It’s just stuff, right?

Posted: December 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

So much has happened since I last posted. In a nutshell, I landed a new job at Simmons College that I will start on January 6. I will be the new Research Services Librarian for Sociology, Psychology, Behavioral Sciences, Africana Studies, Education, and Women and Gender Studies. (yeah, that does sound like I will be busy). I landed a new apartment right in the heart of Salem and Matt is graduating on January 31 and permanently joining me. It took two years to see our dreams come to fruition and now, our time apart is almost over. I must say though that leaving Wellesley College is bittersweet. I have grown so much in my position as a Research and Instructional Librarian. I also learned a lot from not only my colleagues but my students and faculty. I am forever thankful for them taking a chance on this Midwestern girl who tried not to look terrified on her first day on the job. I feel like Salem is my home now and that I can do anything as long as I have the passion and the drive. And good friends always help as well. Oh, and the cat. I cannot forget about the cat.

But this post isn’t about changing jobs or the countless boxes in my future that will need to be unpacked. It’s about the process of going through old photographs, letters, and notes from my past. All these things that I just keep moving with me without really paying attention. It’s pretty mind blowing how one photograph can drastically change your mood. In a nanosecond, I can  go from feeling fine to crying. Over what exactly? An image of myself at 10 years old standing in front of the Christmas tree, sporting a goofy grin and just as goofy outfit. Over a photograph of myself at 16, standing behind my pumpkin I just carved (boyfriend thankfully out of the picture). I happen to know for a fact that I thought I was ugly. I thought, at that time, that my hair was stupid, my face was stupid, hell my entire body and being was stupid. But now, at 38 years old, I see how pretty I was. How innocent my face looked, how nice my smile was and there was a light in my eyes then that screamed “optimism”. Then there are the dozen or so photographs of junior prom where I just looked pissed off. I am standing in this hideous blue dress (that I only agreed to wear because my mother loved the dress and she never had the chance to go to prom), hating my life because I didn’t want any more photographic evidence. I just wanted to be left alone. I remember yelling at my parents, in particular my dad. He kept trying to get me to smile and it was only making me more angry. Yeah, I know, I know, teenage angst and all that shit. We can’t undo what is done but I really want to jump into that photograph and go up to my father and just hug him. Hug him so tight for the last decade that he has been gone from my life. Hug him and tell him that I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being pissed off, for trying to walk away too quickly, for not taking enough time to just sit the hell down and talk. When I was 16 I thought talking to my parents would be something I would do out of desperation when I was ‘old’. Well, ‘old’ is what I feel sometimes now and I’m one parent short and a conversation too late. We cannot go back. I cannot go back but sometimes, I think that if I only stare a little harder at the photograph that I can go back. That somehow if I could muster up a bit more intensity I can bend time. I know this is probably the thoughts of a lunatic in the making but sometimes the past really does feel that close.

Then there is the homework I found buried in a box of letters. It was from the 6th grade. I’m not sure what class it was for but it was pages of assessment on our feelings.  How we perceive ourself, how we think others see us and all that jazz. What I find sad is my preoccupation with my grades. I just wanted to get good grades so my parents would be proud of me. I wanted to get good grades so my parents would see me, hear me. I wanted good grades so I could feel less empty inside. To prove that maybe I was good at something after all since I felt I was ugly, stupid, too skinny, and geeky. My entire self worth all throughout middle school was built around my grades. Nothing more nothing less so by the time high school came around, I was mostly over the grades thing. Don’t get me wrong, I still maintained A’s and B’s but I didn’t really apply myself to anything. I was just there. Hence the student loans I have now. I could have gotten a scholarship if I just gave a shit. I gave no shits senior year and I have a sizable debt to prove it.

And lastly there are the letters and cards from my best friend. We have been in each other’s lives since we were 11. I never really realized how special and unique this type of friendship truly is but now that we are both 38, I know it is a rarity. Looking at those letters, seeing how our handwriting has changed, how our last names have evolved over time (the Haims, the Wahlbergs), our hopes and dreams scribbled out in fervor. All we wanted was to be a part of something spectacular and to feel like what we did mattered. To feel like we mattered and that when we left the world, someone would take notice. Someone other than each other. But today I think even if it is just Barbie that takes notice when I die, that is enough for me.

I’m not even sure this post has a damn point. As I sit here typing with Izzy crammed up next to me, listening to the living room radiator bang and clank, I wonder how much of that geeky self-conscious girl is still alive within me. Have I really grown as much as I would like to believe? Do I really have any real answers? I don’t know. At least, I don’t know how to tell. The most I can do is have faith that I mostly did the ‘right’ thing when action was called for and said what needed to be said when words were wanted. Maybe. Maybe I am just a liar, that unreliable narrator of my own story.

In another 20 years I could be going through these same boxes of letters and photographs and wondering why at 38 I did not value the insights, the beauty, the truth that I had all along. Or maybe I am senile and I won’t remember any of this crap. Who knows. In the meantime, I will give Izzy a hug and just be happy for the moment I find myself in.

Hindsight is 20/20. While I appreciate that, I wish I didn’t feel so blind in present.

  1. Kelly says:

    This is totally unfair, because you said so many profound and true things here, but all I can muster as a response is… You’re 38?!?!!! You look so much younger than that! I do hope you take that as a compliment, because I mean it in the spirit of complimenting you on your good genes. I really thought you were at least 10 years younger than that!

    Also, I’m happy for your new position, even though we will miss you.

    • illustratedlibrarian says:

      Thanks Kelly! Yes, I just turned 38 in September. I will truly miss you and your class. It was one of my favorites! We must keep in touch!

  2. scubabarb says:

    Such a deep, insightful view of your past (in paragraph two). An excellent description of “growing pains”. And so very true and touching that we often miss the beauty and truth of the “now” until we look back on it years later.

    • illustratedlibrarian says:

      Thank you! It’s hard to believe how fast everything goes by. At some point we lift our heads and wonder where we have been the whole time, how we did not see the passage of time.

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