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I’ve started polling friends and family for creative income sources for my self-imposed period of poverty known as grad school.  Why, after all my philosophical swooning about the benefits of uncertainty and diving head-first into major life changes, do I still have such an aversion to being poor and unemployed?

Here are the facts:

1. I am good at being cheap, but even I probably can’t live off a grad assistant stipend alone.

2. I refuse to take out student loans, and I really hate the idea of tapping my hard-earned savings.

3. There are definitely other revenue possibilities, but nothing certain.  More on my fellowship applications later.

4. The recession is kind of freaking me out.  Even the lawyers are unemployed.  That’s like cockroaches starving in the garbage dump.

5. I am too old and spoiled in the notion of having a rewarding and intellectually stimulating job to a) work at the Olive Garden, or b) deliver newspapers, or probably even c) data entry temping.

So I am open to ideas…anybody?

Waiting for my new adventures about to come stampeding over the horizon, I’ve decided to revive my blog to keep track of this constantly evolving journey.  Or maybe it’s to talk myself through the fear that still lurks every time I anticipate jumping out into the wide abyss of uncertainty inherent in making big decisions.   I made the decision this week to return to grad school full time.  I was offered a graduate assistantship at UNM and will be moving to Albuquerque in August. 

My friend Sara and I experimented for awhile with a blog called Santa Fe Art Walk to discuss the quirky art scene here in the City Different, but I kind of want to have an outlet that’s more suited to my multi-faceted musings on cultural resource management, as well as continuing to chart my course through the sea (desert?) of uncertainty.

In times of political and social turbulence, I find it increasingly difficult to focus on the long-term big picture without serious doomsday instincts to hunker down, save money, and avoid any major life changes until the dust settles.

Of course, new dust is continuously being kicked up, and to give in to such survival instincts is to avoid what may be the best time for opportunity.  Most financial advisors are saying the same thing about the stock market.

With this thought in mind, I’m doing my best to keep the anxiety at bay, ignore my Fidelity statements, and limit my exposure to NPR.  I have decisions to make that require a longer view…sort of like how we all have to think about our retirement savings in this age of anxiety.

I got a kick out of reading about the proposed library design in Czechoslovakia that ended up getting the Czech National Librarian fired (here’s the full story from the Prague Monitor). I guess that’s a warning that innovative library can be taken too far…It’s one thing to be creative and another thing to look like you’re building the set for Futurama.

Photo courtesy of ALA American Libraries Direct

I’m finding it a bit difficult to get back into the groove after an absolutely amazing vacation to Mexico. It also seems to be that time of the year when the biblioblogosphere hits a lull at the end of the academic year and I can’t find much to inspire me. So I’ll have to start digging a little bit deeper and ignore my spring fever…it’s just so hard to concentrate when the cottonwood fluff is floating on the breeze and the lilacs are blooming.

…and a belated happy birthday to Adventures in the Wild West Library Frontier!

In celebration of National Library Week, I am again tooting the horn of lifelong learning. While this particular gem is not affiliated with a library. it is both a great resource and a good example for libraries who want to expand their services.

Thanks Sarah Houghton-Jan at Librarian in Black for the heads-up on the SelfMadeScholar blog on self learning that also aggregates free online educational resources. It includes a Directory of Free Online Classes, from Buddhism to ESL. You can take a seminar on “Classical Hollywood Cinema” from the American Film Institute or “Art of the Western World” from Annenberg Media. There are also links to free online books and audiobooks (the “Free Library“). As someone who loves self-directed learning and sometimes feels overwhelmed by all that is out there, this is a great centralized resource. I’m really impressed by all the time put in by the creator of this site.

First, an anecdote. On a Sierra Club hike last weekend I started talking to a guy who used to own a business somewhere on the east coast. As he described their hiring demographic, they were looking for graduates of bachelor’s degree programs in a wide array of disciplines – EXCEPT art history. I casually asked him why, and he responded “Anyone stupid enough to waste money on an art history degree is too stupid to work for my company.” Though taken a bit aback at the implication that my chosen academic path is a weedy, intellectual wasteland (and amazed by how far this obnoxious guy had managed to shove his foot into his mouth in the matter of a short conversation), I’m aware that this is a common perception of many of the liberal arts, as well as library science.

I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made in my education and my career, but do recognize that a good deal of what I’ve chosen to pursue in life and in my career is based upon romanticized ideas about intellectual pursuit and aesthetics – working towards my idealized self. In contrast, I could have made decisions based upon statistical growth trends, marketability, earnings potential. Even as I consider myself to be a careful planner by nature, much of my life has to be chalked up to instinct.

So what compels librarians to forego the MBA, the CPA, and take this plunge? It’s certainly not an easy route, and there were hundreds of other experiences and decisions that led to this point.

It struck me how much we (that’s a huge collective we) tend to take for granted the hundreds of instinctual decisions we make in the course of a week, in the course of a day. It seems that instincts compell us in every step of our lives and our careers.  How do we prioritize the ever-expanding amounts of information and tools at our disposal? Among the multitude of opportunities out there for professional and personal development, how do we narrow down the choices? When is it time to move on (from a job or from a place)? How did we decide to go down our individual paths towards these particular degrees and careers in the first place?

In terms of our careers and professional decisions, there are always tangible and intangible considerations. A salary is one, but does not take into account the atmosphere and working conditions, the benefits package, the geographical location. It’s a constant process of weighing pros and cons, most of which goes on behind the scenes in the hamster wheels of our brains. How much do we “think”, and how much do we act on instinct? And which method leads to better results?

Timing accompanies instinct and creates the perception of luck. I felt lucky to find this job upon moving to Santa Fe, but I could have gone many other directions instead. While I have unique opportunities here to grow in knowledge and experience, I need to be able to recognize the limitations and the timing that is right for me. I hope my instincts don’t let me down.


Thanks again to Karin for passing on more cool stuff – though like most memes, I’m probably the last one to hear about it and everyone has done this already. 

How to make your own album cover:

1. Go to the Wikipedia Random Articles page and get the first article title – that’s the band name (Mine was “Cercle” – “the smallest unit of French political administration in French Colonial Africa that was headed by an European officer”).

2. Go to Random Quotations.  The last 4 words of the last quotation make up the album title (From H.L. Mencken, 1920, I got “Neat, plausible, and wrong”).

3. Get a word from the Random Word Generator (“communication”).

4. Use the word in FlickrStorm to search images, and use the 3rd image that comes up for the album cover (“Rosita” by Frank Vranckx).

5. Use a graphics program to make the album cover (I used Phixr).

 Here is the result:

As it is the holiday season and I’m still feeling a bit lethargic and mind-numbed from yesterday’s culinary excesses, I thought I would indulge in a short laundry list of what I am thankful for this year.

1) Being a librarian.  Now I have an acronym to put on my business cards (if my business cards didn’t at the moment read Registrar.  But at least I finally have business cards, which I’m thankful for in and of itself).

2) The chance to go hiking every day, including hiking up to 9,000 on Thanksgiving to get this amazing view. 

Luckily I made it before the snow started to fly. Though it did make the gallery’s sculpture garden quite lovely this morning.

3) Old friends and new friends – particulary my good friend Donk calling to wish me a happy half birthday.

4) A job I love and learn from every day.

5) Living in a city with a film festival, which means:

a) Volunteering for the film festival

b) Getting free tickets

c) Going to parties with Alan Cummings.

6) Friday gallery openings and farolitos (Christmas lights) on Canyon Road.

7) Family. Natch.

That’s enough to keep me grounded for now…

Last night Santa Fe celebrated the beginning of the annual Fiesta with the burning of Zozobra (aka “Old Man Gloom”) – a 50-foot puppet/marionet who represents all the regrets and negativity of the past year.

I am again reminded why I love this city.  Such paganesque rituals are highly satisfying in both symbolic catharsis and pure physical spectacle.  There were fire dancers and waving red carpets – at times reminiscent of a Sophocles play.  Amidst the cries of small children (“burn him! burn him now!”) bringing to mind public executions of past centuries, we all reached civic solidarity through the medium of fire. 

Zozobra is satisfying on a personal level as well.  One of the local papers put out a box for individual lists of regrets.  The box was dumped right into Zozobra’s big white head and burned along with him.   Though the spectacle was perhaps more immediate and satisfying than quiet introspection, it’s a reminder of the process we should all go through from time to time to burn our personal emotional baggage in order to move forward.  !Viva la Fiesta!

August 2020