Let’s face it. Who doesn’t want a reason to justify their laziness and Game of Thrones binge watching? Well…hopefully not just me 🙂 But really, with classes, papers, projects, work, extracurricular activities (library-related or not), and looking for a library job, being lazy is really just giving yourself space to breathe and reflect. However, sometimes it is overwork, overachievement, and, unfortunately, burnout, which reaps rewards such as new librarian jobs, awards, scholarships, recognitions, and so forth. Some of us thrive on competition, others loathe it. Some of us are in between. And sometimes we just love what we do so much that we want to constantly do it and become that rockstar librarian!
As a child, I loved math class. I’ll never forget consistently being the first to finish the timed math quizzes in Mrs. Macro’s 1st grade class, always getting 20/20 correct. Well, not always. Because I remember one time Mrs. Macro was standing over me, looking at the clock as I whizzed through my quiz. Suddenly, she called time and I wasn’t finished. This crushed me. I stared at my quiz that only had 17 answers. I was (and still am) convinced that she did this on purpose. Maybe it was a way to humble me. Or, ok fine, maybe I was just slow. I guess the point of this story is that even though I wasn’t a malicious child, my speed and accuracy in math became the one way I was better than others in that class (CONFESSION: I still take pride in my first grade feat). Had the quizzes been measured differently, perhaps by demonstrating the work or by how many questions I could help a fellow classmate understand or any non-competitive, non-merit-based method, maybe I would have felt differently. Maybe I would have performed differently. And I hesitate to say “better” or “worse” because really, it is arguable that this is language fostered through the advent of colonization.
Shahjahan (2015) argues that Eurocentric notions of time have colonized our bodies and engendered a sense of inferiority for not being productive. He discusses that the linear notion of time, including Darwin’s evolutionary theory, ultimately “underpin[s] our theories of student development, faculty development, etc. For instance, consider how the language of ‘stages in development’ are all tied to progress, which are in turn connected to linear notions of time and history” (p. 490). After Christiaan Huygens invention of the pendulum clock in 1657, “time was delinked from human bodies, and human bodies from nature” (p. 490).
Shahjahan (2015) invites us to be “lazy” and slow down, discussing how difference was created by this colonial logic. Time became a way to measure indigenous individuals and groups resistance to progress, being “undeveloped”, and out of sync. Ultimately, this also sorted people into “opposing categories such as intelligent/slow, lazy/industrious, saved/unsaved, believer/heathen, developed/undeveloped, and civilized/primitive”. For indigenous peoples, time and progress was their deficit, according to colonizers. Time and work were also seen as a measure to get into heaven. The rhetoric of progress, efficiency, and development is alive and well today; it exists in the discourse of neoliberal higher education as well. Assessment, statistics, and revenue measuring progress are required for higher education entities to survive.
Getting back to Mrs. Macro, it is easy to see how this linear notion of time aligns with the ideas of “wasting time” or “beating the clock”. Even as a 6-year-old student, I knew what this meant. It meant I failed. It meant I lost.
At the end of this spring semester, my first semester in library school, I was able to take almost three weeks off school and all things library-related. I took a couple trips and see family and friends. I barely did or read anything related to library school. And as much as I needed, and probably deserved, this break, deep down I felt guilty. I felt like I was forgetting everything I learned. I felt that I was leaving my library bubble as my fellow classmates were still on campus, posting library-filled news on social media, and spending time with library folks. While I did enjoy my “time off” – which arguably originates from colonial conceptions of time, where time “on” would be focused on one key goal, as if life should be focused on a singular task – my body felt the tension between enjoying other meaningful parts of my life and falling completely behind in the library world. As I write this, I realize that this is ridiculous. I was physically and figuratively away for 19 days, and I felt anxious, increasingly inferior, and lazy. This might sound extreme; after all, I wasn’t sitting around and constantly fretting about this. However, why should I feel remotely negative about any of this at all? Shouldn’t I have been celebrating my first semester? Shouldn’t I have been indulging in the the social aspect of my life guilt-free? Yes, I think I should have. But, the truth is that even this slight feeling of time-wasting, inferiority-producing, laziness bothered me. Interestingly though, I came back to school after this break feeling eager, renewed, and fresh. Stepping away from library productivity also brought me back to it. Being outside my bubble allowed me to truly be with others in a way that is different in library land. And I realized that this process of zooming out was as enriching as my passion for libraries. And I found space to realize that answers to reference questions can be found in our everyday lives. Throughout this process, I experienced learning and joy.
I think us humans can be really hard on ourselves. And I do think that this is a human thing. But I also think it’s human to absorb the structures around us. And a lot of the times it is hard to separate the two and even begin to realize the extent to which these structures are so pervasive in our minds and bodies. So let’s be cognizant of this together. I don’t mean to say that being productive and organized is bad; it isn’t. But, let us love our library worlds and then love not being in them (even while we are in the thick of it). Let us say no to what we don’t want to do and embrace just being (lazy) when we can.
What are other ways we can embrace this laziness in library school?
Shahjahan, R. A. (2015). Being “Lazy” and Slowing Down: Toward decolonizing time, our body, and pedagogy. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 47(5), 488–501. http://doi.org/10.1.1080/00131857.2014.880645
Nisha is a first-year MLIS student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Feel free to find out more about her at www.nishamody.info.