Life update! I’m now an assistant librarian!
After I recovered from September (in which I went away to graduate school in England, had a mental breakdown, and promptly returned home), I moved through a hazy October that was more existential crisis than anything. I was really struggling with my dream of going away to school in the United Kingdom turning to ash the way it did, and I didn’t regret my choice of returning home, but I did struggle a lot with where that left me. I had this vision of my future for so long, and in two nights it had managed to entirely derail. I feared I wasn’t cut out for the life I wanted, was afraid I’d never find a life I was happy to live, and on top of all of that, I was broke and had bills. Long story short, I was depressed and deeply afraid of the future. I didn’t yet realize that the experience didn’t kill my dream, it just put them off. It wasn’t a NO, it was a not yet.
It’s almost hard to believe that I am where I am now, content when not happy, earning a fair amount of money, and looking brightly toward the future again. It’s important for me to note here that I did not get here on my own. It is also important to note that I worked damn hard for this.
I talked with a few people that I trusted, but I never felt secure in explaining myself after my return to the States. It’s hard to explain the mental illness without folks clamming up or trying to relate to you because they got homesick at camp once. It wasn’t homesickness; it wasn’t an impulsive decision because my dorm window didn’t look over the right quad. It was a mental breakdown, as simple as that. As complex and scary as that. Everyone meant well, but not everyone could appreciate that it wasn’t as easy as starting over. It wasn’t as simple as getting a job and moving on. I was dealing with a lot of residual pain and frustration, and it would take a lot of time for me to heal and reset.
But this isn’t a story about how mental illness ruined one of my dreams. This is a story about how I refused to let it have all of my dreams.
I spent October in a haze. I talked to a few people, bounced around ideas, tried not to let my dark thoughts win out. My healing started when I picked up a book and read it, when I picked up another and another, when I started to write about those books here. It helped when I put my lofty dreams into the “later date” bin instead of the “right now” one. At the end of the month, I decided I should try harder to get a job, and that I would not let my depression have my November. The first week of November, I got a call to set up an interview with a library system in the next county. The second week of November, I had an interview. Then, radio silence.
I waited. I strained against the silence. I was so sure the interview had gone well, that I had shown my strengths and my desire, but as the month wore on, I began to pick apart everything from my resume to my appearance as if I could find their rejection letter tucked into my coat pocket. In the meantime, I started a seasonal retail job, kept up work on my blog and read as much as possible. My great-grandmother passed, Thanksgiving (previously one of my favorite holidays) was non-existent, I had to work 16 hours in 24 hours for Black Friday. I heard nothing from the library for weeks. I tried not to be disappointed, as I told everyone I’d look again in the new year. It was hard, those last few weeks of the month, but I read more than I had all year, kept up my writing, and tried to be peaceful and reflective and happy. November, for all its faults, was a good month.
The last week of November, I got my phone call. I got the job and I could start in December. I was over the moon! This job really couldn’t be better for me, I thought: it was quiet, it involved little customer interaction, I didn’t have to sell anything, I could build a career, I was in a really beautiful building. It wasn’t retail, and so it was already better than anything I’d had so far. Most importantly, it was books and education in the way that I could best work with them. It was books — above all, it was books.
I have a tendency to let my imagination get away with me. I make up grand ideas about things before they happen, and, despite telling myself that I’m being foolish, I still feel a little disappointed when they aren’t as great as I had imagined. With the library, this was the opposite of the case. I couldn’t have made up a better job for myself.
I work with three other women, all of whom have been in the library system for a while, all of whom are terrifically nice and helpful. I work in a beautiful open space with great soaring windows and sunlight. It’s always just cool enough. I get to be around books all the time, and sometimes I even get to read. My tasks are fun and enjoyable. My hours are perfect. I get to sit at the front desk, talk to people about reading, drink hot tea, eat gingerbread cookies, and wear big sweaters. I feel comfortable and safe and valued. I am happy as a lark.
I kept my retail position, so I’m currently working two part time jobs with conflicting hours. I don’t have much time for myself any more, but I make the most of the little I have. I can get through the retail because I tell myself that I’ll be at the library the next day. I get a pay check from one or the other each week, which certainly is nothing to gripe about. When my seasonal work is through, I’m not sure what will happen. I might take up another job, I might retry my Etsy venture, I might wait and see what comes up.
This position is only part time, but I see a real trajectory for my career and growth here. My current goal is to be a good employee and to find a way to get up to full time. From there, I’ll be set to pursue my education, to achieve student loan forgiveness, and to eventually have my own branch to manage. I’ll have to have patience, to keep my eyes open for opportunities and take advantage of them, but in time, I think I’ll be able to build myself a happy life, surrounded by books, my oldest friends.