One of the things that occurred to me while I was on medical leave, and that was part of what gave rise to a post I published earlier this month - "168 Hours" - was that I wasn't going as stir crazy as I'd thought I would. I've made a point the last 5 years or so of trying to have some semblance of work/life balance, but I've almost always been a bit of a failure at it. I always figured I was addicted to work. I'm a Librarian, after all. (Imagine trumpets sounding in the background as you read that.)
Sure, I've gotten better about leaving work at work, but I'm not great. I don't work through lunch quite as often as I used to, and a lot of times when I do it's because I had to come in late that day or I have to leave early and don't want to make up the time another way. And yeah - I bring work home most weekends - but no more than an hour or two worth, and that's a lot less than I used to bring. But the forced stillness of recovering from surgery - both metaphorical and physical - made me look at my habits. The quiescence combined with having to have talk with a friend about things that fall under the category of "if I don't make it out of the operating room, here are my wishes" made me look even harder. On top of those things, I also saw somewhere on Twitter or maybe Tumblr: "If I won't worry about it on my death bed, why am I worrying about it now?"
All off this combined to make me realize how much of my day to day is wrapped up in being a Librarian. I'm capitalizing it on purpose. It's more than my job; it's a huge chunk of who I am. It's a culture to which I belong. This designation is something I learned from disability studies. There's a difference between deaf, which is a physical reality of not being able to hear, and Deaf, which is community and culture. Similarly, I see that there's a difference between being a librarian, which is a job that requires such and such training and education, and had this and that as part of the job description, and Librarian, which is whole hog never stop 24/7 libraries LIBRARIES LiBrArIeS!
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't want to look back at this part of my life and regret how much of my focus I put on my career and how little I put on the rest of my life, my friends, my family, my health. Yes, libraries are important - they are my most favorite of all my problematic faves - but so is getting sleep and laughing with friends and fighting creeping (galloping?) fascism. I'm not sure how this will play out, but I know one decision I've already made because of this new emphasis I want to have in my life - I'm not going to ACRL in Cleveland. I'm probably going to go to ALA in DC, but that's more because of the people I know I'll see there who I haven't seen in a while because I've been focusing on academic librarianship instead of on my friends who have the same career. As this librarian instead of Librarian thing continues to evolve, I'm going to try to share. No fears, though, this blog won't go anywhere. Letters to a Young Librarian has always been my way of thinking out loud, which is especially important to me. I love Twitter, but sometimes microblogging isn't enough.
This work/life balance, this idea of figuring out who we are...? This is a struggle we all have and will continue to have. And you, if your part of the intended audience of this blog, the young librarians out there, please take a moment to figure out how to be intentional with your time. It's a bit of a cliche, but time is the most valuable resource you have. It's the only thing you can't replace.