how i know i’m headed in the right direction

One of my favorite jobs is the one where I get to co-facilitate prevention workshops for youth. At the same time, their parents go to a parent workshop on prevention, and their younger siblings go to a play group. I was hired as a youth facilitator, but I volunteered to do babysitting when needed, because I could use the money. Tonight, instead of doing the babysitting job that I got saddled with because I’m quitting (not that I don’t like children, but I prefer youth), I got to bust out my inner Viola Swamp tonight at work and go back to teaching, so that I could help my colleagues out. Apparently I have a talent for being authoritative and yet still be an effective teacher/mentor/worker. It’s now been more than a year since I quit my campus job where I did that, so it’s nice to know it wasn’t a fluke.

In addition to being a scary person who gets the job done, I also got to read my press release today, though it was published on Tuesday, and in reading it and doing all the interviews and things for YALSA, the fact that I am already devising research proposals and library programming and I’m already bookmarking journals that I want to subscribe to and finding essays I want to read makes me sure that I have chosen the right career. Even if I still want to audition for “The Voice” and star in a movie or two and travel and go to law school and write a novel.

I love it when these three things align: 1. I am good at something. 2. I like doing that something. 3. Other people see that I am good at that thing and encourage or help me with it. This does not happen very often. Usually you have to pick two out of three. Being lucky enough to have all three of these things make it easier to stomach the fact that I am leaving my hometown, my family, and my friends behind in eight days. Off I go. Soon.

crunch time

21 days to go. That seems like so much, but it’s really no time at all, especially when you consider that I have next to nothing packed, somehow got a new job when I meant to start being unemployed, and haven’t been doing a good job of scheduling my goodbyes to people.

Scheduled goodbyes seem ridiculous, which is part of the problem. The other problem is that my new job is already stressing me out to the point that I dream that I’m performing menial duties from it. Usually it takes me a year to get to that point. then there’s the fact that rather than pack and say goodbye to people, I would rather be working on Camp NaNoWriMo and reading. I would generally always rather be reading, but now it’s critical, or at least it is in my head, because I now have 21 days to read certain books that I then need to return to the library, return to my sister, or write reviews on.

So I’ve revised my summer reading list, and now these are the priority books, for no real reason except the ones I’ve listed above. Some I was really excited about; others, I guess, it’s just their turn to be read.

I’m reading two now, one from the library and one for review:
Circle of Fire by Michelle Zink is the final book in the Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy, and I’ve already reviewed the first two, so of course I wanted to see how it all ends.
The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins would sound great if it were by anyone, and the fact that it is by this awesome investigative journalist who also wrote Pledged and Secrets of the Tomb makes it a must-read. And finally the library had it!

Then there are these books, two from the library, one for review, and one which my sister lent me.
Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz: I liked her a lot when I was a teen, and this sounds fun.
The Great Night by Chris Adrian: It was already something I really wanted to read this summer, because I love retellings of classics.
Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina Garcia: I love it when books that already looked interesting are offered on the review list and I get them.
Queen of the South by Arturo Perez Reverte: I know next to nothing about it, but I want to see why my sister likes it, and I like the idea of reading something in translation because it means I’m expanding my literary world a little.

If I weren’t working, this would be no problem. But now it looks like I might actually be cutting this rather close. And the only reason I have a chance at all is because I have a pile of magazines that I’m ignoring until I leave for Boston, and the other new books I bought and really wanted to read are also going unread until I unpack them again.

It’s ridiculous that this is my biggest point of stress in a looming cross-country move.

i am now scared of the future

As if my constant second-guessing and wondering whether I should have just looked for a job weren’t enough, this morning I was eating breakfast with my parents, and, thinking it was the Sunday Book Review, I picked this up. So now I’m even more worried that I might be doing the wrong thing. Here’s why.

One of the articles in this segment suggests that your graduate school debt not be higher than your expected future salary. My anticipated three-year-debt will be approximately twice what I can expect to make, if I get offered the higher end of the average librarians’ salary in my first year.

Another article was about how the master’s is the new bachelor’s, which basically means that I will be nothing special, right? I’m still only going to be most basically qualified for jobs, right? Or does the fact that I’ll have two master’s make me somewhat cool? Or am I basically just going into the debt that I so smartly avoided for undergrad, and essentially not making myself much more qualified than the average person, if the new average person has a master’s degree like me?

People with graduate degrees make more money than their counterparts with bachelor’s degrees, but the amount they make varies by field, and humanities and liberal arts has the lowest difference in salary between graduate and non-graduate degrees. Plus, essentially all librarians have master’s degrees, so wouldn’t the real discrepancy in that field be between master’s and doctoral degrees? So I lose.

It’s not like I can drop out at this point, and it’s not like I actually want to. But when you have a genius idea for a bookstore you’d like to open, your high school and college friends are all getting married and getting jobs, and the New York Times decides to freak you out, it’s hard to retain perspective. So here are my ways of reassuring myself.

Graduate school will make me happy, because I have never gotten the enjoyable academic experience I’ve been seeking since third grade. And mental and emotional health should not be taken lightly.

I keep complaining about my rising to-read list, and now I’m worried I’ll never find the time to read it all, but graduate school is a time when the government loans you more money than your mother makes in a year, all so that you can eat and drink and read books all day long.

Graduate school is where liberal progressive nerds come home to roost, so conceivably I should finally be able to find my people, right? Intellectual soulmates and fellow awkward smart people to be nerdy with, at last!

My big sister might be the youngest person in our family to own her home, she has a husband and 1.5 kids, and she’s not awkward like I am, but at least I’ll beat her to a second degree?

I really like learning and being an intellectual elitist, and having two master’s degrees will keep me a viable player in that game, even if I am moving to the intellectual elitism capital of the world.

If graduate school is what it takes to get me to a career I think I could be good at and be happy with, since my dream careers are mostly dreams, than that’s what matters most, right?

That should hold me for awhile. I think I just need school to start. A month til I move, about six or seven weeks til classes (and my birthday! agh 23–here comes a new existential crisis).

love letters to tucson #2: mexican groceries

Notice that I didn’t say Mexican food. That’s delicious, and probably nothing can beat living in one of those American cities where you can buy 99-cent tacos on any street corner, and where the best restaurants are the ones you have to speak Spanish in. But Boston probably has one or two decent Mexican restaurants. What they won’t have, and what I’m worried about finding, is all my favorite Mexican groceries.

I like to laugh at people on the East Coast because their Dos Equis costs, like, seven dollars a bottle at a bar. Poor fools. Here? Two, maybe three. Soda makes me want to vomit, but every once in awhile I really like to enjoy a Coke or a fizzy, fruity drink. Enter Mexican Coke, which is still made with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, and Jarritos, the best fruity sodas ever. I may not be able to drink Dos Equis anymore because of the gluten, but I’m really going to miss glass-bottled sodas every once in awhile.

This is actually not a given in all of Tucson, because white Tucson probably doesn’t have a whole lot of idea what I’m talking about, but I think it will still be more problematic in Boston than it is here: there is a huge population of people that think Tabasco is acceptable hot sauce. It’s not. First of all, it tastes sweet and disgusting, and second of all, it is not hot. So it is sweet pepper sauce. Tragic.

Cholula, though, is where it’s at, and even if I might have trouble finding it at some restaurants, I know I can always get it at the grocery store, and it scares me to think that I might have to start buying Tabasco in stores on the East Coast. I don’t really know what to expect, of course, but since Cholula is another delicious Mexican import, it stands to reason that it will be hard to find in Boston, and that it will probably be rather expensive. So I’m packing a few bottles with me.

Finally, something else I’ve already had to say goodbye to for gluten reasons but that makes Tucson Tucson is the abundance of fresh baked Mexican pastries at every grocery store. Yes, a croissant is delicious and can be found everywhere, but I can’t say the same about pan de huevo. And those conchas are just so good.

I am exceedingly worried about not being able to find essential grocery items when I get to Boston, but at least the prospect of being able to shop in Chinatown for products I can’t buy in Tucson is exciting.

self assured

The last thing I was a a teenager was self secure. Even now I struggle with that. I’m crazy awkward (which is why, when my sister shared The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl with me, it really resonated), I’ve spent most of my life knowing who I am but trying to be something else, and I’m just generally uneasy at how I appear to other people.

I’ve gotten a lot better. For the most part, I don’t care what people think, and I’m finally old enough that I know who I am, I’ve accepted it, and I deal with it. I have embarrassing moments that I’d rather not think about, but that doesn’t mean I regret things. I don’t bother with regret. There are maybe three things from the last few years that I regret. The rest were experiences. If I appear awkward or nerdy, I’m fine with that. It pains me to sound so cheesy, but it’s really about just being true to yourself and happy with who you are.

I’m always really impressed when I meet teenagers now who are totally secure with being silly, nerdy, or otherwise not totally on par with the status quo. Some of my students this summer reminded me of who I was before I cared about who I was. I know a few high schoolers who are totally fine with having blue hair or whose friends are in college or who would rather focus on writing music than going to the mall, and I wish that I had spent more time in high school doing the things I really wanted to, rather than stress about the things that weren’t me but I wished were, like going to parties and acting slutty.

And then the other night when I went to the 12:01am showing of the final Harry Potter movie, I was in line next to two girls (14 or 15, about to be high school freshmen), and I was so impressed with how content they were just to be the two of them, in public, with all their silliness out in the open.

It’s not like dressing up for a Harry Potter movie premiere isn’t something that nearly everyone does, regardless of age. But these girls were not just dressed up. The mother of one of them left to buy snacks at Target, so my friend and I were kind of babysitting their stuff while the girls came back and forth, using the line as a home base and getting up every time they saw a new character costume so that they could pose with the person. Like posing with princesses at Disneyland. It reminded me of freshman year of high school, when I went to Disneyland with one of my best friends and we spent one of our three days there looking for as many characters as possible.

These girls were so much like me when I get excited and manic, it was crazy. Except that they were really sweet, and when I get manic, sometimes I scare myself because I’m incapable of shutting up. “Did you see the Snitch girl? We have to find her. Can you watch our Red Vines?” Then later, one of the girls came back from the bathroom. “Mrs. Weasley is peeing. We have to go take a picture with her right now.” I advised that they make sure it wasn’t just a regular woman who didn’t know she looked costumed, but she assured me that the woman was wearing an apron, so that made it okay.

One of the girls’ mother had refused to buy her a bunch of overpriced franchised material, so she made her own broomstick out of bamboo and dead cactus. Aside from missing varnish, it looked pretty much exactly like the ones in the films. When they took breaks from running around, they talked with me and my friend about characters they’d seen, other movie premiere experiences, and how excited they were for the movie. It reminded me why I’ve chosen library science in general, and why I’ve more specifically chosen youth services. I want every teenager I meet to be as vivacious, self assured, fun loving, and into books and movies and games as these girls. I want to be everybody’s teacher, big sister, and best friend. Well, kind of. More I just want to watch and guide and mentor, I guess. It was so much fun getting to know them, and because they reminded me of myself, when I used to sing songs from “My Fair Lady” at the top of my lungs, complete with perfect pitch and decent Cockney accent, not at all worried about who was listening. Some self assured teenagers scare me, as they do everyone, because teenagers aren’t supposed to know who they are unless who they are is a nerd. Teenagers who are already who they will be as adults are threatening, if also fascinating, and I won’t lie and say they don’t make me a little jealous. But these girls were perfect.

My favorite part was when they started using their homemade wands and battling with them, almost as if they were playing Rock, Paper, Scissors or Dungeons & Dragons (I’m just guessing about the second one, because I’ve never played or watched a game of D&D, but as far as I know, this is how it’s played). They threw curses at each other, standing properly the way Snape might tell them to in a Wizard Dueling seminar. And as each one cursed the other, they would qualify or modify the game. “Okay, that’s just a serpent spell, so I can’t really do anything, because now there’s a snake crawling everywhere.” Or, “How do I know when you’ve stopped the Cruciatus curse and I can stand up again and curse you back?”

We were finally let inside the theatre, and I sort of forgot about them as my friend and I started gossiping and chatting with the girls sitting next to us. Then I heard applause, and I wondered what it was. Everyone was looking down at the floor of the theatre, where the same two girls were still dueling. One had just fallen to the floor, “dead,” and the other was victorious.

They continued dueling, searching for photo ops, and eating sugary snacks until the movie began.

As soon as the screen darkened, I was over the whole thing. I’m relieved it’s all over. But I’m so happy that those two girls were in the same line as me. I hope high school changes them and grows them up in all the good ways, but I really hope that it doesn’t kill or edit the personalities that I saw the other night.