat’ when you are the head – it too often is seen as the suicidal ramblings or the beginning of the end. It is never seen as strength. I am overcoming this by expressing a ‘good enough’ approach to my running and, therefore my headship. Too often there is a sense of trying to achieve perfection. You see it in the language floating around education, excellence, outstanding, inspiration, innovation and world class. The list is long. There is this sickening dichotomy between perfection language and the stark reality of the role. Nothing is good enough (We usually learn this as teachers) and failure is a sliding level which rarely goes down. We are the heads and we are told (Usually by people who are not the heads) that we need to balance our lives with the demands of the role. We need to have a work life balance but as Alain De Botton wrote, “There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.” This is why I like running. I will never achieve perfection. I will never be good enough. But, I can be better.