"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..."

posted Dec 27, 2011, 7:25 PM by jj pionke
I am sure that you know the rest of the very famous poem by Robert Frost.  Incidentally, he wrote it as a joke for a friend because the friend was notoriously indecisive. 
Anyway, I find myself at a crossroads.  On the one hand, I could really focus my attention on librarianship and on the other hand, I could focus more on preservation of information/archival stuff.  Go ahead and laugh, but I won a tarot reading at a charity auction and this split was my question.  Perspective is something that is really needed, especially when you are really close to something.  Though I have talked to friends about this decision, none of them really gave me good advice or the perspective I needed, so I figured, why not ask the tarot card reader?  She gave me some really great perspective.  Basically, she said that if I continued with the academic librarian track, I would be financially stable and I would have plenty of time to follow other pursuits.  However, this track would also not be a super passion and I would likely have some personality conflicts with co-workers.  On the other hand, if I go with the preservation/archive track, I will be passionate about my work and my life will be my work.  I will be very fulfilled by my work but I won't have time for anything else and it will take me longer to find a job.
For almost the last ten years, my work has been my life.  It took some serious bad mojo for me to even apply to grad programs and I am the first to tell you that I was shocked that I got into any of them, let alone 6 out of 7.  I don't know that I will ever get rich as a librarian, but that is ok.  I need passion in my life, but I would rather it be on my terms now.  I've watched my dad descend into severe depression because of a forced retirement that he didn't want.  All his life he saw himself as his work and now that he doesn't have work, he doesn't know what to do with himself.  It's sad really.  I don't want that to be me, but if I went the preservation/archives route, I know that is how I would land up when it was time for my retirement.  Maybe not as severely as he, because I love to read and I am willing to try new things, even when it scares me, but I would still be in the same place - depressed.  No.  I would rather have a job that I am good at and love, but maybe aren't all consumingly passionate about.  It does no good to be consumed by one's work.  Instead, I will focus on being the best librarian I can be.  I will try to learn a new skill every year once I get a job and I will dabble in preservation/archives on a volunteer basis so that I still have access to passion but that it doesn't become all consuming.
The thing with decisions like this is that we often know the answer, but we need a push to remind us that we do indeed know the answer to our dilemma.  When my students run into a brick wall, I sit down with them and have what I call JJ's career counseling.  We talk about why they are making a mess and it often comes out that they know what they need to do (stop partying, quit a job that is killing them, get a babysitter, etc), and really all that they need is a confirmation of what they need to do.  That's what I needed.  I needed someone to tell me that here are my options and here are the probable consequences of each road and that I need to make a decision.  The reality is that I made the decision weeks ago, but I was so distracted by the shiny that I forgot that I knew what the answer was.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I, I didn't take the one less traveled by, and I think I will be happier for it.  Dumbledore tells Harry, when Harry has been staring into the Mirror of Erised, that it does not do to be lost in dreams.  It doesn't do to be so consumed by the passion for one's work that you forget to live.  I've been down that road already and now it's time to try a different path.
I want to teach information literacy.  I want to be the social media person.  I want to answer interesting research questions and develop a disaster plan.  When I come home, I want to have hobbies and friends.  I want to take up a sport of some kind - one of the ones that no one has ever heard of.  I want to learn how to knit and repair books.  I want to volunteer at a little archive in need.  I want to live a full and complete life where I can vacation worry free.
and now I am going to do all that.