Article by Rachel Rosner, St. Paul's School
From the July/August NetAssets magazine
Some years ago, my husband and I bought a home near Annapolis, Maryland, a city on the Chesapeake Bay. Now we live there full time, but we used to spend weekends and school breaks there when we lived primarily in Washington, DC. My colleagues could tell you that when I didn’t have the chance to get away on weekends, I was not the best version of myself. I didn’t listen or engage as well at work because I hadn’t had time to contemplate, unwind and re-center. Our new home is a place where I can care for the world around me, observe the immediate impact of my actions and integrate myself with the plant and animal life that is now at my fingertips.
Figuring out what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be took quite a few years. My professional life began in the corporate world. I had worked my way up to director at PwC, and then my husband took a position in Japan. The only work I could do there without a working visa was volunteer at my children’s school. I found that my business background made a difference in the lives of teachers and students, and I realized that I wanted to find more meaning in my career. I decided to transition to working in independent school education administration and eventually made my way to the independent school business office.
I served as COO at Solomon Schechter School of Westchester before becoming director of finance and operations at Georgetown Day School. After a brief detour into higher education as the vice president of finance and administration at Washington College, I returned to the independent school world and am CFO at St. Paul’s School in Baltimore.
Now, in the hours I’m away from my work at St. Paul’s, I love to weed my garden. As a business officer, nothing is ever done. I may hand over a project to someone else, but it’s still ongoing and the results are often intangible. With my vegetable garden, I can weed it and see that I’ve made a difference. Sure, weeds come back, but it’s a good feeling for a few days.
Another thing I do now is raise oysters with my husband. We get thousands of tiny spats in the fall and keep them off our dock. Throughout the winter we clean them to keep them healthy, and then in the late spring, we plant the mature oysters in beds in the Bay where they will have the greatest impact filtering water. As the weather gets colder and then warmer and the oysters grow bigger, I feel connected to something bigger than myself.
I have also discovered a love of paddle boarding. I had never been fond of kayaking, and I discovered why after my husband bought me a paddleboard for my 45th birthday. On the kayak, you remain above water and your focus is on the sky and life in the air and on the ground. On the paddleboard, you can see directly and clearly into the water and watch the fish and rays and crabs right there below you. I also found kayaking is often about getting to a destination, whereas paddle boarding is about enjoying the here and now. I relish simply being in the present.
Even my commute, which now totals two and a half hours each weekday, has helped me find quiet. There is something to be said for a separation between work and home life. And I have more time to “read” now than I’ve had in years; I listen to books while I drive. Before I’d go to the library or bookstore and think, whatever I read must be meaningful, because I have time to read only so much. Now I consume everything from the frivolous to the very serious because I give myself permission to use my time in a variety of ways.
To-dos and meetings and reporting out and managing are so typical of the business officer’s life. Finding ways to explore and think and be and do that are not so driven has helped me find fulfillment. In some ways, I’m still asking that existential question, Who do I want to be when I grow up? Some of the most important answers come from outside the office.
Download a PDF of this article.
After School: The Woodworker
After School: An Eye for Beauty
After School: I’ve Been Working on the Model Railroad
After School: Dance Numbers
Sign in to leave a comment
Get Net Assets NOW
NBOA's free twice-monthly newsletter
1400 I Street, NW, Suite 675Washington, DC 20005www.nboa.org