It’s true. I have peaked. This news shall not be surpassed by my wedding day, the births of my children, or the announcement that Hollywood has remade Titanic and Rose chooses Cal over Jack…*
*probably not true
… because this week, I finally got the call. I HAVE BEEN PROMOTED TO FULL TIME SUPERVISORY LIBRARIAN!
When I was 21 years old, a year and half out from graduating with my bachelor’s in family and consumer science education (home-ec), I announced to the world that I wasn’t going to teach. I was going to immediately enter the graduate program to receive my master’s degree in library and information studies. The general consensus was a resounding scoff.
“A librarian? Do they even have librarians anymore? Isn’t that mostly a dying field?” – everyone ever
Before I met Jake, every date I ever had was with a man who either openly mocked my profession or downplayed it as a secretarial hobby job. After I finished my master’s degree, the exact same people who rant about entitled millennials expecting to start at the top, berated me for working only half time after spending so many years in school. As much as I love my daddy lunches, I began to dread the moment he’d ask if I had heard about any more job openings. Four months into my relationship with Jake, I hesitantly asked him…
Me: “Does it bother you that I’m only half time?”
Jake: “What? No. Not at all. If that’s all you were doing and you couldn’t pay your bills, I wouldn’t be here, but you work.”
Work I did. Some weeks, I worked 65 hours only to go home and do 20 cumulative hours of graduate school work. In the beginning, I was substitute teaching and working at the community center for minimum wage. Those 65 hours wouldn’t even pay my bills. Later, I saw a wage increase when I got my first library job, working circulation, but even that was only $11.50 an hour. Finally, after graduation, I was promoted to half time librarian, where I am today. I was overjoyed that I could finally afford my bills without financial aid assistance, but only just. Between substitute teaching and working as a very well-paid (hourly) librarian, I was still only pulling in $30,000 a year, with no benefits save for the year and a half I qualified for my dad’s health insurance. I had to pay student loan debt and buy a new car, after discovering that that wasn’t condensation leaking from the engine. All the while, I hoped and prayed for my health, because even a single hospital stay could financially ruin me.
Over the last 10 years, my entire adult life, the closest I have ever come to a sense of financial security were the months I subbed every day I could, averaging out to that 65 hours per week. Not only was I too exhausted to enjoy it, but it still didn’t mean anything, because I had to save that money to get me through the summers without substitute teaching. Sure, I could’ve gotten another job, but not one that paid me any more and allowed me my nights and weekends at the library. If I worked full time, I wouldn’t be able to take off for interviews, if and when I got them. I couldn’t work a weekday that a coworker was out, go to staff development or state conference, or do any of the things that would make me a competitive candidate for a full time librarian position. Substitute teaching may have only averaged $10 per hour, but it allowed me to work the hours I chose. So, I worked every day I was able, lamenting any time off I took because there weren’t open sub jobs or school was closed for snow or a power outage. I looked forward to the days I only worked one job or the other, because I might have as many as ten waking hours free.
Just five weeks ago, I was devastated to learn that I’d been passed up for a position, after an interview I felt went really well. I cried inconsolably into frozen pizza and even refused to answer the phone, when Jake called me. For two days, I could barely speak a sentence without bursting into tears. I had to, of course, because I worked both jobs to afford the aforementioned frozen pizza. I was exhausted and considering looking for office jobs or teaching positions just to have benefits and a comfortable wage. I convinced myself to wait it out, though. My system recently announced several internal openings. If I couldn’t get one of those, fine, my career with the system was over. I wasn’t being dramatic, either. If I was qualified, experienced, and interested, but still couldn’t wow anyone in regards to an internal postion, for which I had little competition, there wasn’t a lot of hope for any forward momentum.
I got the email three weeks ago, that I would sit down at my library for a short interview. After only two days of preparation, the meeting on which my career was riding took all of ten minutes. For a moment, I genuinely started to hyperventilate, which is not considered a desirable leadership trait. Ultimately, I thought it went alright, but how much can you really tell from ten minutes?
This time, I told no one about the interview, in part because every one of my coworkers knew I’d go for the job and it took place at my own library. If I didn’t get it, they would all know, eventually, that I’d been turned down. I hoped I’d hear back before the holiday, so I could enjoy my Thanksgiving (or skip it and eat pie in tears), but had no such luck. For nearly two weeks, I literally waited by the phone. I vacillated between two extremes: either my career was over or just beginning. I went into deep bouts of depression and got very little sleep, all in silence, because I couldn’t bear to break the news to my family and friends that I’d failed. Then, on Monday, I couldn’t find a sub job. I knew I’d hear back that day and quite literally stared at my phone all morning. I tried to do things that would distract me like starting a Harry Potter marathon. During The Sorcerer’s Stone, I received the e-mail that a different position I’d applied for would no longer be filled. I was still looking at the phone, because if HR was sending e-mails, then I’d be getting something soon. The screen lit up…
… and my adult life started. I finally feel like a grownup. I start my new supervisory librarian position the first week in January. I get excellent retirement benefits and health care. The wait is over. I did the college thing. I worked my way up. I have financial security. Come Christmas break, I’ll no longer substitute teach. I can buy Christmas presents and get my car repaired and start paying off some of my debt. I can get new glasses and see a dentist. I can move and finally get a cat! I can afford to turn on the heat!!!!!!
I’m not only going to be okay, I am going to be wonderful, doing the job I love, the job I’ve dreamed of for years and taking care of myself. It all worked out and it was worth every second of struggle. Five years ago, I was a broke, terrified, 23-year-old graduate student, just days from filing for divorce. Today, almost all of my dreams have come true.