Well, I don’t know about you, but I could have done without the excitement of the last month. It wasn’t the cheerful, Christmas-season kind of excitement either. I spent most of December in the throes of an existential crisis, trapped in a fugue of worry and second guessing and sleepless nights and being thrown so far off metaphorical balance I wondered if I’d ever be able to right myself. But the emotional roller coaster I was forced to endure has come to an end and I disembarked not just intact but better for it. Joyful, even. Though all hasn’t been revealed just yet, things have worked out for the best. I think.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explain. And in order to do that, I’m going to have to subject you to a bit of background information.
I can’t remember if I mentioned this yet (I may not’ve…for hosting a blog that’s essentially just me talking about myself, I can be reticent about certain aspects of it), but I work as a librarian. The phrasing of that sentence is important: I don’t define myself by my job title. It’s what I do for a living; it’s not what I live to do. Though I acknowledge the importance of libraries, I was never a big library user as a kid. I remember going to my town’s main library a handful of times with my sister and cousins when being babysat by my aunt, and a few instances in high school when I needed to do research, but that was about it. I know I spent more time sitting on the floor of the local Waldenbooks and leafing through their books than I spent wandering the stacks of my local branch (which also might explain my penchant for books that are in mint condition. I’m a bit OCD about it). But when I graduated college with a nearly useless degree (really, who studies history if they have no intention of teaching it?) and was looking for jobs in the area where my fiance and I would be settling down, I stumbled across a position announcement for reference substitutes with the county library. And because I was young and naive and utterly green, I thought, “Oh, I love reading, I should do this!” (You have no idea how little reading you actually do as a librarian these days.) So a month after graduation, I applied for and got the job. Two years later, I went full time. And there I remained for ten years and ten months exactly.
…until three weeks ago when I received a call from our Human Resources administrator informing me that I was being transferred.
It’s written in our contract that the system has the right to move staff around to “fill system needs.” You don’t have a say in the matter – you go where they tell you. And while this does happen somewhat regularly, it always happened to other people at other branches.
But apparently my luck had run out. It was my turn.
I can’t be entirely forthcoming about all of the machinations behind this decision (like it or not, I do still need that paycheck). But I strongly suspect the reason I was given for the move – that my expertise was needed in a different setting – wasn’t the only one.
When I got the news (immediately following our staff holiday party. How’s that for a “Merry Christmas”?), I was distraught. I was being asked – no, I was being told – that I could no longer stay in the place I’d made my home. Because, for better or worse, when you work in a small town for as long as I had, you become a part of its very fabric. You feel a sense of ownership, of belonging. It becomes your community…and I was no longer welcome there.
To compound matters, I was being sent to the largest branch in the county. Yes, my commute would be longer; yes, I would have to adapt to a more frantic pace; yes, I would have to learn how to handle the sort of situations that arise in a more urban setting that you would never see in a rural one. And though I knew I could do all of this, what distressed me the most is that I was to work exclusively in their children’s department.
The library I was being moved to is the only one in the county that segregates adult and children’s services. At the other branches, while you may have a concentration in one or the other, the librarians are generalists. We help everyone. And I think that’s part of the reason I was able to stay sane for eleven years. See, I kind of stumbled into children’s librarianship. They had a vacancy and I needed a full-time job. I exactly didn’t anticipate my post-collegiate career including storytimes and picture books and paper crafts. When I got the job, I called my best friend (who studied to be a teacher) and it took her about ten minutes to calm down from the hysterics the news sent her into. From the start, it was a very unlikely fit.
But even tough it wasn’t my passion, I learned to like it. More, I had a natural aptitude for it and came to excel at it. And there were certain parts I really enjoyed. After my first school visit back in 2006, I remember being upset that the kids just stared at me slack-jawed, like little zombies. It wasn’t until one of the teachers cornered me to tell me that she had been blown away by my presentation that I realized their silence was a good thing. They had been riveted, not bored. This teacher asked if I had studied early childhood education, and when I told her I was a mere Liberal Arts major, she goggled at me, shook her head, patted my arm and said, “Honey, you have a gift. You’ve found your calling.”
But while I love trying to get kids excited about reading, I don’t love it to to the exclusion of everything else. A Wrinkle in Time and The Golden Compass (which are two of the deeper, more mature kids books anyway) are a couple of my favorites…but so are Stephen King’s IT and Ian McEwan’s Atonement and George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. None of which would be welcome in a children’s department. So to my mind, the transfer felt like a prison sentence.
I don’t know if it was fate or serendipity or just blind, stupid luck, but the night before my second meeting with Human Resources, where I would either agree to the transfer or give them my walking papers, I discovered that one of the adult librarians at the same branch I was being transferred to had submitted his two week notice. What’s more, his position was one of the rare, highly sought after part-time-with-health-benefits jobs. I knew then that this whole debacle had happened for a reason: for me to get that job. When I met with HR the following day and proposed my idea, they were amenable to it but couldn’t make a decision right then and there. Which meant that I was kept in an agony of worry over the Christmas holiday (hence this being the worst Christmas I think I’ve ever had) before I received the verdict – my idea had been approved and, after a short stint in the children’s department to temporarily fill their vacancy, I would move upstairs to their adult department.
If you’ve followed my blog at all, the significance of being given this job won’t be lost on you. The reason this blog exists in the first place is because I came to the realization that writing is something I need to do. It’s what I was meant to do all along. And when you spend forty hours every week doing something else entirely, something that doesn’t serve to inspire you, that’s when despair sets in. The last few years have been a trial in that regard. I was never able to figure out how to juggle what I wanted to do with what I had to do…there just weren’t enough hours in the day. But now I’ll have two extra days a week to do nothing but write (just thinking about it makes me giddy), all while still pulling a steady paycheck (because, despite my enthusiasm, it remains to be seen whether or not my writing career will be at all lucrative :-P). There’s a sense of rightness to the whole situation now. I’m actually excited about what’s to come. No, it’s more than that – I’m elated. It’s the biggest step I’ve taken so far towards the goal that’s lingered in the back of my mind my entire life. I have a feeling 2017 is going to be a very good year.