Reflections on advice and career — clarifying my own light

Hmm.  I was talking with some co-workers today about career stuff.  My feelings on this are complicated and somewhat location-dependent.

Come Fall, I should be taking a technical course in my LIS program in which I’ll be able to see if I would actually like a technical position as an Information specialist.  I really should have taken this in my first semester.  I thought, though, that I should stay away from anything math-oriented, as it would have been my first time back in classes at all, for two or three years (and my first time possibly dealing with math, for longer).  So instead I hit the Management class, which was just frustrating and reminiscent of Intro to Marketing, from my Junior College.

My biggest fear here is that the quality of teaching is going to be uniformly as low as it was in that Management class and I’m going to become obese from stress-eating, and suicidal, before the program ends.

Secondarily, I may not be cut out to be a Public Librarian.  I can deal with public contact; but it’s not what I want to be doing.  It stresses me, and it isn’t a strength of mine.  When I was in the Vocational program with the State, it was noted that Public Librarianship required public contact.  What they didn’t say is that public contact is the majority of the work.

Two of the people I spoke with today — one of whom is a Children’s Librarian; the other of whom is a Library Assistant (this is like a Librarian, but paraprofessional instead of requiring a Master’s in LIS), both discouraged me from continuing on in Public Library work as a career, if dealing with people is a stressor.  I’ve gotten a lot better at it, and I have found that sometimes going against what I’m told to do (“be nice”) will actually more quickly resolve the situation than attempting to be tolerant in the face of unwanted disrespectful  behavior.  Granted that unwanted disrespectful behavior (usually mixed in with sexual dynamics and misogyny) is a freak occurrence at my branch, but it still happens and is more common elsewhere in the area.

There are two scenarios I can think of where I’ve had to deal directly with unwanted disrespectful behavior; one additional in which I felt like I was called on to consider using force against someone who was clearly intent on violating boundaries; a fourth in which I ran across a problem patron on the street.

Granted that I’ve taken self-defense lessons, but part of self-defense is learning to avoid situations which may lead to a fight.  Another part — which I never learned — is de-escalation, or defusing a potential attacker, hopefully prior to anything physical occurring.  The problem with this is that it often requires swallowing one’s pride (and rage) in order to avoid hurting the person.

The kind of self-defense I learned as a kid maintained three options:  run, pin, or kill.  What I learned later is that there is a lot that can be done between “run” and “kill,” but the majority of that stuff, practical though it may have been, does not de-escalate the situation.  More like, it either encourages the other person to run, or gives you time to run; though by that time, one or more of the fighters will likely be traumatized (which was a no-no in terms of my first ultra-nonviolent self-defense courses…no popping out peoples’ eyeballs in that class, no sir).

Right, well.

I have gotten to the point where I am questioning how much of the feeling of danger I have gotten in the past is due to factors which have nothing to do with the other person being dangerous.  In particular this applies to the most vulnerable members of the population…which I happen to be one of as well (for a few reasons — intersecting oppressions for the “win”), but that’s not the point.  Being in a similar category (just as someone else’s dependent), it becomes more clear to me that dealing with someone who is, say, of African descent and also mentally challenged (and untreated) and also vagrant, is both not necessarily as dangerous as it may appear or as others perceive it to be, and also, the situation is likely more unpredictable than it seems.  However, these people are likely to soften up very quickly if they feel someone is listening to and cares for them.  Not that it’s sure to be expressed appropriately.

But enough of that…

Like I said, people are a stressor for me.  At this point…I’m not sure what to do besides check back in to my vocational program, or try another round of Career and Life Planning…or start hanging out at the Career Center.

Right now, M is having a lot of stress over my (as D said) “not having a career” and being uncertain about going into Library work or, indeed, about what I want my career to be.  I kind of don’t even know what a “career” is.  Most of my life up to this point has been focused on schooling, not on experiencing jobs or finding a career path; and yet, with one job under my belt, I’m expected to know what I want to do for (apparently, to M) the rest of my life.  It’s like there are two switches in her mind as to what I will do with my career:  one of them is “Library”; the other is “McDonald’s”.  I have seen evidence of no other option in her mind, than “McDonald’s” — and working at McDonald’s has been the threat to keep me in school, the whole time I’ve been alive.

And I don’t know if, when M and D fear “McDonald’s”, if they want me to never work at McDonald’s and it will be a life failing and family dishonor if I happen to take a job there while I figure out what to do, or if it’s okay to take a job there temporarily, to stay alive.  (Of course I wouldn’t stay there forever.  I have an effing BA in English.  People keep telling me I “can do better,” but no one has told me what “better” is, other than being a Librarian.  It’s like “Librarian” is their version of “Doctor” or “Lawyer.”)  It’s just this big specter of “she’s going to work at McDonald’s”, and until tonight, no one has told me what “McDonald’s” represents to them (apparently, hard and underpaid work and customer service to a section of the public they don’t respect very much).


The “easy” path (if you can call it that) is to stay in school for the next three years and do what I know how to do, and turn in all my papers and oral presentations and portfolios, and (hopefully) get an MLIS.  Not that I really want to do that, at this point.  It’s just what takes the least thought.

There is the option of, as I suggested today, going into Graphic Design work, but that is likely going to be underpaid and hazardous to my health.

What I can envision is taking this next semester of Library School as a trial period — and at the end of it, seeing whether I want to continue on, in light of what I’ll learn (or not learn) in my technical course.  If I want to go on into Digital Services (which I think I do, from here — but I haven’t informationally interviewed anyone who works in Digital Services), I should know whether I’m compatible with it by the end of the technical course.

If I don’t want to go into Digital Services, but I still want to continue on with Libraries, I can check out the Special Library field — I would pretty much love to work with museums or galleries in helping them have a Web presence and organize their files…though I note that I’m not entirely sure what Special Library work entails, other than working with private companies.

There is also the possibility of (also) getting an MA in Art History, through which I could become an Academic Librarian specializing in Art History…which honestly, sounds awesome.  I’d have to deal with people — students, this time — but when I’m talking about something I’m really into, I get excited enough about it that it’s easy for me to deal with the people.

If I want to get out of Libraries and Information Science entirely, at the end of Fall…my main option is going back to my Vocational program and getting another assessment, and then trying out a different career path, this time.  This should be combined with dealing with the Career Centers.  I’m fairly certain that I will be able to get employed this way.  The biggest reason I’m not in the program now is that it would require either skipping out of LIS entirely, or it would pay for my tuition (though this time around, I got a grant, so it wouldn’t matter that much)…but I would have to make a decision, and relatively soon.  I’m not ready to do that yet.  After Fall, I can reconsider — but not now.

The other thing I can do, if I don’t want to go back to the Vocational program, is to take another round of Career and Life Planning with my Junior College.  I took this a long time ago, but I had so little job experience (read:  none) that it didn’t help very much.

At least, I’ve got a plan!  And I know what to do for next semester.  Though my co-workers say not to invest in a field if I’m unsure I want to do it, it is looking like my best shot to stay alive, without too much uprooting.


I’ve got to think about that Academic Library option…

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Haru ("Codey") is a third-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

4 thoughts on “Reflections on advice and career — clarifying my own light”

  1. First I am sure I do not really understand the restrictions on your choices in your particular educational system. But just as a general reaction to the obstacles you keep running up against, may I ask: is there any way to get 1-2 years off, to explore your experience and feelings while supporting yourself with any job you can get? You clearly need more time getting along in the world somehow before you can make such choices as these. Good luck!

    1. Hi Carol,

      Well…the major issue here is that the time I have where my parents will be able to continue to support me is limited. They are in their early/mid 60’s, and so there is a bit of pressure for me to become able to support myself, before they die or need my care in return. I have an invisible disability which makes it a bit…more scary? to try and work the job market.

      The main reason I’m even trying out the Master’s program (aside from the fact that I was placed here by my Vocational program, which I gained access to because of my disability) is that they are still alive and can support me while I do my studies…not something I can expect after they’re gone. In addition, I actually started the Library Science program in 2012 and immediately withdrew; I’ve delayed here four years already (though that time was spent gaining skills in the Business and Art programs in Junior College, not trying other jobs…but thanks to that, I now am fairly comfortable with public speaking, and feel like I have some kind of footing in Art — not like the latter actually pays much).

      Delaying (more) now would mean waiting another 3 years for my original classes to expire and then reapplying (or, alternately, just re-taking my first three core courses).

      I agree that probably the best thing for me to do right now is explore the working world more. Time, though, is a factor; as is pressure from my parents for me to “succeed” (whatever that means, but I think it goes beyond being able to support myself).

      I have been told my entire life that because I’m a racial/cultural minority, I will have to work twice as hard to be seen at the same level as others. This is without all the other ways I’m a minority (some of which, my parents didn’t even have to deal with).

      Of course, a lot of this is my parents’ baggage; but I think that they’re pushing for the Master’s because they think I will need it to be seen as competent; and to stay out of, basically, ghettos or being homeless.

      Thank you for your comment — it’s added to that little pile of thought which says that I really want to be working at the art store instead of going back to classes. 😉 But it is something to think about, if not act on. If Fall semester is horrific like it was the last round I took, I will likely end up in some way exploring the working world as you say — I’ve seen my co-workers (the younger ones) go through this, and it is a stage I never went through. Again, thank you.

      1. Hello Crolo! 🙂

        Thank you for the compliment and the well wishes!

        Hmm — I’ve just today had someone help me get over my shyness to contact an old co-worker who used to work in Technical Services. I still have yet to write the email, but it should help a good bit. Thank you for your perspective! It helps.

        — S.

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