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.

 

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.

Facebook is Trying to Kill Me

“Concerning the difference between man and the jackass: some observers hold that there isn’t any. But this wrongs the jackass.” -Mark Twain


(I set out to do something and end up wasting time.  So goes my job search and this blog.  Sorry.)

I have decided that Facebook is trying to kill me.

When I was an undergraduate in 2004, Facebook was something of a novel concept.  One of my college friends got on it early on, if I remember correctly.  Since I was a child, I never liked to jump on to the latest craze just because everyone else was doing it.  What’s the purpose?  What’s the logic?  I never saw Facebook as being all that great and I didn’t want to be on social media.  I hated social media.  It keeps you connected!  Sometimes you just want to be alone!  I was rather glad in the early 2000s to be without a cellphone since no one could call me.  What about privacy?  Mark Zuckerberg likely never thought about that, and, I admit, he gave me and my fellow Millennials what we wanted or what we thought we wanted… connection!

I can’t remember when I finally got on to Facebook, but it had to have been in the late 2000s.  At first, I did nothing except get a bare-bones account.  I just wanted a basic account so employers knew that I was out there.  One of my high school friends “friended” me.  Others then wanted to friend me.  All Hell broke loose.  My first reaction upon seeing the images of my long-lost high school friends was to say “OMG, they are bald, fat,.. and my age!” It was bizarre to see who was with who and who was doing what.  Almost everyone I knew from high school appeared to have married each other in what I called “high school incest.”  One former high school mate had an avatar chugging a 3-liter bottle of Mountain Dew.  Others where drinking away at bars.  Some were cursing away and ranting.  I knew very little about Facebook’s privacy settings; most didn’t and many today still don’t.  Between the machinations of some of my Facebook friends, the fear of prospective employers seeing their antics and attributing them to me, and Facebook’s general disregard for privacy, I erased my account on Quit Facebook Day in 2010.

A few years later, Facebook went public and started selling shares.  I have a small trading account and bought around 10 shares as a lark.  After a few more years, I sold the shares since I figured the company wasn’t going to last with its privacy concerns and the fact that fewer people were getting on it.  Facebook was becoming “old hat” and not adapting to meet the needs of both younger and older generations.  Also, I wanted money for a new computer, which may have not been the best of financial decisions.

Early this year, I started taking online courses that emphasized having a Facebook account to collaborate.  I researched the best way to create the most guarded and privacy friendly Facebook account possible.  Not all, but many of my old Facebook friends found me again, along with some new friends.  It amazed me how most had matured, had families, had good jobs, had houses, and had many adventures.  Most were still fat, bald, and, of course, my age.  I was content with this arrangement and I was assured that employers would find my Facebook page dull, but existent.

However, the months of friending people and delving deeper into Facebook has made me see its dark side.  Many post conservative political and religious messages blaring out across multiple groups and pages.  They can post their messages about their beliefs, but I would be scared to death of correcting their factual errors or announcing my own beliefs.  I’m left-wing and agnostic (if not atheist), and I doubt these friends would tolerate it since apparently “my kind” is destroying the United States like that Atheist-Muslim-Satanic-Indonesian-Kenyan who’s in the White House.  I have to live and work with these people offline and an online spat could have dire consequences.  I need a job and who knows if admitting having “liberal” beliefs on Facebook could shut down opportunities for me.  I could be over-exaggerating and overly cynical, but I don’t want a confrontation online or offline.  I try to avoid confrontation.  I thought the purpose of the Internet was to spread new ideas and encourage dialogue?  Instead, you have walled gardens of liked-mined individuals who distrust the opposite-minded, and you’ll certainly find that on Facebook.  At least one of my new Facebook friends, who I know offline, insists on putting up messages like “If you care about me, post this on your timeline” and pressures others to do it.  So far, I haven’t done it, but I wonder if my not doing it could cause the individual to become… unhinged?  Let’s not forget my own corollary to Godwin’s Law that any Facebook thread, no matter how innocuous the subject, will inevitably lead to a rage-induced free-for-all where everyone gets emotionally and psychologically wounded.   Never go to Facebook groups discussing your local schools or local obituaries.  Never!   I have learned the hard way!

All online communities and the Internet in general is full of the angry and the deranged.  That does not bother me the most.  What bothers me most is seeing my peers on Facebook succeeding.  I should be happy for them and the success in their lives.  I’m in my early 30s, and yet my peers have moved on to careers, marriages (even divorces), kids, property, traveling, and pets.  I have a very small job history with huge employment gaps and a graduate degree.  I’m proud of my accomplishments, yet that has not translated into employment success and the rewards that brings.  I planned on being a librarian, but now I’m looking at retail positions or anything else entry-level.  I feel like Skipper Dan.

I look at my Facebook peers and I wonder where I failed while they succeeded?  I never thought deeply about marriage and children, but as I grow older, those opportunities seem to slip away.  They used to see me as the intellectual guy that would be “most likely to succeed” and yet they have gone through several major adult milestones while I still live at home.   Jealousy does not serve anyone anything, and I work to move on.  Facebook is trying to kill me, but I am reminded that while I am fat and the same age as my Facebook peers, I still have my hair for the most part.

Never Enough Time

“The best laid plans of mice and men…and Henry Bemis…the small man in the glasses who wanted nothing but time. Henry Bemis, now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself. Mr. Henry Bemis…in the Twilight Zone.” -Rod Sterling, The Twilight Zone


There are days when I’m on top of the world and days when I’m at the bottom.  More the latter, it seems.

Honestly, where did everybody go?  I had minor surgery and concentrate so much on job searching, I’ve only just recently noticed several writers I followed on WordPress have either left or locked up their blogs to selected readers only.  Is there something going on with WordPress no one has told me about?  It’s like a scene from The Twilight Zone where a man wakes up and finds everyone gone.  I hope I don’t break my glasses.  Where ever you all have gone, I wish you well and hope you stay in touch!

My erratic and anxious mind makes it difficult to explain if I am doing well or not.  I have a hard time looking at my success and failures from an objective point-of-view.  I am still applying to jobs and it feels hopeless at times, yet I am getting interviews this year for the first time since 2007.  I have dozens of jobs on my Indeed.com list and I spend some days just staring at the list with the feeling I have no enthusiasm for any of these positions.  Sometimes I apply and sometimes I don’t apply at all.  Even the library positions provide me no zest.   My computer used to give me joy, but now I see it as just a job search kiosk.  Whether I get up early in the morning or sleep late well into the day, there’s never enough time.  I have a hard time having fun or enjoying anything until I’m assured of a job.  Ironically, this anxiety makes me postpone applying and I just surf the Net for hours.  It’s a Kobayashi Maru problem.  It’s June and I thought with my new vigor and job hunt strategy, I would at least have a part-time position now.

My job coach has encouraged me to apply to non-library jobs in addition to librarian jobs.  I’ve gotten several interviews for retail jobs, but I can’t help thinking that my bachelor and master degrees weigh against me in those positions.  It doesn’t help that I’m an introvert and I have trouble showing “enthusiasm” for anything, even if I genuinely enjoy it.  You just have to believe me when I say I want the position and would do my best at it.  My word is all I have.

The myth I’ve been told about libraries refusing to hire people with Master of Library Science (MLS) degrees due to pressure from the American Library Association (ALA) apparently isn’t true.  I have been getting calls and invites to interview for paraprofessional positions now.  The fact that they are considering me means something has changed in the library world.  In academic libraries in my area, you have to have an MLS for part-time positions.  A few years ago, even a year ago, this would have been alarming.  I’m not sure what the ALA thinks of these new developments, but I’m always glad the ALA gets proven wrong.  Being a ALA member certainly hasn’t given me an edge or opportunity.  There’s also a greater chance those in my position who got their degrees from the height of the Great Recession might have a chance at a job now.

It’s a mixed bag with this blog post.  Some hope and some despair.  It’s better than my last post, but it could be brighter.  I suppose things will get better in time.  I feel, though, there’s never enough time.  For anything.

 

Erratic

“Of course, no man is entirely in his right mind at any time.” -Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger


My apologies yet again for the long hiatus.  My grand plans to post more often and add more content have not gone well.

My job search, Photoshop class, and my anxiety issues keep me feeling that I cannot do anything fun.  I hate job searching.  It is so easy to procrastinate from it (like right now), especially when I am being encouraged to find work outside of my specialty areas of libraries and museums.    Everyone says job searching is the worst job you will ever have.  I have no idea or measure if I am on the right track.  For example, should I be working 8 hours a day searching?  5 hours?  As I am able?  I have started getting interviews, however.  One at a retailer (that ended in rejection) and two librarian job interviews.  I supposed that means I am doing something right.  I apply to every library-related job in my geographic area I can find.  I even applied to jobs in far-flung places in the state, though I stopped doing that months ago.  Employers are not too keen about helping with moving expenses or compensating job candidates (unless you’re a bigwig) for traveling anymore.  Also, I honestly do not want to move too far away from my family.  The poisonous rhetoric against the unemployed and the condescending, contradictory, and confusing job search/interview advice further tear me down.  I no longer read any job advice on the Internet since it drives me mad.  I over-think and over-analyze to a point of sickness.  At some point, you have to “publish or perish” your cover letters and resumes until something sticks.  You have to make a stand like Leonidas at Thermopylae.

I spoke about my anxiety in a previous post.  There are days and moments when I feel so ready and accomplished.  Then, there are the days and moments when I am despondent and unable to focus at all.  I lean towards a depressive and anxious nature, though I do hide it well in public.  That is one of the reasons Mark Twain is one of my favorite authors.  He had a humorous and funny side, but also a dark and depressive side.  An erratic nature runs in my family and it frightens me that I may get worse over time instead of better.  I keep chugging along and try finding something to do that makes me happy, like volunteering.  I wish I were more successful at it.

Now, if you, dear reader, do have any advice for my predicaments and even have a link you want to share, feel free.  If you have any questions you want to ask, feel free.  I have no problem with it.  If you have any job leads, want to network, etc,. let me know and I will see what I can do.

As with my previous post, I will try to update the blog more in the future.

 

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!