anxiety, career, community, coworkers, information, joy, reading, strangers

Balance.. and working

Not surprisingly, this is not the first time I’m writing about balance. People with anxiety know that balance is essential to avoid spinning out into spirals. I knew August would be tough, work-wise, because I accepted a lot of extra night/weekend shifts at the library. I just counted, and I worked 39 shifts over the course of the month (aka going from full-time job to part-time job multiple times, plus the beloved weekend shifts). Sometimes when I’m in self-pitying moods, I think I work a second job because I like to whine and tell everyone how hard I work. I have to remind myself that in reality, I love both my jobs, and up until recently I haven’t really had that much other stuff going on that I would rather be doing.

I know I did it to myself. I overcommitted, thinking it would balance itself out with the fact that I didn’t really work at the library in June. And now that August is over, maybe balance is achieved! The extra income is nice, and for every customer who makes my skin crawl, there is an equal if not greater than pleasant customer who knows my name or otherwise warms my heart.

And so without further ado, picture the following scenarios (presented in a glorified list). One bad for one good.. or maybe the scales tip slightly toward the pleasant.

Bad: when on the third day of working 5-9 after working 8:30-4:30, a guy who feels he is your friend (he is not) lets his young child continue on his way out (to dick around and be generally unsupervised) in order to tell you a longwinded tale of who from church asked him to look up the lyrics and sheet music (you don’t care), after you have already spent at least 15 minutes of your life helping him find this sheet music and him asking if he can just take a photo of it and print it and you say no, that is a copyright violation so he needs to buy it and he asks you to buy it and he can pay you and you say no while silently begging him to walk away and instead, like you hoped he wouldn’t but knew he would, he tells you what religion he is and asks you about yours. You wonder why people still think this is appropriate to ask someone who is on the clock at their job. Thankfully, he only guesses, and does not do so correctly, and then he leaves.

Good: when a high schooler who you knew as an awkward seventh grader walks towards you at the desk and greets you by name even though you haven’t worked at his school for two years, and generally teens don’t A) remember you or B) approach you even if they do. You talk to him about his favorite teachers from the last year and you think about the difference between a seventh grader and a tenth grader and how crazy that that difference happens in just over two years.

Bad: when people uncomfortable with technology call in to ask how to use the technology, and get confused and angry at you when you tell them the proper buttons to press, and they have to hang up to perform the action because they are trying to do it on their phone. You wonder why these people don’t come into the library to ask when you know they are otherwise capable of leaving their homes.

Good: when you help the upbeat youngish dad who works at the wine store use Adobe Acrobat (the fancy kind) to edit his visa application to visit China, and he is so effusively appreciative the day of, plus when you are working next, he returns and tells you he had his in-person interview at the consulate and everything is IN and approved and thanks you again, and smiles even bigger whenever he sees you in the wine store or he is in the library, like you are acquaintance-friends (you are!).

Bad: when customers overhear, misunderstand, and jump into your conversations with other customers, resulting in lengthy, factually inaccurate conversations you attempt to thwart but continue nevertheless about parking validation, or how to download ebooks, or any number of topics that you know you and your colleagues will have to set right, one person at a time.

Good: speaking of setting things right, you get the opportunity to give that woman the correct information about smartphone-less Uber, despite your still wondering why she thinks it will be different than a traditional taxi service, but you also give her some resources for concierge services that may help her get errands done.

Good: when an email in the general staff account is from an airline representative who found a library book in the customer lounge and they want to know how to get in touch with the customer to mail it back (bless their heart). Then, a week later, your boss emails you that there is a piece of mail for you and you are baffled until you go in and open it and see that the airline representative has mailed the book to you, and then you go show everyone working the book and use it as evidence that not all people suck and your coworkers view it the same way.

Bad: the sad feeling you get when you are near the smelly people or the people whose brains limit what they can do in the world, people who you help apply for a job on Indeed.com and you have to direct them exactly where to click, and then again to instruct them to click.

Mediocre: you walk back to the desk after walking around at close to find a note that reads “You’re Doing Great!” and you, knowing how few people are in the building at that time of Friday night, wonder whether a coworker or the teen boy you startled by opening the bathroom door just as he was exiting to announce that the library is closing or the guy you just helped with uploading his resume into Indeed left it. You identify that several of these options are more harmless than others. But like, you bring it home because it kind of makes you feel nice, when you think about how this person could have said this to your face but instead chose to write it on a slip of paper.

Great: when a woman comes in and asks you to find a “camp” she and her sister attended in the 1950s when she was 5 and her sister was 8 and after speaking with her a little while, you learn that this took place when their mother had TB, and while she recovered, her young children listened to stories and ran around and made fond memories of their time at camp, and then you find a New York Times article from 1955 (because bless the NYT and their archives) that identifies exactly what this place from 60 years ago that this woman never asked her mother about as an adult and now doesn’t have the option. You discuss that neither of you would ever have known that such a place was called a “preventorium” and you marvel about language and how even medical, scientific vocabularies change so much, much less how these topics are handled and treated. And you print out the article for her, because this is just really fucking cool, and she is from out of town so you never see her again but she asks your name, introduces herself, and tells you she really appreciates it.

So, yes, morale can be low at times, but you decide that there is a kind of expertise in shaking off the weird interactions and starting over with the next person. And there is a special kind of bond when someone really needs something and you’re the one to provide it. And at the very least, there is something extremely human in how people navigate the weird space that is a library, which is to say: community.

books, career, community, coworkers, let it go, librarians

Let It Burn

On the second-most-scenic drive home, there is an empty plot of land where a house burned down. I had my eye on this house for a long while, since I used to live just down the road from it. I had my eye on it because A) it was closer to the road than the other houses, and because it was falling apart, and because it gave me the itch: the feeling I get when I look at a mess that I want to organize–target, acquired. Get rid! This eyesore has got to go! Raze it and start over!

Because it was so on display, I clocked and  every imperfection of the house, from the boarded and broken windows to the caving-in roof, to the decomposing porch. Yes, I wondered why/when its owners had abandoned it, but more than anything I could see it wasn’t helpful.

Whenever long-dormant buildings like this burn down, I assume someone set it on fire. And I certainly don’t blame them. The only thing stopping me from doing so with every dilapidated building I see is the threat of arson charges. There is something cleansing in the removal from the landscape a house that no longer houses. Rather than gradually eroding one board at a time, an event happens to reset. To clear, remove that which is no longer serving its purpose.

—-

My attitude at work, if not my attitude in general, has started to smoke. Historically, I was the student/professional to volunteer for extra responsibilities, to speak up and often and generally help out. At some point during or after grad school, I became jaded and resentful. I would still offer to cover shifts for my coworkers, but I did not put in more work than was strictly necessary.

In preparation for the anniversary of the moon landing, a coworker had created a book list of related topics (space travel, biographies of astronauts, etc.) and as she hustled around talking about her to-do list with the last 30 minutes we were open, I volunteered to help put up her display. Also historically, I love creating book displays, but when I told her this and she told me I could make one literally whenever I felt like it by signing up to do so, I recoiled. Me!?! No. I do not extra-librarian. Not anymore.

This reaction was bratty and entirely based in habit. I paused, I examined my reaction, and determined that I had strayed too far from who I am. I am a person who volunteers. I am a joiner, and a doer of the things. Even if the things are extra-librarian-y. Just because I don’t have the job title doesn’t mean I should reject it.

So I set that attitude up in flames, and don’t you know it, there was an opening to make a book list & display almost immediately. And a new project committee to join (and yes, I took my lunch break from my main job to attend meetings for it). Maybe a lot of work, but worth the reinvestment into my department and my librarian-ity, and the idea that I can be happy and contribute at work.

—-

I remember the day that abandoned house burned down; I couldn’t believe that I happened to take that route that day. Often, I avoid it in the name of expediency; the flat, strip-mall-infested route seems more direct, and in exchange for the red lights and concrete, doesn’t take me past my old apartment with its history. Driving through the faint smoke cloud, I reasoned it had to have burned within the past day. Yellow caution tape surrounded the property. The chimney, brick as it was, was the only recognizable piece still standing. I was overjoyed that it had come down, and curious/excited about the possibility for the site’s future occupants.

With this unwanted, not cared for, not useful structure gone, there is so much space for new creation. It is my hope that as my career smoke clears, I’ll use what serves me to rebuild too.

anxiety, career, let it go, librarians, meditation, writing

Time Off

It would seem I took an entire season off from writing… It wasn’t an accident, but procrastination took over any time I told myself to blog. Interestingly enough, at least over the past month, this lapse in writing has overlapped (overlapsed?) with a lot of time off from the library. But holy cow, has there been a lot going on. Time off from the library doesn’t mean time off from general life!

In June, I worked two four-hour shifts at the public library. Reader, I had Friday nights to myself! Those Fridays were great, and I spent them with dear friends.

However, with full appreciation of not having to punch the clock, let me say: I think working at the library is part of my self-care.

Over the past couple months, the seven-month period of temping has come to a victorious end. I am gainfully full-time employed, officially, permanently, in a department surrounded by awesome people who love coming to work every day. My 9-5 is everything I have waited for, and I feel so so so fortunate.

I would love to say that I was confident in my abilities and my chances at this job since the department knew me and invited me back (despite myself 🙂 to fill the position while the search went on. I would love to say that I did not stress myself out even though the job was probably mine from day one. I would love to say that even though the work is an exact match to my professional skills and demeanor, I was not chock full of terror that I would be rejected again and set adrift to continue temping elsewhere. For the several weeks in between when I applied and when I interviewed, any mention my colleagues made to “you’ll see in the fall” or “when we all do X/Y/Z in August..” I inserted “if I’m still here!” in order not to jinx it.

Because there is no time off from my brain. To me, the only thing worse than not getting this dream job would be to have expressed my sense of belonging out loud, on the record, and THEN not get to stay. I pulled apart any and every interaction with my supervisors to decipher whether they were implying that I would be sticking around. As professionals, they couldn’t just come right out and say “you are our first choice for this job,” but I’ve apparently become so uncomfortable with uncertainty that I needed someone to say that to ease my strife. On the occasions one of them did say something encouraging, I tried to hold it and internalize their praise for as long as I could.

Now, I have the security of a real job, and the comfort and immense joy that is belonging with these people.

So on the one hand, big things have changed on my time off. On the other, I still have the crazy monkey mind running around behind the scenes, not knowing what to do with herself when she does not have a task at hand. This week for the holiday, a full day off, I made zero plans and essentially online shopped all day. (Don’t yell at me, Mom! I yell at myself enough!) I haven’t been meditating enough, nor going to yoga enough, nor celebrating my accomplishments, nor going outdoors, enough, and I wanted to just zone out and hoard pretty things.

And this is why I will still work part-time at the library! Not only because I need funding to offset my love of and proclivity towards buying clothes, but also because I need to get out of myself and work in the service of others (which I do during my day job, but evidently I can’t get enough). I am not delusional to think I am saving lives as I sit behind a computer at a desk in an air conditioned building, but when I am there, surrounded by friends and community members, it feels like where I am supposed to be.

During my interview day, I met with a gentleman colleague, and he asked me one direct question about the position, but since he has already worked with me for a couple months and has seen what I’m about, the rest of the time, we spent talking about the library. He told me he was curious about where I ran off to on Fridays, and he complimented my hustle.

Maybe I shouldn’t need to hustle. Maybe I should take it easy, and take more time off. But at this point, I don’t really know what to do with more time off, and my work is more than a paycheck. All I know is I’m looking forward to the new normal, stabilizing and seeing what happens.

Stay tuned! Back to work.

anxiety, career, librarians

Thank you, next

There has been a lot of NO in my life lately. In the past two days, I received two “thank you, nexts” about jobs I had interviewed for. And in the last two weeks, I backed out on two interviews I had set up for myself. One of the rejections was at a place where I was hoping I wouldn’t hear from them at all, because the interview was so uncomfortable (and short! 30 minutes!). The other, I liked and respected the people in the room, and I did my usual uncomfortably chatty babbling in between answering their questions. Overall, I thought we had all gotten along well and that despite botching some questions, I had something of a shot.

Alas, no. But the rejection doesn’t hurt this time. I used to get wildly upset, but now I know that as long as I show up as my authentic self to the interview, if it’s the right place, they will respond. And if it’s not the right place, I don’t want it anyway. This job I held out a little hope for, when I think about it, caused me concern about how small the branch was. The jobs I turned down were for a children’s position that wanted me to prepare a storytime and craft for the interview (storytime, ok, but a craft??? I draw the line. My idea for a craft is literally drawing a line) and a job that asked me to provide links to websites I have designed or maintained (spoiler alert: I don’t have any), and whose interview I was told would last TWO HOURS….. Though I deem these reasonable excuses not to attend interviews, I cringed about the what ifs: what if it turns out I am a secret whiz at maintaining websites? What if I really do need more crafts in my life? What if these are the last people to ever ask me to interview for librarian jobs?!?! A large part of me feels like I am the princess and the pea, but with jobs. Not too big, not too small, not too slow, not too busy, not too many hoops to jump through… etc.

I will be honest when I say: I did not know librarianship is a competitive field before I signed up for classes. This is fairly indicative of who I am as a person: I fling myself into situations, cross my fingers and hope for the best, on average slightly underprepared but hoping to make up for it in charm. And, if I have not confessed this here already, reader: I lack perseverance. Grit. That buzzword that you hear more and more these days in regards to character and growth mindset. Who knows whether I would have still chosen to go through with the program if I knew how hard it would be to find a good professional fit. (I probably would have, because I am stubborn and don’t change my mind for almost anything–which is a huge problem for someone prone to anxiety and overthinking! Mindfulness is literally reprogramming the habits of the mind…)

The lack of grit also means I am not blessed with the patience to wait for an organization’s culture to improve. I cannot simply endure for the sake of having a paying job. It gets too uncomfortable (read: my anxiety surges to drastic levels) and work is 8 freaking hours of my awake life every day. I bolt the instant I find an alternative. Maybe the alternative will be better. Surely, it has to be! The known workplace problems are bulkier and more inhibitive than the unknown workplace problems and I will take my chances with the next one. Thank you, next.

When it’s all said and done, I am so happy that I endured grad school. (The question of how much this endurance increased my student loans… not so happy.) It is what brought some of my favorite people into my orbit. But I always felt a draw to the work I was doing during grad school, in a university department. It was work I felt confident in, and helpful (which is my favorite feeling).

Do I dare to not use the degree that saddled me with all those loans? Dare I turn down interviews for library jobs? Dare I reserve the right to not waste two hours of my life in an interview for a job that I already don’t think I want?

Yes, I think so. Never before have I been comfortable turning down an opportunity. They think I’m an interesting candidate, therefore I must pursue this. Then there’s the subsequent anxiety on anxiety on anxiety about how I don’t really want it, and I wring my hands and wait until the last minute to cancel, or just suck it up and go, and give a lackluster interview, and don’t get hired. This time around, I’m being more selective, and thinking about what I actually want my work life to look like, and if the jobs that I applied to in a blind, desperate fury don’t match, then… thank you, next.

I’ve landed temporarily in another university setting, and because it’s temporary, it feels like less pressure. There is a built-in end date, after which there will be the next thing. Though not as financially secure, this work is giving me the room to feel out my options and the freedom not to jump at jobs that are tempting, but not juuust right. I’m sitting tight, and working on being more intentional about where to go from here. And giving myself permission not to stick with the stuff that seems not to be working. Maybe a princess, maybe a quitter. For now, I’m okay with both, if they’re in the name of finding the right fit. Finding something worth saying yes to.

anxiety, career, community, coworkers, depression, kindness, meditation, writing

Goodbye, library

Subtitle: holy radio silence, Batman!

It has been three months of stress and movement and decision-making, which is my least favorite kind of making. My blog has been silent this whole time because I haven’t wanted to write. Or, I didn’t want to write without knowing the conclusion, but the spark for this post existed a month ago; consider the rest a “here goes!” rather than a definitive resolution/conclusion/tying up of loose ends. There are still so many loose ends. Anyway…

—-

I have heard of family traditions where when they drive away from their house upon moving out, they ceremonially say, “goodbye, house!”

This was not my family’s tradition. We were too busy covering or not covering our emotions, as I don’t think we ever moved out of a house with only positive, looking-forward excitement. There were always reasons to move, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t like change.

I still don’t. But as I provided the last SEVEN YEARS’ worth of addresses for a background check for a new position, I couldn’t even remember one of the eight addresses/apartment number from that time period. For funsies, I took an average of how long I lived in each place (min= 3 months, max= 2 years) for a less-than-ideal 10.25 months.

All this to say: of course, I’m moving again. And this time, I’m moving away from the most consistent “home” and family I have had in my adult life. I have to say “goodbye, library.” More reliable and consistent than any living quarters has been my part-time public library. Though not always perfect (what workplace is?), I have found community and learned so much from this place. I love it there, and no matter how bad a series of days I was having, coming to work there or just stopping in and seeing my colleagues was a source of light and pride. Not only do I love knowing and working with coworkers and customers, I, no joke, am such a nerd that my first thought at the start of the ‘should-I-leave?’ thought process was, “I can’t possibly move; I have so many books on my for-later shelf!” But as we all know, libraries are much more than books. Especially my library.

—-

And, as the case goes when I force myself into plans I’m not ready for, I recognized what I had done super quickly. The move was something I thought I “should” do, not what I wanted to do at that exact moment in time. It had been The Plan, and who am I to amend The Plan? And not surprisingly, the job did not feel like a place I would want to call home. The living situation, absolutely. I am grateful to have such wonderful people who consistently open their homes to me and make me feel welcome and cozy. I love my family, and don’t like disappointing them.

But I don’t love movement for movement’s sake. I needed to move away from my toxic job. I needed to shake myself out of the funk that the job allowed/harbored/caused (depending on how much responsibility I want to claim). But what I’ve learned through meditating is that often when I want to run, it is a means of avoidance. Resistance. And resistance is futile. It is futile to resist negativity, because ‘wherever you go, there you are.’ Unless I address and correct the problems that made me unhappy in the first place, I will carry that negativity and unhappiness wherever I move. As a wise person told me, sometimes I need to stay still and work through “it” rather than trying to leave “it” behind.

So, I did end up saying goodbye to one library. I probably should (should-ing all over myself) have made that move much sooner, in order to support healthy boundaries and surround myself with people who inspire me and help me grow instead of the opposite. But I have spent almost every day this week at my happy place library, or in the company of the wonderful people who work there. They have invited me to book and writing events, and urged me to keep writing. They, as well as my tribe at home, have encouraged me about the job search and stated that above all, they want me to be happy and do what’s best for me. And that community, support and love from both places is more than I can ask for, especially when I lose trust in my decision-making and ability to know what is best for me.

My priority is to rebuild my career confidence (and confidence in general?), and to find a place where I will like what I do on a daily basis. This also means doing more things I like and that are good for me like meditating, writing, exercising, engaging with new people and experiences… all those things that bolster my strength to face and work through anxiety. Somewhere in the stress of decision-making and planning a move, many of those intentions fell by the wayside. Having anxiety requires constant vigilance! Being mindful means making a habit of noticing what my emotions are doing, and reconnecting to my body and the world outside myself. Like in one of my favorite Curious George quotations, for me, it is so easy to forget.

Unlike Curious George, this story doesn’t have a pleasing ending yet. But I do promise to be more present for all the people close to my heart, whether geographically or figuratively.

anxiety, books, career

This One’s for My Girls

I had planned to write some furious paragraphs about Drumpf’s derogatory comments about brown countries, but I waited more than 24 hours and watched tons of personal stories (Anderson Cooper’s was particularly moving, as was Don Lemon’s) and reflections and jokes about how rude, racist and smugly rich he is. I’ve worked through my rage. He is an embarrassment to our country, and I am actually grateful that he is taking the GOP down in flames with him/drawing a line in the sand for elected officials to actually choose to be decent to and on behalf of their constituents. I have to believe that decency will win, in 2018 and in the long run.

But this political outrage/irritant is only one of many sources of anxiety. The outside world is nothing compared to the echo chamber of an anxiety-riddled brain. My friends and I constantly discuss the myriad ways that we question ourselves, our decisions and our progress in the adult world.

Last night, I went to dinner with three of my dearest friends, one of whom is moving out of state this week. She’s taking a risk, acknowledging that her part-time position won’t be enough to live on & knowing she will within the next few months need to find another part-time job, possibly a full-time job, as well as an apartment that is affordable and safe and not miserable for commuting in January. This is not the worst idea ever. She and her boyfriend will be living in the same city again. This is not the riskiest idea ever. She taught English in Japan for two years, venturing there without speaking more than a few sentences of Japanese. She is highly qualified, professional, thoughtful, organized, responsible and bilingual. (Yes, I know, show-don’t-tell, but I don’t want to violate her privacy.)

And yet, she is terrified at the weight of this decision.

As are all of my friends. About who they’re dating or the lack thereof, about how often they cry or don’t, about whether to buy a house, whether they bought the wrong one, about their rent, their income, their careers, their kids or lack thereof..

And yet. As with many other instances of my sweeping generalizations, upon further reflection, I know that is not true. I have many girlfriends (and more acquaintances, so maybe this also has something to do with how much more vulnerability you share with your closest friends) who are sure of themselves. They are not calm 100% of the time, but they are stable enough not to fly off the handles upon an unplanned event, a depressing news story. They are not entirely derailed or roadblocked by doubt every time they need to make an adult decision.

This is my goal. Closer to unflappable. Bold. Confident in my purpose. Kind to myself and less critical of others.

Here are some books that have empowered me to me move towards this:

 

 

 

About finances and how they generally work out if you take control of spending: You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero

About relationships and what to accept/expect/let go: What French Women Know by Debra Ollivier

About caring less about what other people think: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

About how to clear my head/raise future children: Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

About social anxiety and how I am definitely not the only one who suffers from it, and also just a pleasant reminder that comics are great: Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen

About how to be a person: The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith

  • Everyone should read this book. This is my favorite excerpt, talking about a study that asked people to answer the question “Who are you?” after either staring up from the base of a tree or at a nondescript building.

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The world is huge, and awe-inspiring! (Just ask Neil DeGrasse Tyson.) Perspective is important, as is getting out of my head enough to realize my problems are often not as catastrophic as they appear between my ears. In fact, thinking that they are just might inhibit me from behaving well towards others, and letting fear drive me absolutely blocks me from growing or changing, taking any risks at all.

My friend will be fine. She and this move may even be great. She will carry her support network with her and find a community of coworkers and explore a new city. Like me, she has to quiet the peanut gallery of doubts and welcome opportunity. Read before bed instead of scrolling through articles on her phone. It’s not okay.. yet. But who says it won’t be soon?