Nearly 10 years ago, when I left my job at the University of Maine Bookstore, my friend and co-worker, Diane, gave me this:
Although I had decided to take what I thought would be a short break from librarianship (I never expected it to take me 4 years to get back to it), I was dying to be a librarian again. When I got the job at the Pittsfield Public Library back in 2005, Diane gave me this stone, LWYL–Live What You Love. She knew how much I loved being a librarian, how much I identified with it. And since that day, I have carried this stone with me nearly everywhere I’ve gone. Each time I change purses or go on vacation, I look over everything I carry around each day to decide what to get rid of and what to keep. This stone has gone in each and every purse I’ve owned and has been to New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Florida. I am not a person who likes many “things.” In fact, if I could, my house would be quite sparse. (Living with my husband and son has forced me to do otherwise.) And yet I have always held onto this stone.
Being a librarian, specifically a librarian in a small town library, is something that I truly love. I think I’m good at it, and maybe even more importantly, my library patrons (and hopefully my boss) think I’m good at it, too. It’s never paid much, and I knew it wouldn’t.
After nearly a decade, I thought it wouldn’t bother me that I don’t make much money. In fact, it didn’t really bother me at all until a few years ago when I started to pay for health insurance for my family. That’s when my paycheck dwindled to nearly nothing. That first year, I was ok with it. It’s good insurance, and with my husband’s current health issues, it’s necessary. “Money isn’t everything,” I said. I kept telling myself that at least with my husband’s work, we can still pay our bills and everything is good.
But you know what? It’s not good.
After 2-3 years of working for health insurance and my take-home pay only being enough money for after-school childcare for my son and groceries…what the hell is the point?
Yes, I love what I do. Yes, it does fulfill a part of me that probably would go unsatisfied if I did something else. And yes, with my husband’s work we can pay our bills and take care of our son and even get to go out to dinner occasionally. But that’s with my HUSBAND’S pay. Not mine.
Before we got married, I always thought that I’d be the one in the marriage to make more money and provide the benefits. I was the one with the college education, so I should be making the most money, right? And maybe if I stayed in academic librarianship where I began my career, then I would be the breadwinner of the family, or at least a more equal partner. But academia wasn’t for me.
Rural librarianship called my name and I ran to it. I ran with my eyes, arms and heart wide open. I knew it would cost me, and I didn’t care. And I will agree that I’ve been happier in my career because of it….but….can I keep doing it?
Can I keep getting those tiny paychecks while someone else watches my child after school and still be ok with it? Still be happy with what I’ve chosen?
I honestly don’t know anymore.
I do know that I love what I do. That much I’m certain. It’s not just what I do, but who I am. “Librarian” would be the second label I’d give myself after “Mother.” But as I watch my son grow and mature, and the days and weeks whiz by faster than what should be possible, I keep asking myself, “How can I spend more time at home? How can I spend more time with my son, yet still contribute to our household AND maintain my well-being by being a librarian?” Or do I need to find something else to do and be, at least for a while? How do I live what I love but still be there for my son, the love of my life?
I don’t know.
I don’t have any answers. I’m hoping that if I put it out there to the universe then I’ll have the courage to change or I’ll have an epiphany or I’ll just be happier and accepting of my current situation.
I suppose time will tell.
But I do hope *you* live what you love. If not, may you find the courage to do so. Life is too damn short to be unhappy, and when we think about how many years of our life we’re actually *at* the workplace? Let’s not settle and be content with misery. Like Pharrell Williams sings, “happiness is the truth.” So no more lying to yourself.