career, creativity, LIS, philosophy, work, writing

Changing tack?

What I’m wanting to write about, at this point, is the process initiated when one realizes that the self-concept they had as a younger person no longer fits as well as it used to. This is particularly difficult when that self-concept has become ingrained in one’s identity, and when one never expected it to change or morph into something else.

In particular…I know I’ve built the groundwork for creating things, but I might be better served in my own life and identity by not primarily judging or gauging myself as, “a creative.” That isn’t necessarily…fully true, though; the creativity and curiosity may just be finding a different method of revelation.

However: it is the case that it’s seriously a significant shift to get back into making physical art. As well, the stories I told myself as a 17- to 20-year-old to explain my situation, are not necessarily the wisest things to refer back to in order to explain the rest of my life, no matter how “creative” they were. Maybe it works when the average life expectancy is 36 (or 25)…not so much in modern times.

I mentioned this to M and D, recently, and they said it was a sign of growth. That interpretation helps, as versus interpreting it as a sign of failure. I’ve just realized that accumulating arts and crafts supplies doesn’t mean much when I don’t use them. And if I don’t use them, that’s just wasted money (and space) spent in trying to prop up an identity which no longer fits. In Buddhism, I believe this is known as clinging (upadana?), which is a cause of unnecessary duhkha, or, “suffering,” interpreted loosely.

At this point, in regular life, I suppose I can say that I’m in at least four classes, though I only paid for two of them. When all the work from those two classes was completed, last week, I decided to give myself Sunday off: I had been putting classwork as first priority since the past Monday.

I don’t precisely remember what I did on Sunday, but somewhere in there, I was able to get some reading done in Toxic Archipelago: A History of Industrial Disease in Japan. I’m pretty sure that happened early Monday morning (today’s Tuesday, right?). Like, until about 3 AM, Monday morning. (I got through Chapter 3, setting myself up for Chapter 4, where itai-itai byou [lit. “it hurts-it hurts disease”; a.k.a. cadmium poisoning] is introduced…which is the major topic of interest which got me started on Bad Water, which then led me back to Toxic Archipelago as a book to read, prior.)

After I finish Bad Water, assuming it can hold my attention, I can move on to Radiation Brain Moms & Citizen Scientists. All three of these books are based upon ecological disasters in the Japanese archipelago (the last in relation to the Tohoku earthquake and Fukushima Daiichi disaster), though I think Bad Water is more of a political analysis of culture after the ecological disasters in the Tokugawa and Meiji eras. So far, Toxic Archipelago has heavy (albeit at times, forced) Buddhist themes, which I hadn’t expected.

My sleep hygiene hasn’t been the best, recently: I’ve been getting up for breakfast, then going back to bed and sleeping until late afternoon, and staying up very late. (You know it’s bad when it’s 12:45 AM, and you’re thinking about what else you can do.)

So…I’ve really got a lot of reading I can do. Aside from these three books, I have Rethinking Information Work, 2nd ed., which may help me if I want to enter a field in private industry, rather than working in an Academic or Public Library system; and Essential Classification, 2nd ed., which will help me if I become a Cataloger or Metadata Librarian. Both of the latter books, however, are really technical. Right now, though: I’m aiming for Cataloger and/or Metadata positions in Academic libraries.

One of my courses is entirely self-paced, and that’s a Spanish course which M purchased for me. I’m still in the first lesson, because other things (paid classes which I’m taking in tandem with a cohort of students) took priority late last week. I’m still torn as to whether I should be learning Spanish or Japanese languages…my interest is largely within the latter realm, but I might need a second “Western European language” to work in at least the Academic Libraries I’ve been looking at. I’m just (much!) closer to facility in Spanish than I am in Japanese; M says that the requirement for Spanish is likely because a lot of the patrons around here speak and read the language.

Basically, right now, I have a lot of time. My folks are telling me that I should have time during the next year to year-and-a-half to redetermine what I want to do with my life. I’m actually thinking about becoming an academic researcher…though a lot of this is being addicted to content, and specific, deep content, at that. I’m pretty much amazed that Toxic Archipelago seems to only be in nearby Academic (not Public) Library collections…

There is, that is, the possibility of becoming a Subject Specialist in some topic related to the Pacific Rim. Right now, the majority of my knowledge centers around the West Coast, Hawaii, and Japan. Through Hawaii, there’s connection to other areas in Polynesia, and to Japan…is that what I want, though? Do I want to center my studies on Asian American experience and culture? Or do I want to learn Japanese language and be able to more deeply appreciate other areas which are written of in Japanese?

Or, you know, learn a different language (Native Hawaiian)? Or focus on other English-speaking areas in the Pacific Rim, like Australia and New Zealand?

One of the things I’m realizing is that it’s going to be really difficult, given the speed of technological change and the potential rate of global sea level rise (particularly looking at the accelerating melt-rate of Greenland’s ice sheet)…to be able to predict what will be stable decisions, as regards the future.

So…I’m not quite sure what to do, except do what I love, now. Especially as, at this point, no one can really tell what the future’s going to hold. The major issue for me is that the majority of my life so far has been preparation for the future, not living for the present. It’s kind of hard to get out of that, though being reminded of one’s own mortality…you know. It will kind of force one’s hand.

At the moment, my engagement is taken up with study, and it isn’t bad study. I am, for example, learning how to wrangle quantitative data (which I didn’t really get in my Library Science program), and I’m learning more about Subject Access. I know, however, that the latter will require far more effort than just this class; I’ve been through six others, so far, only two of which were within my LIS program.

So basically, right now…I believe I’m undergoing a sort of transformation from artist to scholar…particularly as the vast majority of material I read is nonfiction. As for what I can do with this…

Writing?

career, money, spirituality, work

COVID worries

Yes, I do realize it’s been two weeks since I posted last. Thankfully, I am not dead (at this time), and neither are any of my relatives or friends, so far as I know. The last two weeks have just been really…unsettling. I did complete my course, and signed up for a couple more. Right now…the future is really uncertain, though we can likely say that no one really expected this. Well — no one except the well-informed and future-oriented. Like, you know, epidemiologists.

A pandemic (or maybe I should say, another pandemic — in the Bay Area, we’ve been graced with HIV for a while, now) on a macro scale, was predictable. We were vulnerable to it, and didn’t pay attention, and a lot of people here aren’t taking it seriously even now with hospitalizations spiking. I haven’t even paid enough attention to it, and I have OCD, meaning — in my variant — constant worry about contamination.

That means constant attention as to whether my concerns about cleanliness border on paranoia, are actual paranoia, or are not being paranoid enough. The thing is…my tracking everything that I touch, and my keeping things that are dirty separate from things that are clean, and washing my hands whenever I’ve touched anything questionable…it makes sense in an environment with an invisible killer.

My major concern isn’t about myself, however: it’s about my parents. And I’m thinking their major concern is for me. The thing is that to protect them, I have to protect myself (even if my own mortality is something I feel I have no control over, and I’ve spent the majority of my life being ambivalent towards existence and uncertain about the future).

And yeah, it does pain me to say that. But, you know. It’s harder to survive than it is to die. Always has been. At some point there has to be a choice as to whether I’m going to try as hard as I can to survive, or whether I’m going to give up and take my chances. From what I’ve seen, a lot of people are content with the latter. I’m not sure if they’re thinking God will save them or what. But we’re dealing with a virus. This is mechanical. This is stoppable: but not by God; by us.

So, officially, I’m pretty much laid off right now. It’s probably a good thing; D said that if I hadn’t been laid off, now would be the time to consider quitting. (I actually have been called at least three separate times within the last week by people looking to fill Substitute positions [meaning others have either quit or are out sick or taking vacation]; I actually had to tell the person on the phone that I had been laid off as of tomorrow. Talk about non-communication?)

I’ve applied for one job which is in my actual career track (not Public Service), met up with the people from HR to help them find another position for me, and have gotten a lot of work done on bringing my Portfolio back up to speed. I’ve also identified a niche to become employed within, in the future, which will keep me out of contact with the general public (and right now I’m not sure which divinity or quasi-divinity to thank for letting me know to look towards the future, not the past, in my employment skills — Maitreya? heh). I’m fairly certain that I may have to spend my cash on schooling, but…I may be raining down hard on myself, there.

And today, today — when I finally got out of bed — I realized that there was actually nothing which had to get done immediately or yesterday. I do still need to re-read my Portfolio and make sure that it makes sense and that everything is in place. I didn’t do it before because I was trying just to get the thing uploaded, period.

I’ve also been looking at requirements and job skills for people in my position. The good thing is that I have a lot of free and low-cost options for schooling in what I don’t have — although both M and D are telling me that I’m very capable, now, and that I don’t necessarily need to be taking more classes.

I should probably, however…take stock of what I have, and see how long I can hold out before I’ll actually need to go back to work (which I may be able to do, remotely). I’m not even certain I should be applying for in-person jobs, at this point in time.

It’s just, pretty scary. My concern isn’t about dying; it’s about living without people who have supported me in the past and present. And to protect them, I have to protect myself.

I mean, seriously, that sums it up.

Anyhow…I started out this post thinking about how I didn’t know what to do today. I ended up drafting a page of things to do, some of which (worrying, for one) are more personally deleterious than others.

There are actually a good number of things I could do which would be constructive — and not in the sense of constructing things. Doing the latter…it’s a distinctly different mode than building ideas (or taking them in). It has been difficult for me to give myself permission to just work with my hands, recently; although it is a viable route to increase my income by a little.

I think, that is, that there’s tension in my mind between doing intellectual work and crafting. Of course, right? But…beyond just the surface, here…I’ve been reading Toxic Archipelago: A History of Industrial Disease in Japan, by Brett Walker (2010), and the author’s recognition that what we put out into the environment eventually ends up permeating our own bodies is a salient one. It’s a reason (well, one of them) why I’ve stopped painting, as I’ve been using pigments which I know are toxic and don’t want to flush into the environment. That environment circles back to someone (or as the case may be, eventually everyone), through what the author calls, “trophic cascades.” (I had to look up “trophic.” Do it.) :)

That’s not to discourage anyone from painting, but it is one reason I’ve — personally — stopped, and started to look back at intellectual work as a greener pastime, in my own case. The key to why I’m interested in this line of thought, by the way, is itai-itai byou (it hurts-it hurts disease), which…as I’ve said before, is a disease caused by cadmium poisoning, though this was thorough cadmium poisoning, from mine runoff. Knowledge of this is the major reason I’ve avoided exposure to cadmium pigments as much as possible. It’s also why I warned other students in my painting classes about using soluble cadmium salts; and notified them about the existence of Materials Safety Data Sheets.

As a person who has studied Eastern philosophy for a while, I can recognize a “spiritual” current (and I’m not sure “spiritual” is the right term, as, for example, I wouldn’t necessarily label Buddhist influence as “spiritual” if it fundamentally questions the reality of an enduring self [or “spirit”]) woven through the fabric of the text. But I mean, there’s Daoist and Confucian thought there, too, as well as a belief in spirits which [in the absence of other data] I would likely attribute to Shinto; and the author does explain how these philosophies contributed to the understanding of the ecological conditions of the day (mostly in the Tokugawa and Meiji periods, so far).

I do question his interchangeable use of “reincarnation” and “rebirth;” they don’t mean the same thing in a modern English-speaking Buddhist context (though maybe at the time, in Japanese language, there was no distinction). “Reincarnation” refers to a transmigration of the soul; “rebirth” refers to the dependent arising of another being from the karma (causes and conditions) of another life; the reborn child is not considered to be the same being (or the same “soul”) as the last, as the version of Buddhism I’m thinking of (which version, I wonder?) doesn’t use the concept of self-arising and self-sustaining, individual “soul-ness” or personhood.

And then in my head, I get the, “fragment of God,” angle on this (that myself and all others are unique fragments of God but that some of us vibrate together), which would support the concept of a personal and enduring, “soul.” Just, that angle is also hard to bear, if mortality is supposed to be a relief, and if people are supposed to have the capacity to change who they are, given other causes and conditions.

(By the way, I doubt that anyone else is using the, “Fragment of God,” angle. So far as I know, it’s idiosyncratic to me, and combines a number of strains of thought.)

But all that is metaphysics, and something we are really not supposed to waste time speculating on, if we are Buddhist…leaving open for now, the question of whether or not I am Buddhist. On one hand, I’d openly acknowledge interest in Buddhist systems of thought, and the fact that elements of these traditions (Mindfulness) are helpful where it comes to lived psychological resilience; on the other, just because the techniques work, doesn’t mean I buy wholeheartedly into the beliefs or philosophies or politics that evolved along with them.

I’d probably be in good company with that complexity, however (and possibly, a bunch I’d rather not) — I’m told that Buddhologists and practicing Buddhists take really different tacks to this material.

I think I’ve made it through all the Front Matter and the first two chapters, on Toxic Archipelago — I set it aside for a little over a week because it was notably not in pristine condition when I got it, even though I had asked for a New (not Used) copy. It basically smelled like a library book even though it had come from halfway across the country, and the corners of the pages were marred like someone had put it in and taken it out of a backpack a couple of times. It also looked like someone had used the front cover as a writing board, as it had ballpoint pen indentations on it — though no ink marks. (I’ve worked in libraries for over a decade; I know what new books look and feel like.) Given that it took over a month to come, I decided not to send it back; but I did wipe it down in alcohol, and leave it to rest for over a week.

I do have to say, however, that I seem to be the first person to mark it up (I’m using a Frixion fineliner, so it’s erasable), and the content is interesting, if a bit gruesome. I was referred back to it by the book, Bad Water: Nature, Pollution & Politics in Japan, 1870-1950, by Robert Stolz (2014). Toxic Archipelago is what I was looking for in Bad Water, but Bad Water is more about politics and national identity in Japan following episodes of pollution, while Toxic Archipelago is more about pollution as a key cause and how it was brought about by other causes and conditions in Japan.

(See what I did there.)

And…right now I’m being encouraged to drop the Japanese language study and go back to Spanish. I really don’t want to, but the job I’m after, at this moment, requires reading comprehension in Spanish language. It is a University job, but still: the only reason for me to learn Spanish is because other people near me use it, and because it opens more job opportunities. I have more bad impressions than good ones, of my past Spanish classes. I’m not entirely sure if it’s anyone’s fault.

Maybe the Superintendent’s.

The major thing is that I actually have a personal reason to learn Japanese: I’m fourth-generation, and the ability to speak the language died out in the second (as is usual, I’ve read). Standing between myself and fluency in Spanish is rage at colonialism…which is hard to deal with, even in English. It’s just magnified for me when I have to read and re-read a certain passage, asking myself if the author really meant that, or whether my language skills just are not up to par.

It doesn’t help that I am not sure if Hi-Lo books (high interest, low reading level) are available in Spanish, specifically for adult language learners. Usually, Hi-Lo books are used for programs like Project Second Chance, where you have adults who are learning to read in English for the first time. In contrast…I’ve been told to try reading things out of the Spanish Children’s section, and the content of some of these books, seriously makes me mad. I mean…seriously. Racism. Anyone.

I got through The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because I had to. But when there are clear signs that say, “you don’t want to enter here,” do I heed them, or do I look for a different author? I mean, it’s like learning to read English and the first book you come across is …*cough* something by…someone you would struggle not to hate if you knew them. And you know them enough because they’re all over the TV reinforcing social inequalities.

But I guess that’s something you don’t know about if you can’t read Spanish…like the people who are encouraging me on, can’t read Spanish.

I’ll just…maybe think on it. Maybe I’ll try and read some Spanish material for adults. Maybe. If I’m working in an Academic Library, I’m guessing that the collections are vetted and hopefully, decent. They likely are also above my reading level.

But hey — at least I’ll get my intonations right…