Time To Let Go

Melissa Bell has been the Principle of St. Hilda's Collegiate in Dunedin for the past 7 years.  It has been a year since she was diagnosed with cancer.  Today she shares her story with us.

There is a quote I have reflected on often recently.  It comes from Gary Keller and goes like this -

“Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls-- family, health, friends, integrity-- are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.”

Last week I made the decision to leave a job I love to look after everything else in my life – family, health, friends and integrity.  

Melissa Bell surrounded by her students

Melissa Bell surrounded by her students

I was diagnosed with stage 3a breast cancer exactly one year ago.  At the time when I heard those words ‘You have cancer’  I was in disbelief.  My life was full, challenging and rewarding.  I had an amazing family – a great husband, two stunning young sons and a very close extended family.  I also had a very full and satisfying worklife.  I was Principal of a very successful girls secondary school, a job I had gained at a young age.  I was due to fly to Japan and Korea a week later.  And in an instant my world changed.

Suddenly it dawned on me how little my ambitions meant.  I still desperately loved my work and my school community.  Infact in the months ahead they became a strong source of support for my family and me.  But all I wanted was to be with those I loved most.  I began to appreciate I was mortal.  That life was not infinite.  I began to wonder if I would see the milestones I had always taken for granted – my sons leaving school, getting married, having children of their own.  I didn’t think twice about potential career limitations.

I lived the cancer cliché.  I stopped the car to look at beautiful sunsets instead of rushing home to get more work done.  I thought more carefully about the food I ate and what I fed my family.  Every day became a new opportunity – not something to be rushed through and managed.  I started living deliberately.

It didn’t happen over night.  It took time to learn new habits.  But as I did, I became so much happier.

I returned to work fulltime in September of last year.  I thought I could have the best of both worlds.  But early this year I realised, as much as I love my staff and students, it was time to let go.

Announcing my resignation was emotional.  I cried telling my prefects.  But that night I slept wonderfully and felt fabulous.  I am now not risking dropping one of the glass balls in my life.  Instead I hold them close, watch them, polish them and care for them.  Maybe in doing this I can polish out some of the nicks that may have developed over the years.