I know that I mull over things for longer than necessary sometimes. I can't help it, but I like to examine my life and question just how I ended up where I am today. Because I'm dead serious when I say that if you would have told 21 year old me, living in Meadville, PA, that I would be a librarian in Pittsburgh before I turned 30 I would have laughed in your face. It was just so far outside of my radar that it wouldn't have even registered. I thought I would be a professor, or a teacher, or be living in some foreign country. And though I have done 2 out of those 3 things, they didn't stick. And though who is to say if I'll be a librarian 10 years from now, I do know I am sticking around for awhile.
But hindsight is 20/20 and looking back, I can identify major life shifts from a few simple moments. Because my brain doesn't rest at night and these are the things I think about. And then they stay with me until I get them out into the open. Seriously, it's no wonder why I've been a light sleeper and talking incessantly since I was 2.
So, 5 Key Warnings Signs in my 29 years (in order of occurrence):
My college boyfriend and I sort of fell into a relationship that bloomed out of friendship. It was messy and risky from the beginning. I really did love him, but in the way that we love that first person who understands us before we understand how important support and compassion are. During our first 4th of July, at a lake with some of his friends, we had a serious argument. I can't for the life of me remember what it was about, and it doesn't matter a lick today. But I know that he was really drunk and I know that he threw patio furniture into the lake. I cried, a lot, out of embarrassment, out of fright and out of hurt. We slept in the next car and the he piled on apologies throughout the day. Later, his best friend pulled me aside in front of a jukebox at a bar and told me that I was too good the boyfriend. I remember putting those words into my back pocket and realizing whatever we had going on, no matter how many "I love you's" and sweet nights that it was never going to last. I was just young and foolish and instead walked away with a broken heart right before Valentine's Day.
Shortly after I moved back from Greece I met an archive student. I remember a warm Saturday evening out and talking about how I loved teaching but wasn't sure how long I could do it. He suggested library science and I just brushed it off. No one was really a librarian, I was convinced I wasn't smart enough for graduate school, and was worried about tuition. Fast forward three years when I woke up, days away from starting my final year of teaching, and knew in my gut that graduate school was calling. Then came volunteer work, a part-time job, rejections and acceptances, a 4.0 GPA and the career that I love. It just took some frustration and many nights crying before I got the guts to do it all.
When I was just staring my second year of teaching at the terrible school I cannot name, I was sat down in a meeting and told that I should not be going out on the weekends and dance on top of bars. It was demanded that I not tell people I had a second a job at a card store because my boss didn't want parents to know that she didn't give us benefits. It was stated that I should not go out on dates within a certain, designated radius of my school and that I should not be friends with anyone who was related to school as a parent/community member, etc. Nevermind the fact that I have only danced on top of a bar once in my life in Kos, Greece. Or that I lived over a half-hour from my school's neighborhood and the only time I spent in the town was between the hours of 8 -- 4 when school was in session. Forget the fact that I definitely wasn't friends with anyone in the community nor was I that friendly with parents yet other teachers sold cosmetics to parents while others hung out with parents on the weekends. It was at this moment, sitting across from the school head and her assistant, that I knew I would never belong in such an environment. It would just take a deteriorating year before I realized how much I disagreed with their ethics and lost philosophies. And another before I was completely free.
Sitting on Bourbon Street, just a few hours after flying in to New Orleans in the dead heat of August, I sat at a table with a library acquaintance, her husband and my ex eating po' boys. It was a spur-of-the-moment vacation paid for on my extremely meager first library-job salary. But the three of them sat me down and told me how much I was worth. They told me I could find a better job in the county; that I needed to demand more money. It was an intervention of sorts and it was tough for me to hear, but very true. This trip turned out to be the beginning of one relationship and the end of another. I was blind to it all in Jackson Square, but the fortune teller was right and soon enough I'd see change and the seeds that I was planting sprout. And it's funny, almost a year later, that the person who I paid for on that trip is working his way into a faint memory while the person who asked me to come has become a leader and great friend.
King of Everything
When I first saw this video on VH1 one fall morning I thought to myself "This is going to be the song that defines our break-up." At the time there were still snuggles in bed and sweet things said but considering those lasted until the morning I walked out the door, that type of hindsight is still hard to find. Yet for some reason, this song resonated inside me. I was already feeling resentful and sad that my needs weren't getting met. Patience only gets you so far and though I was more than willing to stick it out, I knew that eventually I would have to take a stand. And though I've never shared this thought to anyone before, I think those who knew us would understand. They'd understand how someone can be busy making maps and find listening so hard to do.
So dear readers, do you have 5 (or more or less) warning signs in your life? What were they? And when did you realize they were directing your future?