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.
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.