Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lessons from Leslie Knope

As per usual, I arrived in Pawnee a bit late. But like most Knope-inspired acts, my arrival came at the perfect time. Facing the start of my third semester of grad school, my most difficult yet, I felt like it was all I could do to keep my feet on solid ground.

Then,  fell into a pit. And it was the best decision I ever made. 

Leslie Knope and the city of Pawnee welcomed me with open arms. At its core, Parks is a love letter--to second chances, to flaws, to kindness, to a miniature horse, to my beloved Midwest, and above all, to friendship. I laughed through my tears, ate a lot of breakfast food, and learned lessons that will always remain close to my heart:

Be the Leslie Knope of whatever you do. This has become something of a mantra to me, and because it's currently my desktop background, I see it every day while I'm working on homework. As trite as it sounds, this is such an encouragement to me. Unlike Leslie, I have a tendency to procrastinate. I get distracted. I scroll through Instagram (or write blog posts) when I'm bored or practicing avoidance. And then I read those words. Would Leslie mindlessly scroll through her Facebook newsfeed (Gryzzlfeed?) or would she make a binder and get shit done? I share Leslie's passion and enthusiasm for community. I'm working on her unbridled drive.

"Librarians are dangerous." Admittedly, this one may be a bit of a stretch. Tammy 2 is a dangerous librarian because she's vindictive, manipulating, and also looks really, really hot in a pencil skirt. But librarians are dangerous. We fight for intellectual freedom and privacy in the face of censorship (and the Patriot Act). We provide access to all information, not just what is widely popular or accepted. We give a sense of place to those seeking refuge, whether it be from the elements or from ignorance. Much like Leslie's beloved parks, everyone is welcome. While I will have to disagree with Leslie on the "mean, rude, and conniving," I will say that we are well-read. And with this powerful knowledge, we are the most dangerous punk-ass book jockeys in history. 

"Uteruses before duderuses." While I've always had a good mixture of both male and female friends, I've always had a special bond, a special place in my heart for my girls. Leslie is unapologetically, madly in love with her female friends. She values their friendship and supports them wholeheartedly in all of their endeavors. More than anything, she wants them to be happy.  I have so many beautiful tropical fish in my life, and if I could, I would cross stitch your beautiful faces on throw pillows just so you would never doubt how amazing you all are.

"No one achieves anything alone." These words came at a perfect time. Never in my life have I been more aware of the support and love that surrounds me. Grad school is difficult. I spend most of my time in various nests in my apartment, textbooks and notebooks spread before me, the glow of my laptop my only companion. Even for this introvert, it can feel very isolating. I haven't been a very good friend (or wife, or daughter) this past year, it pains me to admit. I've flaked out on invitations for parties, bars, coffee, movies. I've holed myself away night after night, headphones in, eyes squinting with only a handful of words spoken to my husband. I haven't called, I haven't checked in. I've been distracted and forgetful. But the wonderful people in my life, my family (whether by blood or by choice) have supported me wholeheartedly. I know I don't deserve it, but without them, I wouldn't be where I am today. Without their unfaltering support, their patience and kindness, their encouragement, I would have given up long ago. I would have never even began. No one achieves anything alone.

Sometimes despite your best efforts, you fall into the pit. It hurts. It's embarrassing. It may not be your finest moment. But do not be discouraged. Stand up, brush off the dirt, and turn that pit into the best damn park Pawnee has ever seen. Sometimes, inevitably, you fall into the pit. But falling into the pit isn't the end. Sometimes, with a lot of hard work and a little help from your friends, falling into the pit is just the beginning.

Thank you, Leslie. For everything.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

First Year Redux: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace My Passion

A page from The Dork Diaries: Tales from a
Not-So-Fabulous Life
 by Rachel Renee Russell.

The holidays are (long) past and the sidewalks are covered  buried in snow, which means that I find myself at the start of another semester. AND the start of this semester also marks the half-way point for me in my program. I graduate in December. What?!?!

This past year has been a whirlwind to say the least. It has certainly had its ups and downs, good days and bad. There are times that it has been a struggle, but every day I'm so grateful for how far I've come. I've found my calling, my passion. I get to spend two years studying and spending time in libraries and then at the end of it, I get to work in a library. Somebody pinch me. 

Two years ago, I never would have dreamed that I would find myself here. I didn't think I had the courage or the strength to pull myself out of my dead end job, let alone imagine that I could find a career that I loved. My only regret is that I didn't come to this realization sooner. I feel like I've wasted so much time. 

In this past year, I've learned about the foundations and ethics of the librarian profession. I've strugglebussed my way through HTML and MARC records, case studies and budgets. I discovered a knack for reference and desire to provide the best library services to typically underserved populations. This semester, I'm delving deeper into the world of public libraries and working to get myself current on children's literature. Today, I will return to my roots and begin an internship position at a small, rural library. I can't wait to get my hands dirty and put into practice what I'm learning in my classes. 

This past year has certainly been a challenge, and this upcoming year promises to hold more of the same. I've worked so hard and sacrificed so much, but I would have crumbled without the support of my family and friends. They've put up with my flakiness and absence, and encouraged me through it all. 

To Morgan, Max, Victoria, Joel, Maureen, Jason, Chuck, Emily, Dani, Dave, Sean, Julia, Bridgett, John, Randy, Kayla, Betz, Rachel, Ryan, Sarah, Steve, Shannon: For buying me drinks, recommending music and podcasts to keep me going through marathon homework sessions, for checking on me and insisting that I get out. For recommending and loaning me your favorite books, taking my research surveys, and putting up with my punk-ass book jockey nonsense. For listening and encouraging and understanding. 

To the casts of 30 Rock, Frasier, Friends, Law & Order: SVU, Parks and Recreation, and The X-Files: For keeping me company into those late nights and giving my brain something else to think about besides libraries. 

To my parents: For buying me a collection of Golden Books before I was even born, reading me stories, and taking me to the library. For encouraging me to pursue my dreams, for never questioning my reading habits or telling me to put down my book. For your undying, unending, and unwavering support.

To Kyle, always: For everything. Literally. For the pots of coffee, late nights, and weekends spent doing nothing but studying. For never complaining about being a grad school widower. For wiping away my tears and giving me the courage to keep going. For believing in me always, even when I don't believe in myself. 

I'm so, so fortunate to be here. And I'm so, so fortunate to have you wonderful people at my side. "No one achieves anything alone."