I keep forgetting that the movie, Birdman, features Raymond Carver’s story, “What we talk about when we talk about love”. I was a sophomore at the University of Kentucky when I was first introduced to contemporary American literature like Carver, Bukowski, Robbins- the entire hipster lineup, as it were. I remember feeling as though, in reading those stories, I understood the world better, as well as myself. It really hasn’t been until recently, as my life has been in a seemingly ungraspable tailspin – with our inevitable move back to the US -that I’ve started reflecting on who I was when I left, who I’ve become, and just who I’m meant to be next. When I think about the Carver story now, it seems so apt to how my love for what I do as a profession has become who I am as a person.
I love my job. I love being a librarian. Aside from the incredible opportunities I’ve been afforded with regard to working with students, academics, and members of the public, it’s served to motivate and challenge me intellectually and served as an outlet for my not-so-creative creativity. That being said, it has also hurt me. In addition to every bursary, job, or award rejection, it has left me with a specialised set of skills in a highly competitive market. I currently find myself scrambling to appraise and reorganise every training course I’ve taken or hours of student support I’ve provided in order to reconfigure the whole of my body of work over the last four years in order to present to strangers who’ve never heard of me and can’t even be sure I’m even returning to the United States. How do you tell someone in a cover letter or resume that your support and guidance helped someone successfully write a dissertation? How do you explain the hours of preparation you happily endured to fit in a few relevant jokes into a referencing session so students wouldn’t fall asleep? How do I demonstrate how every project I lead, broken link I fixed, article I sourced for an academic, or overdue fine I waived for a student (just because they took the time to actually talk to me about their situation) helped shape me into someone I actually believed in?
Put simply, you don’t. At least not on paper.
For the past month I’ve been lamenting about the inevitable truth I’ll have to face when I leave this country. And whilst the coasts are beautiful, options for traveling is boundless, and gravy granules are plenty, it’s not the geographical space of the UK I will miss. In addition to a few wonderful friends I’ve met over the last five years here, what seems so tragic of a loss when thinking about departing, is preparing for the loss of myself. Not only have I spent nearly 85% (yes, I calculated) of motherhood in the UK, this is the place where I became a librarian. To be more specific, this is the first place I became a proper librarian in practice. From touching marvellous Sotheby’s auction catalogs in the basement of an art museum, to implementing (with help) Lego Serious Play and explaining the need for embedding information literacy sessions to the assessment board at my institution, to sharing research progress with other Cambridge librarians in room dating back to 1590, I somehow found myself and my professional passion- which makes it so difficult to let go. It seems wholly inadequate to merely say “thank you” or “good-bye” to something that has made such a momentous impression on you to which you’ve appeared to reap so many rewards.
But perhaps that, in itself, is how I shall thank this country when I return to my own. Whilst it may take time for me to find my way back into academic librarianship in the U.S., where I can plan weeks of skills workshops, make jokes with students when showing them around the library, spend hours with individuals talking about database searching, or construct a graffiti wall to encourage engagement- I will get there…because we all do. And when I do, everything that I’ve learned here will immediately rush back – because it’s what I love. It’s what I talk about when I talk about love.