Libraries and Me

“Libraries are as the shrine where all the relics of the ancient saints, full of true virtue, and all that without delusion or imposture are preserved and reposed.” -Sir Francis Bacon


When I was young, I never really enjoyed libraries.  I liked reading the books there, but I never liked interacting with the librarians.  They were mean, strict, and old.  I found certain sections of the public and school libraries, I found the books I wanted, and I got out as quickly as I could.  In high school, there was an “Info Skills” class which you could say was an “Introduction to Library/Information Science” class, though I never thought of it that way.  I liked the creative projects we made there and even learning the Dewey Decimal System.  The practice of organization and being able to put everything in its proper place was somehow satisfying to me.  Still, I never thought about being a librarian.

In college, I rarely entered the university library unless compelled to by the professors.  Now, I did use its online resources from my dorm/apartment rooms.  If you asked me then if I used the library, I would have said “no,” but in hindsight, I used its online resources often.  I returned to public libraries near the end of my senior year while completing my thesis.  I learned, though, that getting anything done in terms of research meant avoiding librarians as much as possible since they didn’t seem entirely too happy to work with other human beings.  My times at the college library, though, got me to thinking that maybe libraries could be fulfilling and friendly places to work.

I had considered graduate school to become a history professor or museum worker, but my persistent anxiety attacks and general indecision about my future meant over a year before I decided to give libraries a go.  I had no license nor car nor means of attending museum/history graduate schools anyway.  The idea of perhaps ten more years of school and writing a long dissertation about obscure historical topics did not appeal to me.*  So, I went to library school online and got a Master in Library Science (MLS).  The school was not at the time accredited with the American Library Association, so I was able to transfer most credits to another library school and got a second, but ALA-accredited, MLS.

I came close to a library page job while working on my first MLS, but after failing to get the job, I decided to focus on my studies before throwing myself into the job hunt.  It hardly mattered as the Great Recession hit at the moment.  I watched as one of the largest regional public library systems nearest me nearly fell apart and a multitude of librarians were left without jobs.  Volunteers were the only thing keeping several branches open at all.  For several years, I focused on getting any kind of library job only to find them few and far between.  I eventually gave up and took web design courses at my local community college and started volunteering at a museum and library.  In 2014, I found a job coach and mentor who encouraged my volunteering and finding a job.  ANY JOB.  Yes, employers can discriminate against those “over-educated” in “under-qualified” jobs, but they discriminate even more against those with NO JOB AT ALL.  Even a fryer at the Beanie Weenie Hut is at least something.   In late 2015, I found a part-time retail job and the company is investing more employee wages and career expansion programs, so I was glad to get it when I did.

Slowly, I have been explaining my life story to others.  Most have not been judgemental, but I still get what I feel are “jabs” (intentional or non-intentional) that I should still be fighting for my “dream job” in libraries.  I have spent nearly eight years looking, applying, interviewing, and traveling to libraries only to be rejected or never being told at all of my status.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not even expect librarian employment to increase for well over ten years and public funding for libraries is not stable at all.  The Great Recession proved that.  I never considered libraries my “dream job,” but places with a good, organized stable environment where I could get good job satisfaction while helping people find information or whatever.  I have never been “passionate” on the level of “I MUST be this” or “I MUST be that for I love it so!”  No, that is not me nor my personality.  I love history, discovery, and connecting people with what they want or need.  If I can get that from a job/career, more power to me.  Otherwise, my retail job (jobs?) supplemented by museum and library volunteering will be fine.  This explanation does not always satisfy people.  We live in a culture where you are expected to chase and sacrifice for your dreams and anything less means you are lazy and a failure.  The reality of… well… reality, practicality and sunken costs often guides us to other paths.  Love it, hate it, meh it, that is how it is.  Let others think as they think.  They are not you.  Let it go.

I have been cleaning out my old library science books, yet I feel a sadness in giving them up.  Is this really the end for me and libraries?  My skills are long outdated as I have not taken a library science class in other five years.  Library assistant and page jobs rarely go those with an MLS.  I look again at librarian job advice websites and find the same venom of “failure” because I never, evidently, knew that I would need experience in a library before getting an entry-level library job.  Well, forget that.  What a bizarre world these professionals must live in!  The anger, sadness, and depression hit me.  After a time, I think about my job coach’s advice of looking at jobs as angles to other jobs.  You can start in one job and end up in a completely other place.  So, let me compromise.  I will focus on my retail job and volunteering and look for opportunities.  If it ends up in libraries or not, so be it.  Let it go.  Be Free.

*I’ve never quite given up the idea of going back for a Masters in History or Military History, though that option is a long way off.  Time and patience will decide if that is plausible at some point.

 

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A New Year 2016

“No matter what the source of a sorrow may be, the sorrow itself is respectworthy.” -Mark Twain, Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 3


2015 ends today.

I gained a part-time job this year and that is going well for the most part.  I also saw Star Wars Episode VII.  I’ve started reading novels again and finished several Mark Twain books.  I’m currently getting through the third volume of his autobiography and Life on the Mississippi.  Unfortunately, the latter has been more boring than A Tramp Abroad, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Letters from the Earth.  I’ll get to it again in 2016, probably after finishing the autobiography.

Since coming off the antidepressants in mid-2014, I have not been happy.  That is to say, I am happy, sad, angry, and depressed at times and intervals that make no logical sense to me which spiral into a repeated pattern of happiness, sadness, anger, and depression.  There is no end and no relief.  I’ve dealt with anxiety since I was a young child.  I thought over time it would dissipate, but it never did.  It morphed and some aspects of it I could resist.  For instance, I never really think I’m overly stressed at work, only to realize coming home that I am thoroughly exhausted.

The last time I talked to my doctor about returning to antidepressants, he didn’t even want to consider it unless I was considering harm or suicide.  I have to threaten suicide to get medication for anxiety?  I mention my anxiety still being a problem, and he completely ignored it.  I no longer want anything to do with him, yet my health insurance limits who I can go to and he’s one of the few doctors still accepting patients.  I’ve searched for local psychiatrists specializing in social and general anxiety only to find they primarily focus on children and/or adolescents.  I’d have to drive for a hour or more to the nearest big city for someone specializing in it for adults.  I’m certain there has to be a specialist in my area, but Google and the ADAA‘s “find a therapist” function hasn’t helped.   I have a hard time explaining my symptoms to my doctor, I have no idea how I could explain them to a therapist.

There are quite a few “Christian” therapists around, yet I’m not religious.  My dental hygienist recommended one years ago.  I certainly have philosophical and existential issues that couple with my erratic mind, but talking about those with someone dedicated to a Christian worldview certainly wouldn’t help me.  It would make me more depressed.

Like most people, I’m likely to break a New Year’s resolution rather than fulfill.  So, I’ll do what I did last year and focus on some broad goals with a higher chance of success, like finding a part-time job.  Blogging more, reading more, and listening more are a few I can think of at the moment.  I’m going to stay-the-course with my part-time job and see where it may take me.

Retail work can take a lot out of an introvert like me, but I do like my colleagues, managers, and most customers.  The machines there hate me.  However, they hate everyone, so its not personal.  Bad moments and rude people usually don’t stay around long, though the anxiety can make me fixate on an error or bad experience.  I’ve only been there a short time and everyone says I’m getting better.  The anxiety says I’m not, but if I’m getting positive feedback from repeat customers, managers, and colleagues, then I must be getting it right.  I mean, they threw me in amidst the holiday rush and I survived, so that’s something.

On a meta note, what on earth did WordPress do with the “reblog” option?  I can’t find it under the “share” options when I want to reblog someone’s article.  All I get with the share is a sentence fragment with a link to there article.  I know the reblog function is still around.  Just when I get my head around WordPress, they change things around!

Happy New Year to you all.

The Ring Master, the Panic Elephant, the Doubt Lion, and the Rage Monkey

“In my age, as in my youth, night brings me many a deep remorse. I realize that from the cradle up I have been like the rest of the race–never quite sane in the night.” -Mark Twain, Mark Twain’s Autobiography

“Forgive me, Lisa. There’s a monster inside of me ” -Silent Hills Playable Trailer.

“Readers, friends, if you turn these pages
Put your prejudice aside,
For, really, there’s nothing here that’s outrageous,
Nothing sick, or bad — or contagious.
Not that I sit here glowing with pride
For my book: all you’ll find is laughter:
That’s all the glory my heart is after,
Seeing how sorrow eats you, defeats you.
I’d rather write about laughing than crying,
For laughter makes men human, and courageous.

BE HAPPY!” -Francois Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel

Imagine going to a circus.  No, I mean as an audience member… not as a circus member.  You see the ring master with his whip and chair.  He has his stereotypical top-hat, jacket, and striped pants.  Before him is a free lion, free elephant, and a caged monkey.  The master does look in control, doesn’t he?

But wait!  The lion, called the Doubt Lion, leaps at the master.  The master can sometimes hold the lion back with his whip and chair.  Sometimes, however, the lion succeeds in knocking the master down and pawing him around like a ball of yawn.  Always, the ring master gets back his chair and whip while regaining control over the lion.  The audience and ring master both breath a sigh of relief before cheering.

But wait again!  The elephant, called the Panic Elephant, has awoken and begins charging wildly about the arena.  The ring master does his best to get out of the way.  There’s no way to stop that elephant.  Sometimes, the master gets trampled.  He does get back up, but he is weary which gives the Doubt Lion an opportunity to pounce.  The ring master does regain his composure, yet it takes a good deal of time and energy to do so.

But wait yet again!  There’s a Rage Monkey in a cage (no rhyme intended) tearing at his bars.  That monkey has never escaped.  However, the ring master does fear, once in a while, that that monkey will escape and attack the audience should the ring master one day fail to keep the Panic Elephant and Doubt Lion at bay.

Are my metaphors effective and comprehensible?  I’ve tried many times to explain my anxiety problems in plain speech, yet it never comes out easily.  My logical, happy, and rational side is the ring master.  Doubt and panic are my constant opponents.  I can rationalize the doubt away many times, only for panic to set in.  For example, I doubt I will find a job that will make me happy and take care of my basic needs to live and thrive.  My rational self calmly explains that with time, patience, persistence, optimism, and networking, the job(s) will come.  Then, I panic and do something silly like applying for a job without checking my cover and resume properly or applying for a job I’m not really interested in or far outside my comfort zone.  We all have the Rage Monkey within us.  It depends from person-to-person whether he gets out easily or not.  Thankfully, I have the self-control to keep him caged, even with my struggles.

Years ago, I took anti-anxiety medication that helped.  However, I had problems with sleepiness and memory loss which, ironically, made it harder to relax.  It eventually started to lose it’s effects this year and I came off them under a doctor’s supervision.  No one wants to take medication, but I can honestly tell you it helped.  The doubt and panic have made a resurgence.  It will take some lifestyle changes, like cutting way back on caffeine, finding exercise time, socializing more with people, etc.  I may very well have to talk to the doctor again or see a counselor at some point.  Still, things are far better than the time before the medication.  I sincerely hope I’ve reached a manageable plateau.  When I’m out taking a class, working or volunteering, I feel so much better.  I feel worthwhile in learning new concepts, connecting with people, making people happy, and more.  If I can get out there more, I think those three animals will hibernate more.

However, it does bother me that I’m not “right” in my own mind.  I do enjoy solitude and working on my own, but then I’m overcome with panic and doubt even when I’m dedicated to putting something stressful out of my mind.  These struggles take time and energy away from me, and I need that energy to live and thrive.  How do I get my energy back?  How do I preserve it?  How do I get more?  These are important questions I’m trying to find out.  I’d honestly like to shoot that lion, elephant, and monkey, though I recognize that may not be possible.

It may seem like a weakness to admit having these mental issues.  It’s not.  Years ago, I read webcomic artist Mike “Gabe” Krahulik’s post regarding his anxiety battles.  It took about two years before I recalled that post and decided that a visit to the doctor was needed.  One of my relatives fought depression and supported my decision.  Just like Gabe, I was given anti-anxiety medication (though I was never given an official diagnosis).  Posts like Gabe’s and mine break down the stigma of mental illness and mental health problems.  We need more of these posts, not less.  I know Gabe has been a controversial figure, but I owe him one.

At least one or two my past posts were influenced by the Panic Elephant and the Doubt Lion.  Should you come across such posts of mine in the future written that way, you can understand why.  Don’t be afraid to tell me I’m being too negative.  I can be off-putting or standoffish sometimes, yet I never forget a kindness or a promise.  The strange thing is that some of the greatest writers, artists, and actors have had mental health problems and were able to make the greatest works in the world.  I try to write when I’m anxious or depressed, and I have a tough time writing anything.  Going forward, I’d rather write about happy subjects or even weird subjects.

To everyone with their own inner circus problems, I’ll quote the immortal comic Red Green and say “Remember, I’m pullin’ for ya.  We’re all in this together!”

 

Meta note:  Good news!  I’m using tags now to get a wider audience.  I should have been using them from the beginning.  D’oh!

 

 

Oxymoron: Affordable Healthcare

“He had had much experience of physicians, and said ‘the only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d druther not.” -Mark Twain, Following the Equator


What is this?  What part of “affordable” does the United States federal government not understand?  How could this have happened?

I had a small health insurance plan my parents purchased for me after I graduated college.  I didn’t use it much until I had anxiety issues… which led to tests proving I had diabetic issues among other things.  The health insurance helps with haggling over the medical bills (I only had to pay $150 for a $1000 emergency room bill! Yay…. ?) and pays for all my generic drugs.  I wish it did more, but the premiums would be more outrageous if I “upgraded.”  Still, it served me well.  On December 31st, 2014, I shall have to lay it to rest.  The new plan that my insurance company has chosen for me is $70 more on the premium and, if I’m reading the plans correctly, $2000 more on the deductible!  This is not affordable.  The “Marketplace” where I can compare other plans doesn’t officially open until November 15th, 2014, but the estimated plans are out there and the plan my insurance company is planning to give me is actually the best plan possible with a low premium, but high deductible.  The average deductible for the “Bronze” plans are around $5000.  How on earth can I afford that?  I don’t think I met the $3000 deductible on my old plan even with all my health problems a few years ago.

I thought the point of universal healthcare was everyone got a version of Medicare or we had a health service like they have in Canada and the United Kingdom?  One could argue that such a plan is expensive, but it’s needed for the good of the people.  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid… we’ve done it before in the United States.  The Affordable Care Act looks more like a bailout for insurance companies than actually helping the average citizen.

And that stupid website!  It wants me to “verify” my identity, so it asks me a series of questions that connect me to my public credit report.  I answer the questions, it gives me an error code and no explanation on what I should do.  I Google around for the error code and it turns out to be a common problem.  Something about the verification contractor not finding my credit report or something.  It also likes to log me out of my account at inexplicable times.  I also thought that the “compare plans” function would place the plans side-by-side so I could spot the differences like you see on the car dealer websites.  Instead, the site puts them in a list and I have to click each plan individually to see the information which I could have done before without using the “compare” function.