I've been chair for two years now, and am looking into the final year before I retire. So this is a little weird. Everything for the last time, to some extent: my classes, the chairing work, all that.
And yet I still feel like a beginner in so many ways. All sorts of higher ed organizations have "becoming department chair" programs to help new chairs do a good job; I was signed up for one my first summer, but it was cancelled due to Covid. Last summer new chairs got to go to them, but I didn't, so now I'm still behind in some ways.
What I've learned by being chair.
1) No one ever asks to talk to me about anything good. If someone says "can I talk to you?" I brace myself, because there's no way it's ever good. It may not be horrible, but it's never good. No one says, "Can I talk to you?" and then reveals that their book just got published. That's a quick email, and congratulations. Or a chat in the hall and congratulations.
Recent "can I talk to you" issues: 1) I found a new job and won't be teaching in fall. 2) I'm pregnant. 3) I bought a house in a state far away and want to do all my work remotely.
None of these things is about me at all, but all will make life more complicated and difficult for me (but at least I don't have to become a parent, which I've never wanted to be).
2) Nothing is ever stable nor meant to be. There's always turn over, always stuff that breaks down and needs to be replaced, always some new task coming from higher up that will take time in meaningless but frustrating ways. There are two extreme ways to get around in trees. 1. Sloth: go slow and careful. 2. Orangutan: take a swing and hope for the best. I'm trying to be an Orang for most things. Because the tree I'm in may get chopped down at any moment and I'd better be a moving target.