This probably should have been written sooner. Much of what I wanted to say probably rattled out of my brain by now. And I’m tired, I’m not finished packing, and also I’m watching New Girl. It’s not really the best setup for waxing poetic about ending a decade long chapter of my life.
But I’m gonna try to make a few people cry anyway!
This all started back in grade school. I was super into Star Wars, you see. My life plan was to become a world famous, extremely wealthy director like George Lucas and retire to my giant mansion. Complete with a moat. By age 25.
Well I’m 28 now so it’s a good thing I had a second passion. My grade school librarian always encouraged me, something not a lot of teachers did. She bought me a copy of The Hobbit when I was maybe in the third grade. I still have it! So after I retired from movie directing (by age 25) I planned on becoming a children’s librarian.
I started shelving exactly nine years ago this November. Not to fulfill a childhood dream, I just hated working in the movie theater. Shelving was marginally better. And then a year later, unexpectedly, I had an opportunity and interview to become a youth services specialist.
And Kendra got the job.
DAMN YOU, KENDRA.
Then one year or so after THAT she left and I got the position I rightly deserved.
I decided to “settle” for an early retirement and become a children’s librarian and skip the whole famous movie director bit, at least for the time being. I would have had a masters in library science by now but for my college murdering my degree and firing the teachers when I was a handful of credits away from graduating. College left me bitter. My friend had just died of cancer, and the library began to fall apart. I kind of just drifted for a while, not really caring about the future or what I wanted to do with it. I began to suspect by this point that youth services wouldn’t be a part of it, but what else could I do? What else had I done?
I won’t miss being a children’s librarian. The storytimes were fun. I enjoyed helping kids find books, recommending my favorites, coming up with crafts and ridiculous flannel stories. There’s a billion good memories I’ll be taking with me. But I won’t miss it. I will appreciate the past years, however, because the sum total of those experiences pushed me towards what I really want to do with my life.
We have to work backwards to get there, but I can at least tell you it begins on a Tuesday.
It ends one night at a seriously mediocre Mexican restaurant. Bob Shea is yelling at me. Well, he’s not really yelling at me, but he has a few choice words about my progression through life that wouldn’t be found in any of his picture books. And he isn’t saying anything my friends hadn’t told me before. Maybe it took hearing it from someone outside the library family to take it seriously though, so I began to think about my future by remembering my past.
I remember when a few of us on Twitter began talking about posting weekly storytime stuff online. By that point I had begun to make my own crafts and write my own flannel stories. I was tired of recycling the same few good storytime themes I had (mostly stolen from Nicole) and trying to find ideas online was depressing. So this idea of a Flannel Friday sounded perfect to me. As you can tell by looking at my own website, I did not keep up to a weekly posting schedule for very long. I became disheartened by my own slacking. Even with an enthusiastic community I couldn’t keep my motivation for the job going.
My motivation started to dip a year or two earlier when I realized I was trapped in two part time youth services gigs for perpetuity. I applied for a job at another branch to become a full time youth services specialist. I was sure this was my chance, the destined path of the future. Didn’t get it. I began to hate both my jobs. On paper, each was perfect. I got paid to read books to kids and use scissors and glue sticks and paint! Together, having to do twice the programming, deal with twice the office politics, keeping two calendars straight, with no hope for a better future, they grated on my nerves constantly. Between both jobs, I had no time for myself. Certainly no time for my ambitions.
I blame Kenna for my ambitions. She was my friend and my boss. We worked Tuesday nights together. Any night in the library was slow, and Tuesday nights especially. To pass the time we’d talk about whatever random subject came to mind. Occasionally this involved art and writing. In high school I had written most of a book, but the friend, who was also writing a book, drifted away and took my motivation with him. Kenna encouraged me to pick up writing again so I started a new story. She’d get a new chapter every Tuesday and review it. I had to start working Tuesday nights by myself when she got cancer. When she died I gave up on the book.
I’ve loved the art of storytelling since I was a kid. That’s why I wanted to be a movie director. Later I realized that movies were only one of many vehicles for a story. I misinterpreted my original passion growing up. I wrote stories thinking they could be great movies someday. For some reason I never thought about becoming a writer myself. Even when I moved away from movies, I didn’t consider writing. I had a plan in place. Librarian by day. Artist by night. A safe route.
And then years later Bob Shea yelled at me in a seriously mediocre Mexican restaurant. The advice he gave me, the advice essentially anyone had ever given me before, from my friends to my peers to even every English teacher I’ve ever had, is that the safe route won’t get me what I want. And what I wanted, I realized then, was to be a full time writer.
My Twitter bio, unchanged since 2008 I believe, currently says:
Children’s librarian OF DOOM by day, artist/designer by day, writer by day, sleeper by night.
I mistakenly wanted to be it all. The librarian, the graphic designer, and the writer when I had time. I used to be a saxophonist, you know. I was pretty good at it, despite my crippling apathy to playing in a band and never practicing. I gave my saxophone away this year. I love music, but it has no place in my present. I loved being a children’s librarian, but I have no place for it in my future. The storytimes, the reader’s advisory, even the flannel stories I wrote, were all part of a very chaotic path to a destination I couldn’t quite see.
I suppose it was about two years ago my friend Caprice got me to start writing again. I can’t remember if I approached her first or if she suggested it. But for two years I’ve been writing when I can and she’s been reading when she can. I’m actually a couple chapters short of a first draft. I don’t know if it’s any good, really. But I know I enjoyed writing it. And now, without having to split my creative energies between storytimes and writing, I’ll be writing a whole lot more.
This isn’t a very good retrospective montage of my public library career. This I know. I wanted this post to be that. Instead I had to think of the realities of my past, present and future. It’s not an entirely happy or hopeful one, but here we are. Everything that has happened the past year has taken away any sort of comfort zone I had. There is absolutely nothing I do now that makes me feel safe and secure, so why not take the path less traveled, complete with alligators, pitfalls, and rad dungeons that might have treasure chests inside?
I made a lot of friends over the years. I joined a family, really. Complete with all the arguments, tragedies and falling out that a real family has. The library I left isn’t the place it used to be. It’s not a family anymore, sadly. It’s a broken home thanks to only a few awful people. Can’t be helped. People have to adjust, new hires are fortunate not to know what they missed out on. The family I made is still my family, those who stayed and those who left before me. And those people are what I will miss the most, even though they’ll still be in my life.
By the time this posts (assuming WordPress autoupdates correctly) I’ll be on the road to Utah, to a new job and a new adventure. I guess what’s so difficult to put into words is the idea the library, something that was my life and future, becoming simply a job to me. I am sad to leave it behind. I’m excited to fully engage myself with the next thing but just like any first love I’ll always wonder if I made the right choice.
I’ll stop rambling now so I can get my sister at the airport so she can drive with me to Utah this Friday. There will be another post, hopefully sooner than later that will better explain what this next step in my life is and how working in a different library is going to help me work towards making writing a full time gig. I’ll have yet another post explaining that while I leave youth services behind as a profession, it’s not the end of my participation in Flannel Friday. In fact, I’ll be participating much more often.
Unless I become entombed in a frozen, blue Honda Fit in the middle of Utah.
In which case you guys can have my stuff.