I didn’t grow up wanting to be a librarian. I either wanted to be a doctor, or in the starting rotation for the Mets.
I was a skinny kid with no control, so the pitching career was out. And doctoring lost its allure for no apparent reason.
I had ideas of being an artist. A funny thing happened to that, though. As a kid, I could draw very well. But as I grew into my teenage years, and slowly uncovered my vocation for writing, my drawing skills deteriorated as my writing grew better. Of course, one could easily say that was due to the fact that I spent more time writing than I did drawing. But don’t give me that psycho-mumbo claptrap. I traded one gift for another, a gift which I used more or less all right, for a gift which has sustained me all these years. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
But, there was still the matter of a career. I went into UCLA with the intention of entering its computer science program. Another funny thing happened, this time to my math and science skills: as I got better at writing, I became worse at math and science. This fact was brought home indelibly to me one quarter, where in a fit of madness I took physics and calculus at the same time. I pretty much bombed in both. That was the moment when I had to engage in serious reflection, and accept that I wouldn’t traverse the usual first-generation American trajectory of going to university and getting a degree in the sciences which would secure me gainful employment. I declared English as my major. My mother didn’t weep, and I spent the following three years very happily at UCLA.
But, STILL, there was the problem of a career. I’m of Generation X, and we’re an ornery sort. We knew we’d been screwed by the Boomers, that all we could finagle were McJobs, that our Social Security would be left bankrupt, that the world was against us. I saw MTV devolve from a somewhat revolutionary music channel to a purveyor of awful reality shows. I saw Reagan set the country on a rightward path to such an extent that we’re still recovering from it. I saw late night black and white movies on our local independent TV stations replaced by infomercials. I saw those damned kids not getting off of my lawn. And I had no idea what to do with my life.
I toiled in retail (Pier 1 Imports, if you must know). I took a few computer classes and landed in telecom, when it was still a thing. I somehow lasted in that industry for over a decade. And by the end I hated every waking moment of my life.
This is the thing about telecom: it’s a business for sharks and charlatans. My boss was the smarmiest goat-fucker you’d ever meet. He’d promise you the moon, then reach into your pocket while you were dazzled by him. And everyone in the telecom canyon of downtown Los Angeles was like him, screwing everyone else, trying to stay afloat. By 2004 I loathed myself.
My stutter didn’t help. I felt I was in a situation where I had to cling to my job, as no one else would hire me. (I know, I was grossly exaggerating; but when you have an affliction like a stutter, it does color how you view the world. But that’s for another blog post.)
Around 2004, a few things converged to change everything. I’d been under a doctor’s care for my stutter for a year, and had seen a marked improvement in my speech. That spurred me to the realization that, yes, I had to get out of that place.
After receiving my undergraduate degree, I had thought about attending UCLA’s library science program. I even passed the GRE with more than decent scores. But the thought of going right back to school didn’t sit well with me—even though, frankly, I had nothing else better to do. So I wandered in the wilderness until telecom had almost sucked me dry, and took the plunge. I got into San Jose State University’s program, stormed through it, applied everywhere, and found the job at which I am now.
In the end, I didn’t choose to be a librarian because it was a “good enough” job. I had been thinking of doing it for over a decade. I just needed the right confluence of factors to get me going.
In the stories about my adventures in librarianship which I shall post, you will see a lot of sardonic humor, of an amazement at the incapacity of human beings to see beyond their own noses. Being a public librarian brings you into contact with the full spectrum of human life, both bad and good.
But I love my job. As much as I’m sure I am to be a writer, I’m equally certain that I’m in the right place for my paying gig. Sometimes the 2% of bad interactions weigh on me. But in almost no time I slough them off, and focus on the 98% of people who are simply wonderful and are grateful for the help I give them.
So, in the reboot of this blog (which will be much more varied than it has been), I hope you’ll join me. It’s going to be an interesting ride.