This is me settling in

It’s been two weeks since I started my new position in the Children’s Library, yet it feels like a month or more of separation from my old position as a cataloguer. After my first day I was heavily laden with the notion that I may have made an error in perusing this position. I came home with a splitting headache, feeling completely lost and thinking, “What have I done? This is a major cock-up, and now I’m trapped.” I know what you’re probably thinking, “It was only your first day! You can’t expect to understand everything on the first day.” Of course I knew that; I knew that, but it that knowledge did little to stem the fear that I had put myself into a situation that was way above my comfort zone, if not my abilities. I arrived the next morning to a steady stream of, “So how was your first day” questions. I did my best to sound positive, but I couldn’t stifle my commentary on how overwhelmed I felt. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to sit down with my manager and have a chat about first impressions (mine), expectations (mine and hers), and reassurances (hers). This meeting was exactly what I required to calm my anxieties and refocus my attention so that I could approach my new job one task at a time, instead of feeling like I need to learn every part all at once.

Now here it is, two weeks later and I’m feeling very positive about the decision I made. Each day I’m finding myself more and more comfortable dealing with the children and families that visit us. I am especially loving story time! Public speaking does not come easily for me, but there is something fantastic about connecting with the children though the stories I read. Even when my audience is only two or three I’m not disappointed, because when I see the look of enjoyment on their faces, it makes it all worth while. Conversely, when my audience was slightly larger than I had expected and I needed to quickly clear out a spot for everyone to huddle together because the programme room was in use, as the case happened to be today, I thought nothing of it. I was just excited to get a nice turn out, and I simply wanted them to enjoy themselves. In the past I would have been nervous and flustered, and hesitant to engage the children. Instead I can I feel my confidence grow each day.

In one of my previous posts I spoke of looking forward to a job where I felt I could make a difference. Something happened yesterday that brought this to the fore. A mother came in with two small boys. The mother needed to take care of some very important matters with a staff member, but she would be unable to do so and still watch her children. It fell to a couple of us to team up in order to keep the two boys occupied. I took on the toddler, who was most determined to exit the library. I ended up spending a good half hour corralling, chasing, and mesmerising the little guy with an array of ridiculousness and improvised acrobatics. By the time I was tagged out by a coworker I was exhausted, but felt amazing. All other considerations, including any potential embarrassment as I chased after the tot out into the main foyer leaping around like a demented cross between a frog and some type of ogre, were set aside as I focused on keeping the boy safe and contained and, well, entertained. Afterwards we were told that our efforts were noted and very much appreciated. While I am not out for the recognition, I nonetheless was bolstered by it, if for nothing more than a validation of my decision and an indication that I am on the right track.

I still have a lot to learn in my new position as I take on new programmes and responsibilities, but I no longer feel hopelessly lost; rather I feel as though I’ve found the right place for me; a place where, at the end of the day, I can leave and feel as though I’ve accomplished something. It’s been a while since I’ve felt that way about a job.

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Ctrl+Alt+Del, In which I discuss a new job and old neuroses, whilst entertaining delusions that this is of some importance to others

Next week I will be leaving my position as a cataloguer and beginning a position as a library assistant in the children’s library. Next week I will be rebooting my library career. Next week I will be reinventing myself; again.

Four and a half years ago I left the public floor of the library to try my hand at cataloguing. Up to that point I had never catalogued a book before, nor had I taken any courses to that end, but I had spent about 12 years on the public floor and seriously, deeply, undeniably needed to get away from the public. It took a lot to adjust to my new life as a cataloguer:

  1. No public – This was a relief, to say the least. I was safely removed from the teeming masses and I loved it!
  2. Regular hours – I was used to working day, evening, and weekend shifts. Now it was much easier to plan my life, especially with a newborn and another that was yet to come.
  3. No desks to cover – if I did need to take time off, it was relatively easy as the department could accommodate my absence without worrying too much about covering my position.
  4. Learning to do something I had no idea how to do – I’ve spent a large portion of my life feeling like a poser, so why not add some more stress to the mix.

Now all of that is about to change. I won’t go into the whole back story, the important part is that I needed to move on and an opportunity presented itself. So in a few days I will returning back down to the main floor to experience:

  1. The public – Was four and a half years enough time to recuperate? I guess we’ll see.
  2. Semi-regular hours – Once again I will have to write down my schedule. The time juggling begins.
  3. Desks to cover – My lovely microcosm of self will once again interact with the macrocosm of other individuals who will be directly affected by my schedule. The diplomacy begins.
  4. I will now be involved and responsible for a wide range of children’s programming and reader’s advisory. The apprehension begins:

I have two children, a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son. I have a Bachelor of Education in Elementary. I have a few months experience as a supply teacher. I have over 12 years experience working with the public at the library. Lovely, right? Then why am I so worried that, once again, I will feel like a complete fraud? Well it just so happens I though about this quite a bit, and here’s what I’ve come up with. I’ve taken on a few hobbies, activities, and interests through out my life. However, my ability/desire to maintain these has been somewhat limited. You know that saying about doing one thing and doing it well? This does not describe me. I have dabbled, skimmed, and cribbed my way through many things; that my first degree was in Liberal Arts is indicative; in fact, I spent hundreds of dollars on textbooks of which I primarily read only the introductions and conclusions to the chapters. When I was younger I wanted to be an artist, but became easily frustrated when trying to produce artwork of any substance. I rarely finish any book I start, no matter how interested I am in the topic. I’ve done indoor climbing in the past, but soon stopped after it became apparent that I would need to put more scheduling effort and money into continuing. I took piano for years when I was younger, but have next to nothing to show for it because I was crap a practicing; I also have a year of cello that ended abruptly due to disinterest. This is my third attempt at maintaining a blog. Over the years I’ve reached only the level of yellow belt in Judo and Wing Chun, have only three months of Tai Chi, and while I’ve been “practicing” Muay Thai for about 12 years, it’s been limited to one night a week, with no ring experience. The one thing I have put substantial effort into is running, but even then I find myself lacking conviction when counting myself as a runner, especially when I am in the presence of other runners. In most things I choose, I seem to lack the desire to commit fully to the enterprise. I have difficulty stepping over the line with both feet, fearing that I will not be able to go back. “What if I dive head first into this or that and find out, only after considerable time, effort, and resources, that I am no good at it?” This is a question that has haunted me for most of my life. I’m more of a thinker than a doer. The problem with all that thinking is that often I will explore the position of Devil’s advocate, and then tend to stay on that side. As a result, I have great difficulty giving my heart over to a project or pursuit, thereby leaving me with the feeling that my life has been a series of facades, built on suspect foundations, using cut-price materials.

With this in mind, I return to my new position. How am I to face this new challenge? How am I to survive when my knowledge of children’s literature is mostly limited to the few favourite authors that I like to read to my children. How am I to impress the love of reading with young people when I rarely read when I was young, going so far as to pass off short stories as novels when doing book reports in school? How will I convince you, the reader, that I am more than just a shallow hack of a blogger that spends too much time wallowing in self-esteem issues? To be honest, I have nothing for that last one; but for the rest, I think it’s time for me to cross over the line with both feet.

It took me three years to get to a place where I felt comfortable as a cataloguer. Will it take me three years to get comfortable in my new position? Perhaps; but so be it! What I need to do is strip down of the old me, salvage the good stuff, and rebuild. In a way, this is an excellent opportunity for me to reexamine how I approach life and work. I mentioned that I had become comfortable in my current position, maybe too comfortable. I will admit that challenges have been few and far between, and the result has been some long, very long days. In my new position I am expecting to be challenged on a daily basis. I am naturally introverted, so having to once again deal with people all day will push my comfort limits. I will be challenged in creating and executing programming for children; the only way I will become proficient is to get right in there and start doing it. Yet I am not very good at accepting failure, and by not very good I mean, shite. I still harbour ill feelings about a programme I tried to put together over four years ago that failed. I need to get over myself and my absurdly skewed ideas of what outcomes should be. Not everything I plan will be successful; I know that; I know that. I guess the frustrating part is that I know it, but I still have a hard time accepting it; but accept it I must!

Again, it’s time to rebuild myself. This does not mean a wholesale wiping of the hard drive. What it does mean is that I need to jettison some of the baggage, a lot of the baggage, that I’m carrying around. I need to focus on the task at hand without dwelling in the past. I have to commit to a new attitude if I am to give this new position and myself the best opportunity to succeed, and I can’t do that if I am forever dredging up feelings of inadequacy mixed with grudges formed by crappy customer service encounters from years gone by. Fear not! I am not going to turn into Mr. Happy-Super-Optimistic-Unicorns-Shitting-Rainbows-On-A Silver-Cloud. That would not be me, and that would not be good. I will remain Mr. Realist; Mr. Rational; Mr. Delightfully Sarcastic; but I will keep myself in check. My focus will be the children who enter into our library. My task will be to carry out, to the best of my ability, the fostering of literacy with the children and their families. I will no longer be squirreled away, but will be out amongst the little ones. I will no longer be behind the scenes, but front and centre (possibly making a scene as I work with the children). As I am writing this, the realization is sinking in that I will get to work with kids every day, helping them learn and discover. How freakin’ cool is that!

The fear and the uncertainty is still there, but it is equally mixed with excitement and anticipation. I know I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher, but maybe I can find in this something just as satisfying. For the first time in quite a few years, I feel like I will be making a difference in my job, and that is something that I can look forward to; something that I can use as a foundation to build upon, this time, hopefully, with quality materials.