On Monday night, after the raucous fun of the Library Games at the American Library Association Annual Conference, I went up to my hotel room at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. I sat down on the bed, took off my shoes, and then found myself careening rapidly towards tears.
Some of it I can chalk up to the sheer physical and mental exhaustion that comes from the conference experience, and the unrelenting heat of Las Vegas in summer didn’t help. Some of it I can chalk up to the inevitable emotional letdown that comes from being an introvert who’s psyched herself up for five days of being “on.”
There’s another element that I hadn’t considered ahead of time, though. I graduated from library school over a year ago. In that time, I’ve had a couple part-time and short-term jobs, and I’ve come very close to that elusive first real professional position twice. Once I got close enough to get rejected by phone instead of by a form email, and the other time the rug was yanked out from under me literally hours before the paperwork hiring me was to be filed.
I have reached triple digits in the number of applications I have submitted over the past year. I knew it would be hard, and I personally know many others who are in similar situations in their job search.
Intellectually, I know this is not abnormal. Intellectually, I know I’m not the only one.
Emotionally and professionally, I feel isolated and I frequently feel like a failure.
I know I’m pursuing the right line of work for me. Surrounded by all those thousands of other librarians, archivists, and information professionals, I knew I had found my tribe.
But yet, after some sixteen months of searching and trying and battering myself against the hurdles placed between me and the professional world to which I aspire, in the wee hours of the night, I can’t help but wonder if I’m fooling myself. Maybe I ought to give up.
I wanted to cry on Monday night because for five days I got to feel like a colleague. Yes, I’m looking for work. Yes, I’m one of those over-educated twenty-somethings who’s barely treading water in the sea of adulthood. But the people around me, those more established in the profession and more confident in their roles, treated me as a colleague. They listened to me, and took what I said seriously.
I find I cling fiercely to these people and experiences, in spite of distance and personal expense, because they help me remember why I keep fighting for this path. I imagine that at some point they were in a position like mine, and those ahead of them reached out a hand and treated them like colleagues. I hope that someday I will be able to pay it forward in my turn.
I am so grateful to the people, the friends, the colleagues I met at ALA. For a few days they helped me set aside the psychological burden of my current position.
I hope the memory of their encouragement will last me until the next conference in January.