What have I been doing?

(Apologies for the lack of section breaks. This post took me a very long time to write, and I can’t bring myself to edit it for even more time before posting.)

I feel like I haven’t been doing much over the last week. Looking back at my planner, I can see more activity than comes to mind, as I’ve been trying to record not only what I intend (or at least need) to do, but also what I actually did. Most activities have to do with hygiene, exercise, and food preparation, however (and all that ties into medical concerns): self-care things. Probably, I should start logging how much I’m reading, because I’m doing that, too — along with classwork. Then there is research…like, actual research, as in finding out whether, for the positions I think I desire, I would face routine requirements for Computer Science backgrounds and skillsets (short answer: not now). Then there is just playing around online, when I could be, say: using my Art supplies; or writing untrue things (i.e., Fiction).

Tuesday morning, I tried to finish Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being, by Brian R. Little (2014), but gave up at 2 AM with two chapters to go. Even so, that progress might have been surprising, considering where I started (maybe 100 pages back). I also see that I didn’t credit myself for that work, in my planner.

I’ve extrapolated from the ideas in this book, that I really should not put myself back into the position of being a Public Services Librarian for an extended (or indefinite) period of time. My skills and psychological traits are really mismatched to the position, and looking at the relevant personality indexes, it’s obvious where. (Not all Librarians in every specialization have — or need — the same skill sets.) Although one index (Spheres of Control) is a mystery to me — it seems like there must be an error in the directions, or maybe it’s a cultural oversight thing (yes, I have an external locus of control, but it’s an influenceable one dealing with spirits and [other] things I don’t yet fully understand, and probably can’t yet hope to understand; not, simply, “luck,” as Little puts it) — the Ten-Item Personality Inventory and the Self-Monitoring Scale help me see more clearly where I’m coming from.

I really need to find a job which does not have to deal with continued random interruptions, heavy social contact that comprises most of the day, or an expectation that I have to be, “friendly (even to people who harass me or are abusive).” It’s just, really, not in my nature to deal in an effective manner with that sort of situation — especially when I have less than no desire to engage, and when what some patrons want (of me, personally) goes far beyond what I am willing or capable of giving.

I already know I have anger and aggression issues, and I am coming to see I also have trauma issues, all of which may lie as causative or synthetic factors behind my present (non-woman, non-man) gender identity. (For instance, aggression was at one time the only way I could get others to stop stereotyping me as, “a girl.” Anger issues may arise from others constantly assuming my gender [wrongly].) Add in the asexuality, and if I were a religious person, I would begin to think of celestials, or…angry, celestials. But I’m not a religious person, I don’t operate according to a religious script, and people who feel they aren’t human, well…I’ve known some.

I’ve gotten to the point where I try not to invest too much in religion. I don’t want to throw myself wholly into a cultural construction with all its vicissitudes, politics, and mismatches to my personality and reality just to find out that it is a cultural construction with no core (just more cultural constructions). That might be interesting from an anthropological viewpoint…not so much, if you desire truth. But granted, at least in my frame of mind — valid spiritual concepts are likely based in some part on experience, so I don’t find the concept of humans with nonhuman identities, to be all that outlandish. (I should add that there are also spiritual concepts in which I find nothing more than self-serving propaganda, but I don’t think I’ll get into that, here.)

However: if the form I presently maintain around my gender identity and sexual orientation is not who I really am, I’d like to disentangle and mend what’s at the base of it, so I can best understand it and get on with my life (without having a continual run in my knitting, so to speak). If my gender identity and sexual orientation are natural, accurate, and stable (I’m fine with appearing female, this much is certain: also certain is that the concept of, “female,” contains multiple genders, regardless of how those genders arise [which respect I might also apply to myself]); I need to find a way to cope with feeling like I’m being assumed to be a woman, and learn how to reconcile that with a galaxy of “women” in regard to which, my internal reality is an outlier.

Of course, is there a way to do both? To live with both?

Seeing myself as gender non-binary is a stopgap measure which has worked so far, but while the community almost fits, I now question to what extent we (as a group) are psychologically stable; due to the fact that I’ve explored a lot of fringe stuff (I didn’t have a lot to lose), and I’m not alone. If we as a group are not psychologically stable, the question arises as to whether the instability arises out of a routine background of trauma, or is independent of it.

I might not have come to this conclusion at 25, or even 30. At around 40, now; that’s different. Of course, however, I do not have the training to be able to distinguish the difference: I am not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, or even a social worker.

Right now I’m working on the anger issues, though at the same time, I don’t need to be exposed to triggers before I know what I’m doing. There are some triggers I’ve exposed myself to for the sake of trying to get used to them (exposure therapy)…but when the aversions are really ingrained (for example: I have OCD and have had it since I was a child), I seriously question the utility of making myself uncomfortable, as versus just avoiding the situation.

For example, I shouldn’t work in a social environment which I know is dirty and in which I know I’ll eventually needlessly be exposed to potentially deadly disease, when I have a germ phobia and am uncomfortable with and distrustful of people at the outset (and, “people,” extends to the organization I’m working for, if I feel they’re treating my life as disposable). Or, concomitantly, where I’m seen as an object of desire by (apparently) cisgender, heterosexual men (whom I don’t trust) who assume via visual pattern-matching that I must be a (cisgender, heterosexual) woman because I’m female and don’t match a stereotype of, “lesbian,” and that they therefore have some relation to me that should matter.

But yeah, those are just assumptions or conjectures that make me angrier, right? And they aren’t proven, right? Reality could be different. I’m trying to use multiple methods to tackle this, and drawing conclusions based on incomplete information is said to make the internal suffering worse. Even if there are patterns, and also massive confirmation bias.

It may be that only around one half of one percent of the adult population actually is a major jerk to the point of being a social problem, but I tend to ruminate over that one half of one percent — trying to figure out what went wrong; how to engage differently next time to avoid unwanted outcomes. Unfortunately, that means that I largely remember and live within the replaying memories of negative and uncomfortable and stressful events, even when the majority of my life is not made up of those events.

That’s not to mention childhood. I have been thinking about how much of my life as a child and teenager was steered or otherwise impacted by groundless rumors and misconstruals (lies) which both I and the kids around me, thought we could take as reliable and made in good faith.

And no, I don’t know why I’ve found lies and misdirection so rarely in any human-produced stories I’ve been exposed to, given their prevalence in life. It’s kind of like asking why Star Trek’s Khan was so honest and forthcoming (if I recall correctly). Was he just too smart to get caught in a lie?

Neither have I seen antagonists who shut up about their plans and operated according to their own devices independently of whether anyone else understood them. Bare-faced deceit and pathological liars seem rare in fiction, but I probably just haven’t read enough. (A lack of independent recreational reading — of books, not of Web articles — as an adult, has been my biggest handicap in Writing. It has been so long since I tried to read novels for pleasure [and actually had pleasure] that I kind of feel alienated from the genre. I do like Granta [a literary magazine of short fiction], though.)

That being said, I’ve found myself actually kind of interested in the British crime drama, Halifax, though I’m not sure whether I saw Halifax: Retribution, or the original series (I think what I saw was part of Retribution, in which I really enjoyed the misdirection). Along the same lines where it came to the level of suspense, was the American crime drama, Almost Human — which I also liked.

Anyhow, Brian Little’s book, Me, Myself, and Us reflects directly upon a job list to which I applied. I now know that if I get asked to work a front-line Service position, I need to turn it down for my own sake: psychologically, I’d have trouble, at this point. This is as versus a job working more directly with Information that doesn’t include the routine public-interface component. However, there is no discrimination as to who gets interviewed for what, at this juncture, and within this system. Qualification for and assignment to jobs seems to be based on pay grades, seniority, education, tests, and what the hiring committee wants; not necessarily job descriptions, or your actual desire to fill the specific position offered. Of course, if you hear it from a lot of people with whom I’ve worked, within said system: said system is not great.

I say that, realizing that we’re planning on relocating to an area where it may be that the only local jobs I can find are Service jobs. I am really not looking forward to that, but the upshot is that I can work remotely, and I have a track record of self-motivation and being able to work independently. There are two other positive components, the first of which is that I can gain skills to increase my social tolerance: I’m not necessarily stuck where I am. The second positive: I believe a good portion of local jobs, where we’re moving, are going to be Private Sector; meaning that I may have options which a Public Sector employee would not have (or would not be seen to have, which matters). We’re also looking at a lot of diversity in the area, which may mean that I’ll be seen as a normal person and not as, “exotic,” by the locals. That could also make it easier to deal with — some — people. Maybe, many people. Not tourists.

Anyhow. I haven’t been managing my life as well as normal, within this last week. I’m not entirely sure why, but I know that I haven’t been getting as much sleep as usual. I’ve been continuing to cut out extra sugars and processed food, and have started to exercise again. I’m dealing with my health on a few fronts: one of which is linked to needing to drop weight to regulate my pancreas; another of which is learning to be aware of my thoughts. I suppose the latter could be useful where it comes to Writing, as well — maybe it could get me out of those trains of thought which seem to be rushing inexorably towards the death of my characters. (You see where my mind was, the last time I tried to write a book. I was young.)

As well: I realized yesterday that I need to stop preparing to take jobs that I don’t want and to which I’m unsuited. Working in a Public Library setting infers that I would need to know about Library Programming (not Computer Programming, but more along the lines of throwing public events), Public Outreach, and Reader’s Advisory. Maybe I can do it, but would I be happy doing it? Would I be healthy doing it?

Public Libraries, from what I gather this semester and remember from past ones, seem to be where many people start out (with a distant runner-up appearing as work-study in University libraries). However…if I am not aiming to take a Public Librarian job, I don’t need to prepare to take a Public Librarian job. In light of limited time and resources, I’m better off preparing for something I actually want to do; or exploring what I think I might want to do; not what I’m pretty sure I don’t want to do, simply because I already know it exists and it’s familiar.

Of course…what I, “want to do,” essentially, is to write. No — actually, that’s what I need to do. It’s what I, “can’t-not-do.” What Little’s book says of me, however, is that I am a LSM, or, “Low Self-Monitor,” meaning (in my words) that my integrity is important to me. I have a hard time changing my outward appearance to suit different settings (the latter of which would be more like a HSM, or, “High Self-Monitor”) — although I can engage those HSM tendencies I do have, in, “acting,” as different characters, on paper. I still have yet to see whether it is easier over the long term for me to write fiction or non-fiction, however.

Although, actually: most of what I write, derives from reality. The appeal of fiction is that I can name dynamics without having to cleave closely to the character of the actors, or sacrifice their anonymity. The appeal of nonfiction is that I can narrate the entire thing, and there actually is a “correct” version of events discoverable through research (this does not mean that the ideas drawn from them could be held to the same measure). Seems like it would be kind of …uncreative, but most of my reading, and my research, is nonfiction. I don’t know what that says about me.

Being a LSM means that I may write books — even successfully — in accordance with my ethics and sense of self and within the range of what I actually think or am grappling with…but I may not be able to easily and quickly adapt to suit various different situations and requirements. I’m thinking that in commercial writing, for example, I may not actually care about my topic, but I still may be asked to write as though I am enthusiastic about it (to inspire enthusiasm in the reader).

Or, I may be asked to find a way to feel enthusiasm about someone else’s project so I can then write about it with enthusiasm and seem authentic. I fear this course would jeopardize the guidance of my core self over time — unless I take my role as a form of Fiction writing and discard it after it has met its usefulness. Of course, that gets into reliability and back into the concept of integrity. (“Integrity,” as a Fiction writer, is an interesting idea to work on…what would that look like?)

Additional hesitancy lies in the fact that this is a power and money issue. It might extend to an intellectual freedom issue, except for the fact that these arrangements appear voluntarily entered into. No matter who you are, though, in this society, you’ve got to have an income: pressed between cleaning toilets and writing things I don’t actually believe, which would I choose?

Knowledge of my core self is hard-won. Having gotten something of a grip on it, I don’t feel it’s entirely worth it to risk losing that grip for economic reasons. It might be better to try and profit off of my strengths rather than my weaknesses, even if they pay less immediately and less well. (By that I mean non-fiction writing, not toilets.)

In one of the readings I found, the authors brought up the fact that many LIS job ads contain what they call, “evaluative adjectives,” which are openly judgmental declarations on desired constitutional qualities that can’t be measured. This was on page 60, in Classifying Librarians: Cataloger, Taxonomist, Metadatician? by Beverly J. Geckle & David N. Nelson (2017), found in The Serials Librarian (https://doi.org/10.1080/0361526X.2017.1320871). I have also seen these pop up on job ads, and I agree with the authors when they state that the only function these adjectives serve is to discourage applicants. (id., 61)

Maybe it would make more sense if they said they were seeking HSM candidates (given that anyone knows or cares what HSM means), or otherwise, people who are willing and able to pretend (and perhaps convince themselves) that they’re, “dynamic, energetic, enthusiastic.” (ibid.) Perhaps not, “jaded;” easily possible after the, “enthusiastic,” idealistic, candidates get more experience. (As an aside, it is notoriously difficult to retain minority Librarians. I have some idea why, but it gets down to the fact that people are treated differently by the general public based on the way they are embodied. Sexism and racism are the two biggest factors that come to mind.)

In any case, I scored low on Agreeableness, on top of being LSM. I find myself agreeable…when I’m treated civilly and with proper respect. I just don’t do it for the sake of other people: I appear happy when I am happy, and don’t know why I should be asked to appear as though I am, when I’m not. Giving other people — people whom I may not even know — power over my peaceful nonverbal emotional expression (with the threat of open hostility for noncompliance — it happens) is not a pleasant thing. Some people call this restraint, “professionalism.” I really don’t know what it is, but I know that in an ideal world (which none of us live in) it shouldn’t be required.

That’s an aside, anyway.

I wish they would have told me in my undergraduate Creative Writing program that it’s hard to make a living off of writing books, before I committed.

They also said that it was hard to get a book published, though. Whereas, if you already know a bit about the book business (say, from being exposed to all kinds of books in libraries, being familiar with publishers, being an avid reader, being able to seek out books on known topics — and to follow the hints in the books you do read and like, to other books you may read and like, ad infinitum [or until the supply is exhausted, at least: at which point I believe you can say you’re “well-read”]), you might be able to target your manuscripts to the right editors — or find an agent who can.

Looking back on it now, I also wonder about the level of student writing in my Undergraduate program.

The quality or skill of my fellow student authors didn’t stand out to me at the time. I focused on workshopping to help others see what I could see to improve, expand upon, or shorten; if they were too close to the work to notice. I wasn’t in the process of judging one student as better than another, or one work as better than another. However, I also didn’t realize just how much difference there was in quality, between lower-division and Master’s level work (pretty much because I was new to upper-division, at the time). Could my Professor have been warning us about not getting our hopes up as regarded Publishing, because the quality of classwork (not all of which I saw; we workshopped in small cohorts) wasn’t yet up to snuff?

What I’ve learned from my Career Counselor, as well, is that it’s hard to make a living off of editing books. I’ve read that editing is a social occupation; whereas at University, my Professors also warned me that Creative Writing was a solitary occupation.

Well, I suppose it must be, with all the time one sits alone at their desk writing, or taking the time to read. Those are, fairly definitely, solitary activities. Then again, people-watching is an infamous source of material (as I learned early on in a summer Writer’s Project), and I imagine that many writers get the personal back-and-forth encounters which they need to really understand diverse characters and interactions, through side jobs. I don’t think all of that can be self-generated (though it may be modeled by reading other books).

I know that I do most of my writing in the evenings, though now I’m moving to finishing up and polishing my initial ideas, the next day (or two, or three). It’s very easy for me to write when it’s quiet and dark, though our ISP went out last night and I had to delay upload until this morning, when I began editing and expansion. It’s kind of amazing how a tagged text file is so much more uninspiring than a Rich Text editor…

One of the things I haven’t yet mastered, however, is organization within my writing; and that has been fairly constant over the years. (And no, I am not taking bids for editors right now.)

I think I’ll post this as an example of a somewhat-edited, elaborated-upon free-write. I knew last night that I needed to write, and didn’t really know what would come out of me when I sat down to do it. It could be interesting to see this material (or some of it, at least) come up again, in a more ordered fashion, in the future. And/or, I could expand upon it. That’s one of the good things about writing: wandering down one path leads to many other possible paths that aren’t visible from the outset…

Published by Haruna

Haruna is a Librarian by training, currently pivoting from Public Services into Technical Services. Their undergraduate major was English -- Creative Writing, and they hold an additional small degree in Art (i.e. Visual Arts). They are now pondering whether a career in Academia is viable or desirable, given the current situation.

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