Are You What You Do?

One of my good friends teaches middle school English in South Central LA. She is one of the most caring, patient, and awesome people that I know. The other day I received a burnt out, one her last leg, ready to damn it all text from her talking about how she was re-thinking her choice of career after only 2 years due to being so over worked, over stressed, and underpaid. I sent her this response verbatim:

I’m gonna be honest with you here. That is just life. It’s always going to be that way. I’ve worked 2 jobs for 3 years running myself into the ground, subjecting myself to all kinds of various rejections and snakes in the grass and all kinds of crazy (expletive). BUT the silver lining here is that you do what you LOVE and what you are meant to be doing. Most people aren’t that lucky, they end up working in f’ing box factory or something dismal like that. Just keep your head up. Know that you are making a difference and meeting likeminded people and that things will get easier and better. Just focus on WHY you do it and keep moving forward. Life if good, and you my friend are doing awesome at it.

I re-read the text, and wondered why I couldn’t take my own advice. So, I didn’t quit the public, not yet anyways… Part of me wishes I had. I have my reasons and I’m still trying to push through it all. I think it must be the same with each workplace that you find may be a bit toxic, there’s talk, you see the things that are so infuriating and you share stories. At the end of the day I’m sure we’ve all been in workplaces that felt, after a while, to lose their “charm”. This could be for one, or many of these different reasons:

The relationship to the nature of the work that you do changes

The relationship with one, or multiple co-workers’ changes

The actual job duties and schedule of the position changes

There may be new hopes, dreams or ambitions that make you question the current position

Becoming bored with the same old same old and wanting more for yourself

Hitting that ceiling where you can’t move forward, or upward in your position

Change is inevitable in life. Institutions change, organizations change, libraries change, strategic goals and missions change, budgets change, and people come and go adding to or taking away from a work environment. This happens constantly, to everybody, but I feel like it may just have been a little more chaotic as somebody that has not only one, but two very different work environments (the part-time, multiple job epidemic). Either way, I’m trying to keep treading water where I am until it all clicks somehow.

In the meantime, I look up from the ref desk today and see… is it a sign? Yes, another sign from the library gods.. This book:


How to Be Happy at Work: The Power of Purpose, Hope and Friendships by Annie McKee.

I don’t have a review for this yet since I literally just grabbed it from the shelf, but starting the first chapter, the author mentions that so many people are unhappy with their work situations, and that we often settle, or try to tell ourselves that work just isn’t a place to be happy. I mean that just sucks. I’ve been so rebellious lately saying NO, I will find that perfect place, but maybe I’m just stuck because I’m refusing to see something in myself that is being unwilling.

I saw another thing in Global Road Warrior that made me think this week too. While helping a student do research on verbal and nonverbal communication in Chinese vs. American cultures I cruised over to the stereotypes section of American culture to see what I came up with. There were a few good ones, and a few not so good ones, but this one caught my attention:

Work Hard, Play Harder

When Americans do play they devote themselves to it with an all-out ethic.

Americans like to work to get ahead, but we also know when it is time to relax.

Americans work more hours per week than their European competitors and have far fewer vacation days. Rather than regret this disparity, the Americans see it as an example of why Europe is in decline and America is still in ascendancy. Hard work is still looked upon as an ideal in the U.S., and play doesn’t start until all the work is done. When Americans do play they devote themselves to it with a similar all-out ethic. Americans define themselves by their jobs, and a standard conversation opener is, “So, what do you do?”

(Global Road Warrior, 2018)

This is under the “Stereotypes generally accepted by Americans” section. That last line is what I hovered over for so long… I am one of these people that defines myself by my job, clearly. I am also somebody who cannot separate myself from being emotionally involved in my work, nor do I wish to be. So, I’m still kind of stuck here. I will read this book, and sigh, and keep on drinking gallons of coffee and hoping for the best. I think a birthday weekend and a trip up to Santa Cruz may be just what I need to re-gather my bearings and reset. I like being a librarian ultimately, but nobody likes a librarian on the edge, especially not me.

Global Road Warrior. “United States: Stereotypes.” Retrieved March 20, 2018, from