Should vs. Must

I really like the Brain Pickings website. Maria Popova’s writing has helped me a lot, and I always look forward to reading new posts.

One post that really is a good read is called “The Crossroads of Should and Must: An Intelligent Illustrated Field Guide to Finding Your Bliss,” which is about Elle Luna’s book The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion. I haven’t read the book yet, but I added it to my to be read list. Here is the crux of it–we can choose between should and must. Luna explains:

Should is how other people want us to live our lives. It’s all of the expectations that others layer upon us.

Sometimes, Shoulds are small, seemingly innocuous, and easily accommodated. “You should listen to that song,” for example. At other times, Shoulds are highly influential systems of thought that pressure and, at their most destructive, coerce us to live our lives differently.

Must is when we stop conforming to other people’s ideals and start connecting to our own — and this allows us to cultivate our full potential as individuals.

I have a friend who, when I say the words, “I should…,” will say “By whose authority?” I kind of hate it, but it is a good way to remind me of the difference and to be conscious of my choices.

Here’s Popova’s post on “How to Find Your Bliss: Joseph Campbell on What it Takes to Have a Fulfilling Life.”

Small Font Purpose

While I was planning the idea of blogging to help me through work while on a road trip though the southwest at the end of May/beginning of June, I came across a New York Times article called “The Small, Happy Life.” It’s had me thinking for over a month now. What really hits home is the following:

Terence J. Tollaksen wrote that his purpose became clearer once he began to recognize the “decision trap”: “This trap is an amazingly consistent phenomena whereby ‘big’ decisions turn out to have much less impact on a life as a whole than the myriad of small seemingly insignificant ones.”

Tollaksen continues, “I have always admired those goal-oriented, stubborn, successful, determined individuals; they make things happen, and the world would be lost without them.” But, he explains, he has always had a “small font purpose.”

Queen of Links and Thinks

Part of my summer goal is to reduce my digital clutter. I’m an expert saver of links, and I always intend to follow up, but you know how that goes. Right now I’m going through my Evernote account. Apparently, I have a notebook specifically called Life. I came across a Lifehacker article I had saved called “If You Want to Follow Your Dreams, You’ll have to Choose a Focus.” In the past, I have been very good at staying focused–sometimes too good–but for the last year or two, I have been restless because I have been lacking focus.

I do have to say that I think people can go too far with the advice in the article–you don’t want to alienate others in your life while you work on your dream; it’s a lonely way to live. I do, however, agree with the advice about saying no to extra things. I have been saying no to extra things, including a flooded inbox, to give me time to research and think about my next step.

Some others related links I came across in my Evernote Life notebook include “How to Get Back on Track After Disappointing Yourself,” which also talks about the power of saying no. Here is my favorite passage:

It’s remarkable how much time people spend chasing things that they don’t really care about. Then, when they don’t achieve them, they beat themselves up and feel like a failure for not achieving something that wasn’t important to them all along.

Start a Seven-Step Depth Ritual to Focus on Your Task at Hand” is a good reminder about being mindful about what you’re doing, which I really struggle with when I have time off. I thrive off of a schedule, so not having one during the summer freaks me out a little bit.

Mini One-Third Life Crisis

I turned thirty in April.

I look at my 20s, and all I can say is that I whipped it. I finished college; met and married my wonderful husband; finished graduate school; bought a house; and I am about to embark on my third year as a full-time tenure track librarian at a community college. I am proud of where I am. My mother is an immigrant from Mexico (she came here as an adult), and both of my parents work in canneries operating machines. Academe is not part of my home culture, and I have been navigating it ever since my beginning college days.

Right now, it seems that my biggest concern is professional development. I have not found that ONE THING I really enjoy in librarianship, that one thing I can say, “Yes, this is what I’m into.” I had the same problem as an undergraduate. I could have majored in any humanities. The only reason I have a history degree and not an English degree (I minored) is that I had one more class completed when it came time to really decide.  I struggled coming up with a senior thesis topic. The real reason I dropped out of the history MA program is that I just didn’t have a niche in order to write an eventual thesis. And, yeah, that letter from library school also helped.  I did love library school, though. LOVED IT. However, I didn’t super love my fellowship at the Library of Congress. I now, it sounds like blasphemy, but I wasn’t thrilled working with 17th and 18th century Spanish plays. (Am I truly a generalist?)

My job is a Jill of all trades librarian position at a very small full-service campus of a community college. I’m the only full-time employee and the only librarian during the day. We finally hired two part-time librarians to cover the evenings when I leave work.  Our campus has 19 full-time faculty, myself included; 1,100 students; and a 2,000 square foot library. The campus has been around for over forty years, but we’ve been at our newer location since 2007 or 2008 (not quite sure of the exact year–I was an adjunct in 2012 and became full-time in 2013). We’re an hour away from the larger main campus. At the main campus, which has 9,000 students, there are three full-time librarians, two long-time part-time librarians, and the two part-time librarians who work at my campus in the evenings also help out at the main campus.

I teach information literacy sessions, create LibGuides, weed the collection, order just a few materials, assist students with research, create displays, provide research help, participate in college committees, and I am otherwise trying to cultivate the library into a campus hub. It’s hard, mostly because I do it all from the reference desk with very little money and few tools, including no access to review materials. (I don’t have off-desk time; my concentration and feeling present have really suffered.) And yet I just keep churning ideas, ideas that don’t always or can’t transpire for any number of reasons.

I do truly love helping our students—you can actually see students’ lives being transformed at the community college level—but I often feel like something is missing. So many people will tell you how passionate I am about my work. I really am, but I often find myself longing to do the big sexy projects that other colleagues at other places do (sigh, I am definitely feeling Magpie Librarian here). I find myself captivated by all the librarians’ clever social media bios, witty blogs, and the dizzying array of library-related groups (I made the mistake of actually trying to organize Twitter via lists. haha I’m still not done…).

I can’t be the only person who feels like this, right? I don’t want the rockstardom that runs rampant in academics and the library profession. I don’t need to be the “it” person for something, but I would like a something.

That’s what this is. An attempt for a something.