Most days I’m a lot like my junior high self: when someone asks me how work was and what I did, I shrug and respond, “It was ok, didn’t do much.” This is obviously untrue, but it just seems easier than trying to explain everything. Most days, where do I even start?
Some days, though, something leaps out. There was the day that I got a shy kid to grin for an hour after I helped him search for Thomas the Tank Engine books – and then he pulled a chair up next to mine so we could find more things. There was the time that my very first reference question was explaining to a very nice, very well meaning elderly gentleman that the book in his hand was not “The Secret Garden” (as in the one by Frances Hodgson Burnett) but “My Secret Garden” by Nancy Friday. There was the time that a student ninja rolled across the front of the security post at the academic library I work at to cheer me up by pretending to sneak into the library (while madly waving his ID around for me to see).
There are lots of those really great times. The reasons why I want to do my job.
Then there are the reasons that I remember why I need to do my jobs. They’re the times where I can’t seem to get anything right, or at least where everything seems to be going wrong. They’re the longest days. They are upsetting, perhaps even a little scary. Perhaps they peel away the image I’ve gotten of a community I work in but am not from. And I remember why I want so badly for the library to be a safe, welcoming place for people to learn.
These thoughts are far loftier than what I was thinking as cleaned up blood off the library bathroom floor. Far more focused than writing up my incident report including the words “firearm” “illicit drugs” and “arrests.” And certainly more coherent than when I began to shake several hours later, wondering what was wrong with me as I struggled to pull my thoughts together.
Obviously, my Wednesday this week wasn’t normal, but I learned some things. I was reminded that my assumptions about life weren’t necessarily valid for everyone else’s life. The safety I felt fairly certain of even in a rough neighborhood couldn’t be extended to everyone. That the library had to actually assert itself as a haven to be respected, rather than just expect people to know it. I learned that I can make it through very stressful situations and get things done. That I have really great recall of things said to me when I’m stressed. That going into shock after certain experiences isn’t weakness.
That I never for a second questioned what I was doing there that day, or whether I would come back. I just would.