Unlike Cristina, I never had an urge to work in a public library, but I knew there was something to offer in the profession that could justify my cultural work as a poet and critic in the long run. When I found myself back in Vancouver in 2008 (from Montréal) and working as a server, I began to think strategically about my next “move.” Graduate options flooded my mind, but financing these and predicting the teaching trajectory forced me to be overly pragmatic. The work I’ve down in the past is variegated and my involvement in cultural and political spaces is sometimes far removed from the application strain. I’ve reflected on the debilitating pursuit of a job title that somehow reflects the investment put into schooling and volunteering. I was working at a Bistro in the West End during the application process to SLAIS, and when I was accepted all my co-workers said in unison: that makes a lot of sense. I wanted to know what people were reading and why – my critical witticisms biting me in the ass when a co-worker was certain the “pretentious” review we received was curtesy of my manners.
The notion of work has always been crippling – we spend the majority of our lives labouring, whether for pay or otherwise. The more I thought about next steps, the more I questioned the future. “No future” was sung by the Sex Pistols in the 70s, Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi hails it in his book The Uprising (published by Semiotexte), and the women of About a Bicycle chanted the claim soon after we published an issue on the violence of financial capitalism.
But, the trap is, I still think about a liveable future, just like everyone else I suppose. You start thinking: what am I doing wrong? Is it how I’ve organized my CV? Is my self-deprecating sense of humour, laid out too thick in interviews? Do I actually have a skill-set that’s worth anything? Can I find a job in the information field that allows me to teach, conduct critical research, dialogue openly, and lend a different foresight to a library/archive organization? Is that a laughable demand? People are quick to brand you as a complainer when you demand for a liveable future – those people are usually employed and suffering from amnesia.
The day I turned 30 I had a Skype interview at Calgary Public Library for their Digital Literacy Assistant Librarian (phew!) position. They called me back a few days later saying I got it. I was employed again and I was in shock. Slowly, the events that unfolded in the beginning of the year have floated by, giving me some psychic room to breath again. I’ve often said the struggle finding work is forgotten the moment you find something, but this time around the affect hovers over me. It’s a contract (a good one mind you), so there’s still that looming feeling that this isn’t permanent, thus this isn’t sustainable. In saying this, I’m experiencing something new for the first time: people are responding to the work I’m doing and I’ve never felt so invested in the process. I worry about not doing enough, but that’s more about the guilt and shame brought on by the socially ingrained Protestant work ethic. I want them to keep me, and I realize more and more that a part of this job, and the nature of working a contract, is to legitimize the position and my role of pushing it forward more than anyone else could.
I’ve always found there’s a lot for me to negotiate in terms of my working and non-working self. I compartmentalize my personage to the point it distracts from seeing clearly. Or I feel I see so clearly there can be no other way but this. I labour all the time. This post has been on my to-do-list for weeks, I’m typesetting two books, and continue to wrestle with co-collabortators over voice and intent. It’s nice to have a break from Vancouver for awhile, even though this city has been underwater it offers relief. I was always suspicious of our instructors in library school telling us how adaptable we need to be. You might have hopes of becoming an academic librarian, they would say, but it turns out you want to work in a public library. In hindsight, it was the perfect cover for the ensuing precaritization of the field. My problem was I never knew where I wanted to end up, and I can see where I was naive.
Next time I promise my posts will sound less melancholic (lie), I’ll talk about what I’m doing at CPL and how it’s meeting my cognitive demands (truth!).
Oh, and I started a yoga “practice” (truth).