Lately, my morale has not been good. And when I say it hasn’t been good, that’s me being generous because it’s so bare bones right now. I don’t really like feeling this way but I’m also trying to give myself a little time to feel it, dissect it, become better because of it. Reflection is good, so I’ll share what I’m feeling.

The situation: I am fraught with weird, gutting undercurrents of anxiety. And the first problem is that I hate to even admit it. Not because I’m full of pride–can you tell I’m an open book?–but because I don’t want to be told some variation of: “Well, that’s what you get when you take on too much,” or “You’re burned out,” etc. I think often that comes from a kind place and, admittedly, I don’t think I have stellar work-life balance right now. However, there is nothing I despise more than being tsk tsked because of my work schedule or responsibilities. I asked for it. I’m a typical ISTJ, put me to work and I will bulldoze through tasks. Scrutinize my workload and there’s little that could incense my further. I don’t work to be busy; I don’t work to complain. I work to earn options in my career. If I didn’t work to the extent I do I would be anxious too, just for different reasons. Really it just comes down to me being twentysomething, meandering and lost and broke, figuring out so many life things alongside the professional. It’s bound to get messy sometimes. So here goes.

1. Lately I’ve been petrified as being perceived as someone that’s trying too hard. It is painful to realize that the CV I have poured so much energy into is now something I feel trapped by. I keep thinking back on that girl in high school who was in the photo for every single club. Anime club, French club, Forensics… flipping through the yearbook, her face would be on each page. Has that become me? Does my superinvolvement read as obscene, too much?

I have done a lot in the past year and a half. I am terribly proud of the work I have put in–both the long-term planning and the daily grind–because it didn’t always come easy, but I stuck with it. And truly, I’ve been involved in so much because I’m still finding out where I fit. There’s a lot that comes with the word digital. The job postings that look most appealing to me are often the ones that are a random mixed bag of tasks and responsibilities. But seriously… trying to gain experience in digital libraries/archives/stewardship/ preservation/curation/humanities… there are SO many terms, SO many responsibilities, SO many expectations for being able to relate to all of it. (My expectations.)

Mostly I’ve been excited by this variety and the chance to become a digital generalist. Let’s face it, anything less and I’d probably be bored! But for some reason right now I just feel like what I’ve done, what I’m doing, makes me seem like an automaton and kind of, I don’t know, shallowly flashy? I always wanted employers to look at my CV and think, My, she has worked hard. She really wants this. But what if they look think I’m all over the place instead?

And on that note…

2. The foundation of my strong work ethic is that I am driven. Yes, motivated. I want a career in this field. Perhaps this is just my perspective, or colored by gender–but sometimes it feels inappropriate to be ambitious. Like I will be perceived as less of a wholesome, pure hearted, service-oriented librarian. Like it is more appropriate to coyly float up the ranks and just “find” myself successful. But that sort of accidental trajectory really doesn’t work for me. I value having control and choices–and I am happy to earn them.

When I was in high school I would sit in classes and just write in my journal. I really didn’t care that much. I got As and Bs with very little effort. I kept to myself.

When I was an undergraduate I decided to graduate in three years. It was doable. I would be an English major, Rhetoric and Composition focus because I just couldn’t do Lit. (I read voraciously but felt the life sucked out by all that fussy overanalysis. Theory, blech. I preferred technical writing in every instance.) I got As and Bs with very little effort. My BA was just something to get through, so I did.

Fast forward to now. I’ve been in graduate school for a year and a half and my experience has felt quite different. I am fully engaged in the work I do. I found the fire I was searching for. I care! I can apply my skills to a field I enjoy! I still get As and Bs with what I’d deem little effort. But! Life is infinitely more fulfilling. My ambition is a true measure of how much this profession matters to me.

And that leads me to…

3. Underscoring all of this is a story.

I work well when I have goals, so I set a goal for myself when I came to IU in the fall of 2011. I decided I would do everything possible to secure a particular position for myself after graduating. I’ve held onto thoughts about the position when I needed encouragement to stay an extra hour, two hours, on this project or that project. It has been at the back of my mind since I came to SLIS.

Recently I discovered that this position is going through the hiring process for the upcoming year. Although this has nothing to do with me or my chances (I apply this fall), I was struck with this deep, cold, toxic fear that despite my jobs and presentations and carefully cultivated digital project skill set, it will not be enough when I apply next year. I will be that girl who tried too hard. Or that girl who was too general, not specialized enough. Or that girl who just came close. Or that girl with a pretty CV who disappoints in person. Or… some variation on the aforementioned. Some quietly sinister failure.

These are my greatest fears. I fully realize that I if I don’t get the position, I will cry. I will mourn. But I’ll get over it and get a job, then another job, and so forth–and build a fulfilling career. Rationally, I get this–but I’m really hung up on it in this moment.

None of this is helped by a burgeoning cold, being chronically tired, about to hit the 5-year mark with a significant other as we stare blankly toward a hazy future. I’m adrift in more ways than one, but building a career is a solid something I’m used to hanging my hat on. A source of pride, accomplishment, and happiness. Lately, this area of my life has felt anything but comforting. It is disorienting.

I guess this post is mostly about having large dreams that make you feel vulnerable. And about how no matter what your resume/CV looks like, you’ll never feel totally secure. A little impostor syndrome thrown in for good measure. Soon, I’m hoping to move back into a place where these unfun thoughts aren’t dominant and I can just get back to work, unfettered.


  1. For what it’s worth, I don’t think anyone could look at your CV and not think that you are incredibly hardworking, engaged, and ambitious (in the best sense). The current library job market is tough, but I have no doubt that you’ll do well in it. I look forward to reading about where you wind up!

  2. I agree with Melissa. I don’t think the problem is necessarily your CV or that you’re working too hard. You’re facing an crossroads in your life and it’s definitely difficult to choose one or two paths to go down.

    As someone who graduated from LIS school (2011) and had no idea where I was going except to digital I can tell you that there are opportunities abound and that sometimes you end up in the most interesting situations.

    Keep your options open, keep your mind open, and keep trucking. You’ll do fine! If you need anyone to talk too (I went through a lot of the same kinds of anxiety you’re describing, let me know:))

    1. Thanks so much Alex! When I wrote this post I was vacillating between being excited by all that I have going on and feeling like I need to be more specialized. I think I’ve mostly come through that though I’m sure the same feelings will re-emerge periodically–especially since I’m not even at the point where I’m applying for jobs yet. I appreciate your words of advice and I will definitely take you up on your offer soon!

  3. Was chatting with a librarian and was reminded to check in here.

    I wouldn’t sweat it…my parents were big on que sera sera and it’s worked well for me. Might just be good karma but i think volunteering at a buddhist temple got you some good points! Fact is, most people never do their plan A, or B…more likely plan E! Life changes way too fast and people do too…you included. What i thought i wanted to do isn’t what i’m doing now, but i do realize i’m a perfect fit for what i am doing now…so it’s all worked out for the best. I’m sure the same opportunities will open for you! Be patient! Good luck!!

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