The end of the year is almost always a time for reflection, to look at the past and apply lessons learned to the future. For some reason, one past experience has made it hard to look back on the year.
I stumbled on my current position with no library experience, but quickly fell in love with the profession. Within a few short months, I knew I wanted to go back to school. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer while looking for programs to apply to. In what was thankfully a short journey through surgery and treatment, my savings were gone and I was living paycheck to paycheck as medical bills continued to pile up. This experience, while traumatic, is now teaching me about how to work through library school. These are reminders to hopefully make for a better school experience:
Take care of your body. My doctors still have no idea how I ended up with cancer, but it was enough to shake me from the poor habits I had developed over the years. I had extra help from high doses of thyroid hormones to help me lose weight, but general exercise and better eating habits let me have a different lifestyle. Unfortunately, working full time and going to school ruined those improved habits and the lost pounds are finding their way back. With just a week left before the start of the next quarter, I’ll be figuring out how to move cooking back into my schedule.
Take care of your mind. I’m not one to share what I’m feeling, but I’ve found that letting others in reduces my anxiety and improves my mood more than my normal methods of coping. I have a hard time focusing before my quarterly checkups because no matter what the results are, I know there’s a chance the cancer can come back. This makes keeping track of assignments extremely difficult. I’ll be the first to admit that I should probably see a professional for a long-term solution to my mental health issues, but I still haven’t done it. 2020 may be the year when I add medication to my self-care routine.
Take a moment to think of others. All but one of my classes have included group projects and I’m always worried about how the group will work together, or even worse, being the partner holding everyone back. We rarely know what everyone has going on in their lives, and those in online programs almost never see their classmates. Delayed email responses will happen. Group projects will come together at the last minute. Your future colleagues may be dealing with personal issues that require a majority of their attention.
Ask for help. After surgery, I wasn’t able to move my upper body much, so I had to stay in my old bedroom at my parents’ house for a few days. For some reason, I felt humiliated by it, yet asking for their help to get in and out of bed was my only option. Trying to do everything without help this past quarter made for hectic nights redoing assignments because I didn’t understand the course material. My classmates always ask for clarification on discussion boards, yet I insisted on figuring it out myself. Knowing when to ask for help is something I’ve been working on at work, but it’s also something I need to do in school.
With a new year comes new opportunities, and while I hope none of you learn some of these reminders through a cancer diagnosis, I wish you a fresh start as we work through library school.
Conrrado is an online MLIS student at the University of Washington iSchool and an Adult Services Specialist at the Natrona County Library.