While relaxing with a friend of mine at the end of the semester, she turned to me and asked a poignant question: “Why was this semester so mean?” I don’t want to generalize to all grad students, of course, but among our friend group, there was definitely a widespread, ever crescendoing sense of anxiety over the last few weeks. For me, some of that anxiety was rooted in the possibility that the IMLS to could be defunded or that the Affordable Care Act could be dismantled, not to mention the dozens of other serious political conflicts taking place. Some of the anxiety was based on the academic assignments themselves. My friends who are graduating are having to submit dozens of job applications. Finally, I know that those who struggle with mental health issues have an even more intimate knowledge of this maelstrom of stressors.
All in all, I am looking forward to the summer, but I do recognize that my challenges are not ending immediately, considering the various commitments that will be coming up over the next few months. I want to ensure that I’m not carrying stress from this past semester into the summer season. I’m sure I’m not alone in this desire. As such, I am sharing a few steps that I will be taking to recalibrate my mind for what lies ahead.
Remember Who You Are
A fun fact about me is that, as a child, I watched The Lion King so many times that I broke both the tape and the VCR. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recall the scene where Rafiki takes Simba to see the ghost of his father Mufasa. As he recedes into a swirl of colorful clouds, Mufasa implores Simba, “Remember who you are.”
I say all this to say that I, like many who attend library school, have specific inspirations for choosing this field. For me, it was seeing how the Ferguson Municipal Public Library went above and beyond to support their community in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown. For you, your inspiration might be a teen librarian who helped you through a tough time when you were in high school. It might be a tour in a literary archive where you got to handle a manuscript written by your favorite author. Whatever it is, keep that motivation front and center. Write it down and put it somewhere you can see it. Investigate the sort of feeling that your inspiration gives you, so that you can notice when that feeling is absent. Be mindful of whether the activities that you’re doing take you closer or further away from your sense of self.
Establish Rituals (Even Small Ones)
A few months ago, I attended a workshop from an organization called Whole Soul Health on the importance of using rituals in order to manage energy levels and be more intentional about what it is that you are trying to accomplish. The idea is that it is easier to make small, consistent actions that lead you to your goal than it is to try to make huge leaps and bounds towards the same end. It’s a simple idea, but it’s sometimes hard to set up and maintain. One goal that I have this summer is to become clearer on the kind of archiving I want to do in the future. Some rituals that I will set up around that goal will include reading blogs about archiving daily and taking a few minutes to jot down my reflections on the ideas discussed in the blog. I also intend to schedule some informational interviews ever few weeks throughout the summer to help me get a clearer idea of what archival roles are out there. What rituals would you use to help you meet your goals?
Share What You Know
As we have covered on HLS before, imposter syndrome is quite a formidable demon. At the end of this semester, when I was puzzling over my research paper, I kept getting tempted to say to myself, maybe I don’t know how to do research at all. This despite the fact that I’ve completed several research projects in the past. For me, what helped my imposter syndrome was to share what I had learned with others. It can be easy to assume that the things we know are things that everyone already knows, but that is obviously not always the case.
A little bit before the semester ended, I delivered a presentation at my internship about all of the projects that I had been working on during the academic year. The act of compiling all of that information, evidence of my expertise, really helped me to realize the growth that I had been experiencing. Plus, my supervisors and colleagues enjoyed my presentation because not all of them were aware of all the work that I was doing across different departments. Even if you talk to a friend or family member in a casual setting about your knowledge, that can be beneficial to you to reinforce the fact that, hey, you know things.
One of the summer commitments that I alluded to above is the annual conference for the American Library Association taking place this June in Chicago. If you want to meet up or just see my thoughts on the events, feel free to follow me on Twitter @ayoola_crayola.