On Stepping Off the Librarianship Escalator

Earlier this year, after my fourth failed job interview in a row, I decided it was time to step off the ambition escalator in pursuit of career goals that remain out of reach. I wanted to write about this because I am convinced that there are more than a few of us mid-to-late career library professionals who have had similar thoughts, but — and maybe this is because I don’t get funding to attend large library conferences — I haven’t noticed many people talking about this phenomenon and how to come to terms with feeling like a professional failure. I don’t presume to have all the answers, but here are the things that worked for me:

  1. Remember that you are not your job. Unlike several of my peers, I never felt a particular calling to librarianship. I decided to pursue an MLIS degree because a friend told me it would be easier for an immigrant to be hired in Canada if I had a degree from a Canadian university, and library school seemed like an easy enough barrier to clear. Your skills are transferable to a world outside of librarianship. You can go home again.

  2. What can this failure teach you? Try to let go of defeatist thinking that keeps you feeling demoralized and hopeless. I learned that my definition of success was largely shaped by a profession that I was deeply ambivalent about, and one that felt inhospitable at best, and hostile at worst. What would it look like to view failure with a different definition?

  3. How important is it to you to leave a legacy in the profession? Brainstorm ways that you can make a difference outside the walls of the library. Broaden your view.

Yet even through all of this, I kept some fleeting hope that I would find that one position where my thoughts and ideas would be valued, where I wouldn’t have to endure toxic work environments and unchecked white fragility, or the ever-present feeling that I would never belong, I would never succeed, and I would always be at the mercy and whims of white women. And that is a burden that no Black woman who values her mental health should ever have to face.

I want to keep writing about this phenomenon publicly, even at the risk that it will further stigmatize me in the profession, but then I pause and think “Well, you’re already stigmatized, have already been penalized, and your mental health and fears have made it so you don’t want to try again or get hurt again. What more can they possibly do to you?” I’m not sure I want to know the answer to that question but I feel like it’s important for me to say to all my well-meaning friends who have wanted better for me, who have asked me to apply for positions yet I’ve politely declined that I can’t do this anymore, and it’s past time I stopped.

All I’m doing now is counting down the days until I can retire. Once that day arrives, I’ll have a better idea of what my next move will be.

On Anger: Or You Done Really Stepped In It Now

Image of the word Karen in black handwriting with the international NO sign drawn over the text in red.

Note: In the previous post, I talked about the peculiar feeling of experiencing anger while grieving. This post will be all about anger, so if that is triggering for you, you may want to stop reading.

Note 2: I was going to put this post behind a paywall or a cut to better protect the identity of the person(s) I’m referencing, but the world has and will protect(ed) them enough: they don’t need my help. However, if you feel inclined send a few dollars my way to help pay for the therapy I SO OBVIOUSLY NEED, I am grateful.

I have anger issues.

Continue reading “On Anger: Or You Done Really Stepped In It Now”

On Grief

So.

Yeah.

I’m grieving. I’m grieving the end of my relationship with Lanie, I’m grieving the end of a friendship that was so easily rekindled after a 30-year separation, and I am grieving the loss of a love that happened just as I began my second coming out. I am not okay, the grief permeates everything I do, it touches every thought I have. There’s no way to avoid this grief, it’s here for the duration, and the sooner that I gently accept its presence and invite it to accompany me on this emotional journey, the sooner I’ll heal.

I’ve been listening to the Calm Masterclass on Grief, which has been helpful. The only way I can process this separation is to pretend that Lanie is dead. She might as well be dead, but this framework isn’t an exact fit. It isn’t that she can’t talk to me, it’s that she won’t talk to me. I am both grieving and aggrieved, which is about as much fun as you think it is.

In the masterclass, the teacher, Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, asks us to describe our grief, to anthropomorphize it, give it form, colour and shape. My grief is heavy, grey, and massive. It lumbers along, graceful in its own way, but still painfully aware of how much space it takes up, even though it wishes it could be as small as possible.

My grief remembers everything, and will for its entire life. It remembers every wrong, sure; but it also remembers every loving look, every kindness, every transcendent moment that ever passed between us. My grief is mostly calm, but when it threatens to overtake me and crosses the boundary into anger it becomes dangerous, and potentially life-altering for anything that ha the misfortune of getting in the way.

Next, Doctor Jo asks invites the listener to think of love, which comes to me as a feeling of lightness. I feel buoyant, so carelessly tethered to the earth that I could easily defy gravity. But I also feel fragile, and I become very aware of how easily this beautiful, gossamer thing can be destroyed even though you’ve taken great care to keep it safe.

I couldn’t get these images out of my head, so I spent about an hour or so sketching this out in Procreate.

love is a gossamer thing - illustration by Cecily Walker. Illustration is a colored pencil illustration of an elephant with a heart-shaped balloon tied to its trunk.

It’s a bit too on the nose, I admit. But the whimsy suggests the hope that lives on inside me that this isn’t the end of our story, that one day, somehow, it may even be possible for us to rekindle our friendship given enough time, trust, and forgiveness.

Eyes Wide Open

Today’s meditation asked me to keep my eyes open during the session, so I decided to do it while walking. The teacher asked me to focus first on one thing, and only that one thing for a few moments. If thoughts entered my mind, let them come in, but I didn’t have to do anything about the thoughts. When you consider what I’ve been consumed with these last few days, this felt like blessed kindness.

At first, I focused on this tree.

I noticed the textures, the colours of the textures, and how the colours plus the unexpected yet very welcome chill in the air is signifying the time of the year when everything slows down. We all cool off.

And in that moment, that’s when I decided that I needed to cool off. To be present in the moment, to not make myself so crazy trying to fix things, or prove my worth, or to hurry things along because I’m painfully aware of running out of time. All of those things can be true at exactly the same time, and I don’t have to care about, or do anything about them. I can simply be.

In moments like this (usually when I’m stoned out of my gourd), I feel more connected to the world around me, and the frayed tethers that keep my attention focused south feel a little less…binding. I flex my fingers and toes, feel the nerve endings come to life, and feel my place in the node of this global energy grid. And rather than being overwhelmed by that thought like I usually am, I felt…peaceful. Held. Loved. Not by the person I’ve been so fixated on, but on myself and the world around me. The things I could see. And in expanding my vision to invite in the things that I could not see, I made room for them.

I’m a nervous walker. I never was before I had my knee surgery. I walked strong and proud, with a long, confident stride, my head held high. Since my knee replacement — more than 10 years ago now — I don’t walk as confidently. I’ve even had to start using a cane again, because I think the knee replacement is wearing out, and I can’t bear the thought of yet another surgery.

When I walk around this part of town, the condition of the sidewalks have a me ranting (quietly, in my head) within a matter of minutes. The sidewalks in this part of my neighbourhood buckle because of trees that have lined the same street for more than a century. They’re the original unwelcome neighbours, making hazards for anyone with a slightly unsteady gait, and heaven help you if you use a wheelchair or any assistive device. The street has been traffic calmed, a fantastic improvement for anyone on a bicycle, but young men on bicycles seem to think that they will always be young and will always be able to dart around someone who isn’t as mobile.

These young men are usually right, but in my nervous mind, they’re wrong. They’re not only wrong, but they’re also inconsiderate. And if it isn’t for the cyclists, it’s the fucking couples who walk two abreast on the sidewalk. I always stand aside to give them more room, because that’s what a person is supposed to do. Yet whenever I pull to the side and give way to them, I hate myself just a little bit more.

I deserve to stand my ground. I deserve to feel safe. But I also don’t want to make a fuss, or to have anyone notice me in any way at all.

I think we could all agree that this is ever so slightly mad.

I wondered why I felt so sure that people weren’t thinking about me and giving me enough space on the sidewalk. Had I ever fallen because someone got in my way? Had there ever been an incident where I almost got tangled up in a dog’s leash, or if I tripped because a kid ran out in front of me? I was surprised to find out that I couldn’t think of a single incident. I’d been projecting anger and anxiety all along, but the other people on the sidewalk could see me, and they felt confident that there was enough room for all of us on this sidewalk.

I am a part of the whole. I don’t (always) need drastic accommodation, sometimes I just need to know that I fit just fine, and the worst that could happen is that I stumble, and someone has to help me get up.

Immediately after coming to the realization that yes, there really is enough room for me in the world, I noticed that there are actual fucking grapevines that are producing grapes not three blocks from my apartment.

There’s beauty everywhere. All I have to do is accept that there’s enough room for us all to share it.

Things That I Have Deemed Self-Care Since My Breakup

  1. Rode my scooter around all night and burned through a quarter of a tank of gas.
  2. Had a friend drive me around Stanley Park in her air-conditioned car while I sobbed and puffed on a vape pen.
  3. Watched greasers work on extreme car mods on Netflix.
  4. Went to the Queer Film Festival Opening Gala with old and new friends and claimed my membership in Vancouver’s queer community.
  5. Cried. A LOT.
  6. Shared a moment with Vancouver drag performer Maiden China while she lip synced to “Running Up That Hill”, a song that, quite unexpectedly, mugged me during her performance.
  7. Found a new therapist who is trained in somatic therapy.
  8. Talked to an old OLD friend who has known me, loved me, and been there for me for the better part of 30 years (no, not her).
  9. Filled myself up with joy and beauty, wherever I could find it.
  10. Breathed.
  11. Reflected.
  12. Wrote.
  13. Prayed for my salvation and hers.
  14. Loved myself even when I didn’t actually feel loving or lovable.
  15. Forgave myself.
  16. Applauded myself for having hope, for trying again, for believing that change is possible if I want it.
  17. Made peace with myself, the world, and the positive changes in both.
Donuts are the oldest form of self-care

Temporary Secretary

After much deliberation, I’ve decided to hire myself out as a virtual assistant. Rates are negotiable. I’ll be available evenings 4pm-10pm Monday thru Friday, and 9-3 on Saturdays.
Some of the services I offer are:

Social Media Services

  • Social media account management
  • Social media account set-up
  • Scheduling affiliate posts to social media accounts
  • Email newsletter creation & maintenance

Website/Blog Services

  • WordPress configuration and maintenance (no plugin development)
  • Scheduling blog posts
  • Edit/proofread blog posts
  • Create blog content calendar in tool of your choice
  • User Experience consulting (heuristic/usability reviews)

General Administration Services

  • Appointment setting (personal or professional)
  • Calendar management
  • Job descriptions/postings
  • Process documentation
  • Training guides

If you, or someone you know might need such services, let’s book some time to talk.