Monday, February 18, 2013

Keeping It All Together...Or At Least Giving It the Graduate School Try...

One of the many things people ask me about my journey in library school is how I do it, what made me decide to do it, and how do I manage to keep lots of balls in the air.  In this post, I'll give you the quick and dirty on how my life is not complete chaos, along with some of the things that went into my decision-making to completely upend my life and follow a girlhood dream.

What Made Me Decide to Do It:

1.  I was about to turn 40, I had a job that I liked, but I wondered what I wanted to be doing for the next 30-40 years (since Social Security will be something for the archivists to explain).  My life was okay, but I knew that okay wasn't going to be enough for me and my personality. 

2. By chance, I made friends with the director of the library system in my hometown.  He is an amazing man and now a mentor.  I told him that I had always wanted to be a librarian, but that I would probably just wait and be the nice old lady at the desk checking out books in my retirement. This is, of course, when I thought I still would retire at a decent age.  He posed a query to me that stuck:  "Why wait?  You could go to library school and be finished in 2 years." I laughed, thought about my vow to never go to school again and waved him off.  He responded by putting me on an advisory committee for the strategic plan for the system.  This was in preparation in part to present a plan to voters about how the library would continue to be vital to the community (anybody hear millage renewal in all this?).  I was hooked, especially when the consultant, ALA legend Sandra Nelson, told me I was a natural librarian.  At this point, I thought, "Hmm, what if?" I quickly banished the thought and went back to my life.

3.  Four months after that conversation, my mother became very ill and subsequently passed away.  My core completely shifted and I knew that I had to get busy living or get busy dying.  The next year of my life was pretty crazy, but I look back now and know that God was simply preparing me for the next phase of my life.

4.  During said crazy year, in a passing conversation with a good friend of mine, he mentioned that his aunt was a librarian at a local university.  What he failed to tell me was that she is a diva librarian and the dean of libraries at that university.  On a lark, I called her and set up a meeting just to talk with her.  By the time I walked out the door, I was scheduled to meet with the dean of my library school along with one of the professors, who has since become a mentor.  This was November 28.  By December 10, I had applied, and I started school on January 14.  The stars really aligned.

How I Stay Sane and Casually Organized:

Being a full time student is a challenge.  Scratch that -- it is flippin' HARD!!!  I have to manage to go to class, study, prepare, complete assignments and projects and all the attendant work that goes along with that.  Since I didn't win the lottery, I also have to work.  This is good though, because it gives a dimension to my education that I really appreciate.   I also have to have ME time. 

1.  I have learned to say NO! As much as I would love to do a lot of things, like teach catechism to kids at my church, sew some of my own clothes, go on spur of the moment trips with my girlfriends like I used to do, I have to decline.  A lot.  I don't really worry about this, because I have wonderful friends who know what I'm doing and are very supportive. 

2.  I know that this lifestyle is temporary.  I won't always be in this crazy work/school mode.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and that is a good thing.

3.  I don't worry much about what people think of this.  I've made a lot of sacrifices to graduate from library school debt free.  I moved home with my dad for several months to save money to be full time.  I cannot tell you when I've been on a real shopping spree.  I don't eat out very much at all.  My life looks very different from when I was a lawyer making (somewhat) lawyer money.  But I am happier than I have ever been in my life.  I know what my priorities are and what my outcomes my look like.  And that makes me leap out of bed every day.

4.  I don't need nearly as much as I used to think that I did.  This goes for clothes, cable, mani/pedi's, stuff and forms of entertainment.  I am very happy listening to music or watching a documentary on PBS.  I also got rid of a lot of STUFF that was beginning to overtake my space.  I have read about 50 books on simplifying my life.  Little did I know that it doesn't work until you actually do it. 

5.  I have a routine.  I must do this in order to balance 2 jobs and coursework.  I find that the routine almost completely eliminates stress.  I have a lot to do, but I don't have a lot of stress about it, because it's all on the calendar.

6. I get proper rest.  That is probably the biggest key to success.  If I don't get enough sleep, I am useless.  Therefore, my 8 hours is a priority. 

7.  I remember why I am doing this.  As busy as I am, I really love my work and my classes.  I can envision myself as a true information professional.  I know that in 15 months, I will be a degreed librarian, and I have faith that God will place me exactly where I am supposed to be.  This is a small sacrifice of time that I've invested for an amazing quality of life for the foreseeable future. 

8.  I lean on my family.  My family is very supportive of me having "hit reset on my life," according to my brother.  That means everything.  Plus, the free meals are a definite treat!

9.  Being a student is fun.  I had a great college experience, and I feel like I'm getting a do-over.  I mean, there are no more crawfish boils and keggers at someone's house or frat house any longer, but I feel like I am really soaking in this entire experience.

10.  I am infinitely blessed to be able to do this.  I know that there are people who dream of doing what I did, but they have kids, or other responsibilities that keep them from it.  When it gets hard, and believe me, it does get hard, I know that I have been given a gift.  I don't take that for granted.  Ever. 

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