Burnout and self care: a reflection on registering for classes.

Email alerts are disruptive, by design. Today, though, that disruption was exactly the encouragement I needed to reflect on library school, and life.

Currently, I am combing the University of Maryland academic catalog, trying to select the perfect combination of courses for the Fall 2019 semester. As I inevitably become overwhelmed with an equal measure of excitement and FOMO, I try to envision my big overarching two year plan including: course progression, specialization, certificates, professional development, work, field study, and finding other ways to “put myself out there;” a timely article from the Washington Post lands in my inbox.

Burnout from chronic stress is everywhere these days,” is an email headline written for  the overcommitted MLIS student. While future librarians may not be the doctors, lawyers, or emergency personnel normally associated with chronic stress, we shoulder own mental, and emotion, burden. Library school, done well, is a deceptively monumental undertaking. It is not purely about coursework or even GPA; instead, it is a time to remold oneself in the image of the interdisciplinary tenure track librarian you aspire to be. Presentations, publications, field studies, work experience, unique projects and courses are de rigueur in a field where “entry level” translates as: two years of professional experience, demonstrated knowledge of a wide range of academic topics, technical skills, teaching experiences, and collegiality to boot.  (Job creep, not just for the professionals!)

Honestly though, for as overwhelming as it looks on paper, or sounds when I explain it to friends; I love my life. I love my life as it is, right now. Mentors sometimes express concern about my well-being, but I feel the best I have in years. Cutting out gluten has certainly helped (shout out to the Whole30!). But, fundamentally, I am living a life of meaning, and a life of possibility. Grad school means I don’t have to have it all completely figured out just yet. I can experiment, try out ideas, and choose to mostly take courses that excite me.

I keep mentally flipping back to a meme that resonated pretty deeply with me recently. Overlaid on a black background, the (originally unattributed) text read: “True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.”  Now, I  am not generally someone touched by the rampant “pinstragramable” inspirational posts on social media. Brianne Weist is onto something, though. In a season of life where I could be careening toward burnout, I am reinvigorated every day by conversations with fellow students, colleagues, and some really phenomenal Library Twitter threads.

My life right now is not something I need to “regularly escape from.” So much of the library literature scratches the surface of the importance of self care, but rarely talks about how we choose to craft our lives as whole. The grad school years are “life” just as much as what happens on the other side. A registration appointment is perfect reminder.

More on some of my thoughts on library school/life balance, time management, and yes self-care, in my future posts here on Hack Library School!


Photo credit:  Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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