Ten Years Later

I was just informed that my 10 year high school reunion is scheduled for September 10th. A few things came to mind when I read it:

1) It’s FOURTEEN DAYS before my wedding. I guess that’s close enough to going back married, right?
2) I have a very limited amount of time to achieve my goal of becoming a published novelist before the reunion.
3) It’s really been ten years.

Ten years.

It’s weird, I’ve been reading the book Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan lately, and its been taking back to those early days of college with misty eyes and longing nostalgia. Now, getting this news, I can’t help but think back to high school. Who was I back then? How much have I changed?

How much has everything changed?

I didn’t have the Internet for my first two years of high school, and didn’t receive a cell phone until graduation. I had just started driving the previous October, and had never spent more than a week away from my parents. I was young, shy, with big bushy hair and contacts that didn’t give me a headache (as they do now). I cared deeply what others thought, but rarely voiced my own opinion. I wasn’t quite me yet – but I was happy. I had people who loved me, and that was most important. Especially in high school.

Because honestly, ten years ago the most important thing was friendship. At this point, I was already accepted to FSU. I was on my way to graduate, and prom was the only important thing on the horizon. And even that was more of a social gathering, than a romantic night. I held on tight to my friends, and went out with them every night. Be it someone’s house, Chuck-E-Cheese (where two worked), the mall, Borders, or just the neighborhood park, we were there. Living. Breathing. And all in the crazy mess of hormones and high school together. Hands held and eyes closed, we sped through the days, not wondering what would happen next, and not really caring. We lived in the moment, whether it was crying over a breakup with cookie dough, or arranging strategic games of capture the flag with water guns.

At 17, I was still figuring things out, still looking for more, and eager to embark on the next chapter of my life (yet still, scared to leave everything behind). I was good in every sense of the way, but I still drove fast and stayed out past curfew. I was invincible, in the way only a high school student could be.

So, to celebrate the date being set, this week I’m going to post a few stories from high school Lauren’s days. Before circus and Samir, before writing and teaching. I’m unlocking the diary, and remembering what it was really like to be 17: afraid, excited, confused, under appreciated (as we all were, right?), nervous, thrilled, and, well, young.

Hero Worship

I took a class last year that inspired me. No, not just inspired me, excited me – encouraged me. On young adult literature and its merits for library patrons, the class let us explore different novels and analyze their various themes and messages. We read an assortment of books and articles, and each one I devoured quickly. I’d share them with whoever I could afterward.

Samir joked that I had become a teacher’s pet within the process, and it was partially true, if only because the professor was fantastic. Knowledgable and interesting, she brought new ideas to mind. I discussed her articles with him; I quoted her in papers. After looking at her career, I realized that, essentially, I wanted to follow in her path. It was then, also, that I decided that I wanted to become a youth librarian (although I really knew that part from the beginning – the class solidified the decision).

I found out a few weeks ago that I was invited to speak at a library conference. Overjoyed, I looked at who else was presenting. My teacher was listed. Not only was I going to be able to hear her presentation, I was also going to finally meet her in person (as my classes are online). I was excited, nervous. I started to prepare for the conference.

Yesterday at the conference, in between psychotically checking to ensure I had my presentation notes and drinking copious amounts of water, I checked name tags to see who was around me, looking for others from my area and for, of course, my professor. I met some great people, but didn’t actually see her until she was up to speak.

The speech was good, but not necessarily applicable to my studies. Still, I listened eagerly. Halfway through, however, she made a comment about 20-somethings. And then another. And then another, essentially stating how we say we know more than we actually do. She was (although politely) dissing my generation.

I was floored. Aghast. And the worst part was I was to go on after her.

As I nervously approached the podium, I looked out at the faces around me, wondering if they thought that too. Why was I even there? What did I know that those smiling at me didn’t.

I survived my speech, rushing through it with cheeks turning different shades of red. I got a few nods and questions and overall I suppose they enjoyed it. It wasn’t the best first conference to speak at, to say the least. However, I appreciated the opportunity.

Before going, I wanted to at least meet my professor, say hi, give her the benefit of the doubt. She was in conversation with another attendee, so I stood on  the side, in her line of sight, for around five minutes waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Nothing.

I turned around and left, hoping the rest of my day was a bit more fulfilling. I guess that’s the thing with heroes – in the end, they’re just people.

Freaking. Out.

There’s always one point in the semester when I feel like the world is exploding. The assignments pile up and I don’t see how I’m going to navigate through everything. Yet, I always do – I always survive, make it out unscarred. I’m always okay. I know this – but every semester, the moment comes and I panic.

I’m at that stage now. I thought i’d be able to handle my hefty load (work, grad school, volunteering, tutoring, wedding planning), but it turns out I can’t. I can’t breathe. It’s overwhelming, but I hate admitting defeat. I ended up not accepting the job as a tutor – it would take too much time away from school. I have two projects due this week, two wedding vender meetings, and loads of stress.

So I’m constantly reminding myself that it’ll be okay. I can see the stars outside my window right now. They’re bright, illuminating the night sky, reminding me that if they can shine through the clouds, I can move through the semester. And this feeling, too, shall pass.

Library School

I woke up at 5 am this morning to work on a grad school paper. It reminded me of those days back in undergrad when I’d practically fall onto my bed at 2am, just to wake myself up a few hours later to finish a paper due that morning. I’m far too old for that now.

I’m at the stage where the glamour and excitement of grad school has worn off. My first semester I was a golden star – each assignment was in a week early. I’d turn in eight pages when only three were necessary. I volunteered in class. I was that student. I wanted to prove not just to my teachers, but also to myself, that I could do it. I could complete grad school.

For those who don’t know, this isn’t my first grad attempt. As I approached my last year of undergrad back in 2005, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I knew I wanted to teach, but was pretty sure my major in literature and minor in education wouldn’t cut it. So, I applied for and was accepted into FSU’s English education master’s program.

After the first day, I knew I hated it. The program wasn’t right for me at all. Most of the students had minored in the subject as well, so I was the newbie to the department, and I never truly felt welcomed. Beside my abject distaste towards the fact that the teachers didn’t care about the literature we’d be teaching (most students had never read To Kill a Mockingbird. I was dying), I never understood why I was learning about educational theories rather than educational techniques. I can tell you all about theories developed in the early 1900s about the educational profession, but not once during the program did I learn how to control a classroom.

I left after one semester. I couldn’t do it (and I have a biased hatred now towards anything those teachers claimed was ABSOLUTELY MARVALOUS – I’m looking at you, Billy Collins). The next year I did teach high school English. Guess what? Nothing I learned during the program applied.

So when I started my graduate degree in library sciences, I was hesitant. I was scared the same thing would happen. To counter the fear, I threw myself into my studies and vowed that it wouldn’t give up. To my surprise, I loved the program – and still do, honestly. It was just what I wanted – a program that appreciated literature, but wasn’t just teaching us how to analyze paragraphs. In becoming a librarian, I was combining my love of literature with my desire to help kids.

But now, some classes are starting to take me back to my education days. Like, this semester I’m taking Assessing Information Needs, which, more or less, teaches us how to assess what patrons want, and help them find it. Simple enough? Not quite – there are theories and models to go along with each information seeker.

Yawn.

I swear, since I’ve started I’ve defined the word “information” more times than necessary and guess what – there still isn’t a definite definition according to theorists. Once again, I’m starting to wonder why we’re learning this stuff.

But, that’s not to say I haven’t taken some amazing classes. My Information Needs for Young Adults class was quite possibly the best class I’ve ever taken (and I’m so excited to be taking Information Needs for Children next semester with the same teacher). My Information Organization class was incredibly hard, but so rewarding in the end that it actually had me contemplating getting a second specialization in metadata. And even now, my Digital Media class is really fantastic. I know I just need to get over this hump and embrace my last two semesters. Thankfully, after this Info Needs class, I’ll be done with core classes. And aside from the children’s literature class, I’m also taking Library Marketing in the spring – fun, right?

I was starting to feel down about my degree the other day and was thrilled to see that I wasn’t the only one. My friend is in the same spot, just pushing along and waiting for the end. A friend of his advised us to keep going, pull through and make it out alive. We won’t need to know the definition of information in the real world, but the classes do help. And once we become official librarians, things get much better.

Aside from working, we’re both excited to show what we can bring to the field. Imagine what two more 20-somethings can do to the library field? We still have that naïve, yet insurmountably exciting belief that we can change things. And you know what – I really think we can.

I guess that’s it. I’m at the point where I’m ready to work. I got into this profession for a reason. I know I haven’t learned everything, but I’m ready to try. I’ll make the most of these final few semesters and carry on to the end, proud to hold my degree and ready to make a difference.