Sunday, August 28, 2011

A letter to my past self (personal)

Warning : Self indulgent personal post follows 

So I celebrated 4 years in librarianship on Aug 27 2011, big whoop right? Typically such posts would wax lyrical about how with 4 years under my belt, I am too experienced to call myself a newbie but not too experienced to become a veteran (most associations use 5 years as a cut-off to determine whether one is a "new professional"). I will then go on to muse about how far I have come, yet how much further I have to go.... :)

It's also traditional writing such posts to do either a "If I knew then, what I know now..." or in a more fun format  "letters to my past self".

Who am I to go against tradition?  Feel free to skip it if you not interested in personal self-indulgent posts, normal blog posts will continue next week.

Letter to my past self

To : Aaron of 2007
From : Aaron of 2011

Dear past self,

You (or is it we?) just started work today and I still remember the first day you started work as a librarian. You were nervous, unsure of your place, uncertain if you would cut it in this new strange profession. I still remember your first few meetings, quiet, reserved to the extent that a colleague (now ex-colleague) commented that you were so quiet saying nothing just listening quietly like a consultant.

But we both know the truth of course, inwardly you were actually bursting with ideas and opinions but decided (perhaps wisely) that you didn't know enough to comment and perhaps you were afraid and unsure whether it was your place to speak out as you were still finding your place in the organization and feeling out the organization culture.

This is not unusual, the "you" of 2011 sees the same uncertainty in some of our newer colleagues, but I would like to assure you that, eventually you will start to find your place and calling in the library world and eventually you will realize that you can indeed contribute your ideas and passion. 

I am sure you would want advice and answers from your older and perhaps wiser self, but writing from the present of 2011, it's tricky to give advise to you, my dear past self of 2007. While I have some regrets and there are many things I wish we could have changed (some of which may have avoided a lot of pain and suffering for many),  we both remember enough of the time travel stories we loved to read as a teenager to know that meddling with the timeline is risky, and almost always creates a worse outcome :).

So I am not going to spoil the surprise for you, except to say the next 4 years are going to be by far the most eventful period in your life yet. I warn you, it won't be a bed of roses, far from it! You will experience the lowest of lowest and yet achieve many professional and personal triumphs. In some ways you will achieve things you never dared dreamt was possible though in some goals you are going to fail completely despite wanting it and fighting for it with all your heart. But that's okay.

As for actual advice, in some ways I can't do better than asking you to read Roy Tennant's An Open letter to a new librarian and Meredith Farkas's Be the change you want to see but if there is one personal advice I would give to you , it is this; believe in yourself, don't worry too much of what others think and you will be astonished how far you will go.

Many of the obstacles you perceive to what you want to do are precisely that, perceptions, that purely exist in your mind and will disappear once you pluck up enough courage to fight for them. Be patient though, and keep working at the things you feel are important and perseverance might win the day.

I know that you, dear past self would find this passage & perhaps whole post *really* corny and would not believe any of that, but the "you" of 2011 in some respects is different person in terms of believing what is possible once you put your mind to it.

Don't get me wrong, you would still recognize yourself of course, introverted, working on insecurities and being prone to over-thinking, after all four years *isn't* that long to change one's basic personality. But I bet you would be astonished at how far we have grown in terms of confidence from being so nervous that you could barely avoid stuttering when suddenly called upon to speak by colleagues to confidently giving lectures to the whole library and even winning best speaker prize at a conference (I guess it's safe to mention this without affecting the timeline too much).

In case you are wondering, the "you" of 2011 is still in some ways as clueless as the "you" of 2007, he still doesn't know for sure how the future will turn out, whether libraries will have a future, still needs to work more on people skills, etc. But that's okay, nobody is perfect and nobody knows the future (well except the "You" of 2015 but we are not him yet and he isn't writing yet).

Your older self

PS : Excuse the mistakes in tenses and pronouns, it's confusing writing to you/us/we?

I am always advised to look ahead rather then backwards so a "Letter from my future self in 2015" is perhaps a good idea as well and I initially wanted to post it here as well. But upon reflection, such a letter is too intensively personal even for me. Will post in it 2015 here if the blog is still around. :)

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