Many years ago, I thought about becoming a librarian. I have always had a love affair with the written word. Books, magazines, plays, textbooks – I loved them all. So I thought: I’ll be a librarian.
I understand this won’t sound exciting to most people. But to me, it sounded like heaven. I would spend all day, every day, surrounded by the printed word, breathing the wonderfully musty smell of the pages of aging novels, and getting giddy off the fresh ink of newsprint. I would read Dr. Seuss to young children, and schedule book clubs in the library study rooms. Every day I would meet other lovers of language and books, and I would help frustrated students find the materials they needed. It sounded more fun than a day at the circus — especially to me, because I think the circus is not really a great place what with all the disturbing clowns and sad looking bears being forced to wear frilly collars.
Despite so many tempting perks of a career among books, I never pursued my dream. It was not because of practical concerns such as the amount of education needed, or the amount of my future salary, or the narrow job market. No, the only thing that held me back was my own perception of who a librarian should be. Librarians, I believed, should be thoughtful, circumspect, and most of all, quiet.
I am none of those things.
Well, maybe I am thoughtful, but not in a deep and meaningful way, not in a way where someone asks me what I am thinking and then I say, “I’m considering the implications of Machiavelli’s The Prince on Renaissance society, and how those implications continue to have a ripple effect on our world today.” The truth is, if you ask me what I am thinking, I am more likely to answer with something like, “I’m wondering why red wine sometimes gives me a headache and other times not?” In other words, I do spend time thinking and wondering, but not necessarily about anything worth considering.
As for circumspect and quiet? Ah, no. In fact, as much as I love libraries, I must admit that on several occasions I have been reprimanded by librarians for making too much noise. Not random noise – I don’t sing the Star Spangled Banner while I peruse the card catalog or bounce rubber balls off the walls of the study room – only my usual, baseline level of noise, the noise of being me. I might find a book I really want to read, or spy a friend I wasn’t expecting to see standing in the library aisles, and before I can stop myself I call out in excitement. I tend towards exuberance.
It has been my experience that exuberance in a library will always – always! – get you shushed.
So, I never became a librarian and only because I thought I wasn’t the type of person who a librarian “should” be.
I believed librarians “should” be quiet, never boisterous. They “should” present a demure appearance, not wear the dangly earrings and the bright colors I favor. They “should” be prim, not prone to the “expressive” language I sometime use. In other words, they “should” be everything I am not.
In retrospect, I realize I did not know the first thing about being a librarian, but I decided I did. In fact, I created completely imaginary standards for librarians in my head.
And then, I decided not to become a librarian because I could not fit into my own arbitrary, made up standards.
I don’t know if that decision changed my life forever. Maybe I would have taken a semester’s worth of classes, hated it, and ended up doing something completely different anyway. But, I will never know what I could have done, or been, or experienced because I shut myself down before I even started — and not just about becoming a librarian, but about all kinds of things, in many different areas of my life. I thought I knew how things “should” be, when really, I knew nothing.
I don’t want to do that to myself anymore.
This month is NaNoWriMo and I wasted the whole first day arguing with myself about what I “should” write – so much so that I wrote nothing at all. Finally, I decided it didn’t matter what I wrote, as long as it made me happy.
So, that’s what I’m doing. I’m writing a story – the story I want to write, not the one I think a pastor’s wife “should” write or a good mom “should” write or an educated person “should” create. It’s not especially spiritual, or deep, or thought provoking. It’s quirky, and offbeat, and a little sad and a little funny.
And you know what? I love it!
So, I’m not going to say the “S word” anymore. Not that one, anyway.
NaNoWriMo Current Word Count: 13,155
Word Count Goal: 50,000 words by November 30