I Got the Job, Part 5: A Season of Firsts

Long-legged Time takes slow, giant steps when the work is challenging and purposeful. Working from home reminds me that Time is not my own or the job’s, but the universe’s. I get immersed in crafting a literature search strategy or preparing a conference talk, while Time and its minute cane gradually tap away half my waking hours. Between keystrokes and thoughts, I see squirrels and neighbors move over grass and asphalt, past flowers, and under sky, going somewhere real, but that somewhere is just a letter on a page in a story that is billions of years old and that none of us understands.

If the years are pages in a book, this one certainly deserves a spot in my unpublished Annals of the Hectic, the Hard, and the Stressful. Learning to be a health sciences librarian from home in pandemic times has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life. Every week I learn about a software tool with an endless list of features. I teach clinicians to find medical literature in databases powered by mocking, indecipherable algorithms. I watch bureaucracy and power rule and silence people. I scream inside and out loud. I document things: search terms, feelings, actions, and things that just should not be forgotten. I wonder how our lives go from being just work to history being made and if there is ever a difference. I wonder what my Great Aunt Ila and my Great Uncle Roosevelt would think of this life if they were here. I wonder if I will ever understand everything I need to know.

Stress is a stealthy, preoccupying force field. It can suck the joy out of life for years before it steals your life entirely. What is bigger than the Stress and the Hard is the joy of realizing my longtime professional goal in this season of my life. This life I have right now is enlightening, edifying, and beautiful. So much is going right, on the job and off. I don’t want to forget that.

Yes, life is good – most of the time – and busy all the time. This past March, I co-authored a presentation about my work team’s efforts to bring an antiracist perspective to our library resource guides. I delivered it at a campus library conference, along with my colleagues and with Jaime Ding, the antiracist who inspired our project with her own antiracism work at California Polytechnic State University. During that same conference, I delivered an introduction for conference keynote speaker and librarian visionary Fobazi Ettarh. Not too long after that, I facilitated a panel on health equity. Two months later, I co-authored and delivered a presentation on virtual onboarding at a national conference. When not presenting, I am “Zooming,” sending emails, teaching classes, eating grains, taking walks, reading journal articles, learning, and learning how to learn. I juggle too much, sometimes, and I stumble, sometimes, but I mainly stay upright.

I never expected to be doing all this stuff so early in my library career. I never expected to have a “career.” I still don’t like that word. I prefer to think of this librarian life as a deep, deep forest full of surprises, colorful creatures, and a chunk of gold inside every smelly rock. Like a fairy tale land, it will swallow me up if I am not careful. I make time for my Other Life. I find a safe spot where I can read, enjoy music, and just sit and take it all in. It is a good place to be.

The book I am reading now is just right for the journey: In Praise of Walking, by Shane O’Mara. O’Mara likes to get over 12,000 steps a day. I don’t try to hit that mark, but I do what I can. Walking clears my mind and lowers my stress levels. It helps me cope with stereotype threat, that mind-burrowing devil that makes me worry about people judging me harshly because of my skin color or my age. I worry, I walk. I worry less, I walk more. I wander. I look up at the sun. I am not perfectly at peace. I am not perfect. I am aware and alive, and that is enough.

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