Recovery and loss

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been attempting to do some “soul-searching” as to how I got to where I am now, and where I want to go from here, as regards my career, history, and life.

This is particularly in light of neurological changes I’ve undergone as a result of long-term health issues, which have caused my brain to function differently than it did when I was a teen and young adult. That sounds like things have broken down, but the issue is more complex than that: what I’m dealing with now are long-term medication side effects, and what feels like neural rewiring. It’s much easier to live now, but along with benefits, there are also drawbacks.

This affects me majorly because of one variable: creativity. I used to base my life and my identity and my supposed future around my creativity, and in my adult years, I’m realizing that at least part of what happened in my youth, when I was extremely creative, was part of my illness (and also a coping strategy, though I don’t get into that too much, here).

I did make a post on a different blog, comparing the career paths I have set before me now. These are Cataloging/Metadata Librarianship, Reference/User Services Librarianship, and Web Development. Yesterday, after having written a bit during my lunch hour on how I even got to this point (writing has always helped me think), I made a decision. Historically, making a decision has been a very difficult thing for me, so we’ll see if it plays out.

I’m hoping to stick with Librarianship, as versus intending to put my energies into Web Development. Regardless of whether I become a Cataloging Librarian or not, I will need to understand Cataloging, so I’m heading in the right direction, there. I should also get back to reading on how to do Reference Interviews, and two books: one on serving homeless populations; the other on de-escalation. These three will be extremely helpful if I do take an entry-level job as a Reference Librarian.

This decision was based on a number of factors, but the largest looming one is that I don’t know enough Web Programming yet (aside from CSS and HTML, which aren’t really the same as, say, JavaScript) to be considered highly skillful. I also don’t know if, on my own, I ever could know enough to keep up, or even if I would need to, as Content Management Systems, as services, seem prolific (even if often a bit flawed in execution). To publish on the Web, one doesn’t need to know more than a little markup code, at this point — though it helps.

Web work is just constantly and quickly evolving. It’s a moving target, so to speak, with a lot of interlocking parts. It’s one thing to work as part of a team with a lot of members with varying and complementary skill sets; it’s another to be on one’s own, trying to do everything on one’s own, and I’m thinking that is a huge undertaking.

Yesterday, I also began searching into myself and my reasons for even wanting to become a Web Developer, and realized that my motivations were based on human connection and community, from a time when almost all of my social interactions were online (largely due to social anxiety, which the Web reinforced). They were also based on my experiences with my own identity exploration, when I felt too intimidated to openly be myself. Also, my desire to be independent, when I felt I couldn’t count on others to pull through.

At this point, I realize these are actions based on a view of an immature, out-of-control, institutional social world. (And I was in a “good” school district!) When I began at my current job a little shy of a decade ago, I expected negativity from the public, because that was what I had grown up with. What I’ve found from working Circulation (that is, in a service setting) is that most people intend to be decent, and the rest have unmet needs and ways of expressing those needs that are, “problematic,” as someone I used to know, would say.

I actually prefer that mode of phrasing to the term, “emotional labor,” which more often exemplifies what occurs when interactions are allowed to spiral out of control. (I have examples; I’m not using them.) But…I’m learning about this right now.

Before I was really socializing on the Web, I was reading, as a way to connect with other human minds. I’m not sure how common this is among librarians, but I would spend a lot of time in my school library, essentially because I didn’t have a lot of friends, it was safe, and I had entertainment. I have since learned that I’m easily overloaded with stimuli, so it’s likely that I sought out quiet places.

It’s very probable that my early experiences in libraries contributed to my desire to become a Librarian.

As an undergraduate, the only things in my life that were constant were my family, my school routine, and my drive to write. I didn’t realize at the time, and I don’t think anyone told me, that what I was experiencing might be known as hypergraphia. Hypergraphia is the compulsive desire to write or draw. It’s linked with at least three comorbid conditions, including epilepsy, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. (“Comorbidity” just means that two or more conditions are present in the same person at the same time.)

I started this post, talking about creativity. I mention above that one of the only constants I had in the years when I needed to choose an undergraduate major, was my drive to write. This was also the period of my life in which I was most severely impacted by an illness which now qualifies me as experiencing (or having experienced) a disability.

I ended up majoring in Creative Writing. I also ended up beginning a medication with the goal of helping me to think more clearly, as I was considering major life changes. That was about 15 years ago.

I wasn’t told, however, that if my drive to write was a symptom of my illness, when my symptoms went into remission, the drive to write might not be as large a factor in my life. I might even find myself not wanting to write, even though I was majoring in it, and planning to become an author.

I also wasn’t told that medications which block the action of dopamine are linked to a reduction in creativity. The medication I began 15 years ago is a dopamine-receptor antagonist, meaning that even if it doesn’t reduce the levels of dopamine in my brain, it reduces its action. And, my symptoms are apparently in remission.

In the years following my Bachelor’s, I ended up gaining two Associate’s degrees (one of which is in Art) and a Master’s in Library & Information Science — the “Library” part of which, is sometimes required to become a Librarian in my country.

What I’m dealing with now is an identity shift. I used to think of myself as a writer and artist. I have a good deal of art supplies to this effect, though I’ve found that it’s easier to buy more tools, than it is to use them. At this point I’ve realized that I may now be more of an, “artisan,” or handcrafter, than an “artist.”

Having taken a few classes in Business, I also question the utility of spending time making something that’s only really aesthetically valuable. Going by the concept of, “opportunity cost,” it’s an expensive thing to do, when I could be doing something like learning another language, instead.

I think the loosening of my past identity comes from at least two separate points. One of them is that because my communication and interpersonal skills are better than they used to be, I don’t have as much intense unexpressed energy bottled up inside (which, at times, I could only express visually). The other is that I do feel like my creative dial has been turned down a bit.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m afraid to be creative, or if it’s because I have to, now, intend to, “be creative,” or put in effort to be creative, in order to do so. In the past, I wouldn’t have had a choice. It was something I blamed on the spirits — as my calling; as my job. And to be honest, I don’t really want to go back to the way it was before.

At the same time, my reason to remain in existence back then, was to create. I based my identity around that. So that leaves me with the question of who I am, now. There are other facets to my identity; I’m not entirely without a compass.

It would just make sense to stop trying, through purchasing art supplies, to reach back to that part of the person I was, who I’m not, anymore. It’s fine to try by using those art supplies, but identity can’t be bought. It would also make sense for me to stop thinking of myself as a highly creative person, and beating myself up about it and wondering why I’m not, when I’m not.

I must have the innate capacity to go back to being the person I was before (I would have to go off of medication), but doing so comes at a cost that is higher than what I’m willing to pay.

The most obvious choice going forward is to identify with my career, which is — at this point — a Librarian. I think my professional association would encourage that, though I’ve heard arguments against making one’s vocation one’s identity, as then when one loses one’s job, they also lose part of a sense of themselves.

But I’m kind of familiar with that.

My other option is to lean more heavily on my other identities, or develop a new one. Really, that last one is looking more enticing, as there is the potential for synthesis and growth. I think the key is not to depend too heavily on any one identity in particular.

But I can get back to reading, and my language practice, and studying to prepare myself for employment as a Librarian. I also have been doing some work on owning what I ignored in myself, as a teen and young adult. (I spoke about this yesterday; the difference between sex and gender, and culture and race, though I didn’t express it in those terms. I feel the hint of a need to get deeper into that.)

Aside from that, I need to be looking at jobs (including Support Staff positions, for the experience and higher pay), and learning to cook and drive. All of that looks good.

And maybe I could make some new friends, too. Having a social life outside of family and work is something I have been missing. I should keep going out when I can…

Back to business.

Right now, I’m at the beginning of a course which repeats material I was first exposed to in Library School. I’m thinking that this must be difficult for students who haven’t yet had a primer. Not to mention that the course readings are using terms like, “entity,” “relationship,” and, “attribute,” without first defining them. Outside of working with relational databases, I would not know what those terms meant (I still need to periodically review, now).

Today just seemed like a good opportunity to complete the second set of readings and quizzes. I do have a bunch of optional readings I can go through, one of which I completed earlier…it’s just weird to see myself consistently as one of the first people to talk, and one of the first people to show up in meetings. Am I also one of the first people to look at the long optional readings, a week after they were assigned? I don’t know.

What is relatively clear is that I’m used to online learning (which, I don’t know, should be obvious to me). That fact, though, is a relatively good thing, because it means that I can learn at a distance; and when that’s possible, there are places across the country and world that I could have access to (granted, of course, that my language and cultural skills are up to par).

The last time I was in at work, I did some research on jobs…Because I haven’t worked in an Academic Library, and because I have nine years of experience in a Public Library, this basically predisposes me to Adult Services in a Public Library setting. There are several gaps in my knowledge, at this point; mostly where it comes to dealing with behavioral infractions, reference interviews, and cataloging. Of course, I’m dealing with the latter now; and have books on the former two, which I’m in the process of reading.

It’s just…I don’t know, “interesting?” that I would be best qualified to serve in a position as a Public Librarian. I realized — very late in the game, essentially after I graduated — that the skill set I had been aiming for (HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, Drupal, Python or Ruby, etc.) was, essentially, that of a Web Developer. At this point, however, I wonder if I want to be a Web Developer because I’m related to techies and want to be like them, or if it’s because I actually enjoy (or think I would enjoy) the work.

I’m pretty sure the main reason I was oriented in this direction is the fact that as a young adult, I found a lot of community online that was difficult to find offline. However…as a person solidly moving into their “adult” years…I’m finding that “online” community as I knew it was relatively…naive. I still have a hard time reading even some of the ALA’s email lists. I also find that people IRL who are into what I used to be into, online, are not necessarily people I would choose to spend time with. Not to mention the fact that social media can go terribly wrong — sometimes by design.

Of course, with the whole STEM and Maker Space thing, there is probably a lot of demand for people who are versed in tech, within Public Libraries. Even more so if they understand and enjoy working with kids…which isn’t really my specialty.

However…if I’m aiming for Public Services or Digital Services, I have a pretty good background to draw from. I’m not highly socially oriented, but I’ve been improving in my skills; also, in the library field, I’m not alone in not being an extrovert by nature. That whole thing about community-building online is also made a whole lot more real with in-person community!

The difference between being a Public Librarian and being a Web Developer is a huge one. The things I would need to know would be wildly different. The work environment is wildly different. When I think of being a Web Developer, I think of spending large amounts of time in front of a computer screen; a Public Librarian would be interfacing with people for much of the time.

Not only that, but I can teach people crafts as a Public Librarian, and get paid for it. That isn’t quite the case with Web Development.

Perhaps most pointedly…I had considered becoming a Librarian while I built my tech skill set. That’s still possible, but I need to fill the role of a Librarian first, in this scenario. Among other things, that means that I can prioritize reading, customer-service skills, Cataloging knowledge and practice, and second-language-learning over computer programming. At least so, for the short-term.

…I think I can get back to studying, now.

Sketch 001

Inside the house, the night is warm. I hadn’t realized that outside of enclosures, the natural color of night is various shades of black. Then, we took a ride out on one of the most illuminated nights of the year.

There weren’t fireworks, but displays of colored lights could be seen everywhere. Amazingly enough — this Christmas night was almost fully clear in the Bay Area. The Transamerica Pyramid’s beacon shone brightly; so bright that I worried about harming my eyes by staring at its oscillating twinkle. Nearly full, the moon glowed behind puffy, high altitude clouds which reminded me of dragon scale. A faint halo ringed the moon.

The City itself lit the skies. Skyscrapers shone green and blue lights up the sides of their walls, glowing like the bases of bubble lights.

What I did not anticipate was being able to make out the crests of the hills, both coming and going, by the border the lights made with the edge of our distance vision.

I wonder how people can live here, I thought. Maybe their family bought a house in 1906 or something, and they just haven’t let go of it.

Flecks of rain spattered the windshield, rolling upward, towards the roof. The myriad of colored lights passing the windows sparkled inside these droplets before they were wiped clean.

My friend, Jenn, still worked tonight. We were on our way to drop Señorita bread off at his bar. It’s a special kind of roll which tastes and feels like a soft doughnut; including the dusting of sugar. They had turned out to be very popular with our guests — when we had guests.

Unfortunately, I had to make the drive, as M had caught some kind of cold in our pre-Christmas shopping. I don’t think it was a big deal in her eyes, but it did mean that our holiday celebration had to be transplanted to a future date.

At this point, I’m getting sick, too. Not too happy about that, but as the member of my family with the most robust immune system currently, I can make it work.

What is worth my time?

This question has been on my mind for the past semester.

Granted, I did pass my final semester, and hence will be graduating — at least, unless something comes up. Without the pressure of grades, I have had the time to actually consider what I want to be and will be doing; right now, it’s my choice.

Can you believe that? I actually have a choice over how I’ll spend my time.

The biggest thing that has come up is the economic question of opportunity cost, or what one gives up to do one thing instead of another. I’ve been particularly thinking about it while watching people talk about books and video games at work. I used to like video games; then I realized they didn’t make my life any better after I had completed them.

In the time they have spent playing, I’ve been sacrificing that play to work on my Master’s. Now I have economic mobility…and although they make more money than I do now, I at least have the potential for an upgraded life.

I’ve also been thinking about this as regards arts and crafts (particularly, knitting and crochet). I like working with color, and I like working with beads, but I know I won’t make any appreciable income off of doing that. If I did it, I would do it for the enjoyment of doing it.

Last night I put together a kit, so that I can work on micro-macrame in my spare time. I mean, I can’t cut everything non-profitable out of my life just out of monetary concerns, or whether I’ll see a fiscal return on applying myself…

I do have a number of goals/things to do, lined up for the next six months. The major issue I’m having at this moment is not knowing where I’m going to be living, next. That, in turn, affects which language would be best to learn.

Those who have been following me from my other blog know that it is a life goal of mine to learn Japanese, although — given my current location — Spanish might be a better choice of a second language. I also took Spanish for six years in Middle and High School, so relearning it would be review.

The thing is, I don’t have nearly as much reason, culturally speaking, to learn Spanish, as I’m a member of Japanese diaspora. As I was growing up, I was curious about a lot of what went into making me the person I was: things that I didn’t know and that no one told me (or possibly, could tell me, as I’m yonsei, or fourth-generation: my oldest living local relative in my life [on my Japanese-American side] was nisei, or already two generations away from Japan).

Learning Japanese language is a potential opening door into the language of my heritage, whereas learning Spanish language is basically an economic or pragmatic move. It seems like it would be relatively easy (compared to Japanese) and also fulfill a requirement that I be able to read, “at least one Western European language,” as a certain job post asked of me.

The thing is, I’m not into Western Europe. In addition, with the way international relations are being trashed right now, I can’t say I would look forward to visiting any Spanish-speaking countries in the near future (I hear it was bad enough, before). There are also some reservations I have over both 1) being obviously of African descent in a postcolonial setting, and 2) being gender-nonbinary in a setting where everything is gendered.

Of course, being of African descent in Japan might not be so great, either; although I would expect a bit more leeway where it came to existing with my gender identity there.

However, becoming a Metadata Librarian might require that I read some, “Western European language,” depending on where I work. Or, that could be an outlier related to the particular biases of the University I was perusing. Postcolonialism and everything.

I find that, at this point, French might actually work better, for me (I can actually imagine going to Quebec or Tahiti or the Caribbean [or the French Quarter]; I have been exposed to Gender Studies in French; and I know the French were better at race relations); I just have no experience in it.

French language might also help counter the tendency I’ve gotten from Japanese in which I tend to read things in terms of discrete syllables. Hence, I read, “inorite?” as, “ee no ree tay,” not, “I know, right?” Still. I mean, I still look at it and I know what it’s supposed to say, but it doesn’t work out that way in my mind.

There is also the art tangent. I keep wanting to do it, and I keep feeling like it’s a waste of time. But I suppose it’s really rather like playing an instrument: you can’t expect to stop doing it for a couple of years and then re-enter and immediately regain all your skills.

I really don’t know what I’m going to do, on that front, though I’m thinking that the first step into re-entry is the hardest. Because of my MLIS program, I haven’t had the time (or energy) to keep up a study of art. What I have had time to do, and have been forced to do, is read. I’ve been doing a lot of reading. And I’m not certain whether I’ll ever get back to being a writer.

Well, I mean, a professional writer, although, “amateur,” probably best described me when I graduated with my BA in Creative Writing. I have found, however, that a lot of people move on from their undergraduate degrees, in their later life. Particularly, if their undergraduate degree is in something that isn’t profitable. Like…Creative Writing.

Someone wrote a book called, “Pivot,” which I just recalled. Actually, there are two books called, “Pivot,” which I just discovered…and I can get both of them through the library. Hmm.

I still want to get back to my study of Japanese language, though (which will be of use in Hawaii if I ever have to move there). And I still want to work with beads and cords. I also still want to get back to reading.

I don’t know about the art — which I can say because this is not my art blog!

Capacity for work

I read two e-books in one night, the night of Tuesday the 27th / morning of Wednesday the 28th. Were they worth purchasing?

Yesterday (the 28th of November), I woke late — having stayed up until 2:30 AM the night before — and had to go get an eye exam. I couldn’t write this post last night, because I was blind to anything within reading distance. However, something very strange had happened, the night before:

I read two e-books, excepting their indexes, between the time I had gotten off of work at 2 PM, and the time I went to bed at 2:30 AM.

How did this happen? I’m not entirely sure. What I can say is that I kept plugging through, because I was afraid that if I stopped, I’d never get back to either one of them.

From research I’ve had to do within Collection Development, it seems that there are a number of e-readers still popular within the U.S. In no particular order, these are the NOOK, Kindle, Kobo, iPad/iPhone, and Android readers.

What I can say from my experience — as I had basically been browsing Amazon since I got home — is that I’m starting to be capable of reading so much, that it doesn’t make sense to buy everything. Browsing on a Kindle is very much like having a bookstore in a tablet; but the quality of those books, varies.

The first book I finished, Black Belt Librarian, by Warren Graham, is 104 pages long, including the Index. (I had seen this book before in the break room of a library at which I used to work, and so had been apprised of its applicability.) The second book I finished, What They Don’t Teach You in Library School, by Elizabeth Doucett, was 161 pages, including the Index.

The thing is, to get the exact page numbers, I’d have to go back and do some research. But just in the ballpark, I read somewhat less than 265 pages — let’s say 252.

I’m getting to the point where I’m realizing that not all reading is as difficult as what I had to do in my Master’s program. I’m also getting to the point of realizing that I don’t have to buy everything I sincerely want to read.

Those of you who know me from the past incarnation of this site will know that even though I work in a library, it’s tough for me to deal with the books. Actually, it isn’t the books, so much; new books are great; it’s all the grime that gets on the books, because they’re physically handled by so many people. This acts as a deterrent to my actually reading them, unfortunately.

However, this isn’t an issue with e-books!

But also, with e-books…sometimes these things are available through using library services. For instance, the second book I read (Doucett), I was able to find in my University library, and it was free to read online (whereas I would have been charged $31, if I downloaded it).

There are two ways I have of searching for this book. The first is to look the title up in WorldCat.org, which is a federated search engine. This means that it searches multiple libraries all over the world for your item. If you enter your location, WorldCat will tell you where the closest libraries are which carry your item — if that library is a WorldCat member.

As a bonus, WorldCat (and Amazon) also linked me to reviews on Goodreads, which let me know more information about the information resource (book, in this case) that I was looking at. This, and having access to book reviews via online databases (reviews are typically accessible by searching the book title), has been a world of help in winnowing down what I actually wanted to buy (out of the eight or so books which it looked like I wanted to buy).

As it turns out, the nearest holdings were fairly close, but I don’t have direct access to those libraries, as they’re University-affiliated (and not with a University I attended).

The second way of searching for this book is what bore fruit. I went to my nearest public library’s homepage and searched their federated search system, known as “LINK+”. LINK+ is a system which spans California and Nevada member libraries. Most states in the U.S. have similar federated search systems, but they go by different names.

LINK+ told me that the item was available through a specific Web resource, called “ProQuest Ebook Central”. Because I’m in the Library Science program, I realized I might have access to this from my University’s library. I found the database (“ProQuest,” the aggregator name, was omitted from its title), found the item, and was able to basically read it cover-to-cover within about three to four hours.

It wasn’t as pretty as the Amazon version (actually, the font was pretty terrible), and of course it’s temporary; but it worked, I saved about $31 for the second half of the night’s reading, and now I know the content of that book.

Of course, the initial reason for me to even find it was to see if I actually wanted to pay the $31; I’ve taken up the habit of looking through libraries prior to actual purchases, in order to see the actual contents of the books I’m browsing. This is because of repeated episodes of getting books which were not what I expected or hoped for.

Amazon enables some sample reading from most of its eBooks, but it’s painfully limited — and, as I’ve found, the samples are hidden behind the link to buy the book, now, instead of prominently displayed (as they used to be).

Right now I’ve got a couple of new clips lined up, as well. If they go through, it will save me a good amount of money, which I may apply to a specific textbook in the $70 range, for a class I never took. (I have a couple more lined up which won’t be ready for 3-4 months…but I’ll delay on ordering those. I’ll probably forget about them, otherwise.)

Go libraries, eh?

I did purchase Black Belt Librarian (by Graham) right off, before I realized that if I bought everything I wanted to read off of Amazon, I very quickly wouldn’t have any income left. I am glad I bought it, and am waiting to see how it meshes with Robert Bacal’s book on a similar topic (Defusing Hostile Customers Workbook, 3rd ed.). I am wondering how I’ll remember I have it, however, without it having a presence on my shelf; which seems to be the perennial problem with eBooks.

Graham’s content is much more about handling times one has to say “no” to people in the library, than it is about fighting. In that context, it’s helped a lot toward giving me knowledge of what I’ll have to eventually face, if I do become a Public Librarian. (In my position, I’m shielded from a lot of that, but won’t be if I become a Library Assistant, or Librarian; and there has been very little training for me on this point.)

Doucett, however…that was more like an overview of what a job as a Librarian would entail, and making sure the reader found a job they could deal with. I’m not sure it’s worth the $31, which is something a reader on Amazon said, as well.

Am I going to have to start writing book reviews, just so I can remember this stuff?