career, writing

Using your words

When you know you’re in the right, but claiming the ability to act as a full person still takes bravery.

Over…likely, the past month, my efforts have shifted from honing my writing skills, to craft and design. I have realized that becoming a freelance writer is more than within my grasp. I am more than capable. The question has been whether I want to take the repercussions of speaking my mind. The problem is, whenever anyone says something that’s important to anybody, someone else has a problem with it — because knowledge is power, and the denial of accurate, clear, usable, validating information is the denial of power, and denial of agency, to that person who finds it important.

And I know I can help the people who find what I say, important. I know, that is, that I’m on a side I can live in peace with. I didn’t always know that, but my view has gotten much clearer, recently.

I can see that when I was younger, I had a much more simplistic idea of potential anonymity as an author. These days, it’s very apparent to me that anonymity doesn’t necessarily exist, when writing for publication. Perhaps before the Internet existed, that was possible…it isn’t, now. Not without some type of global privacy regulations that could be applied to the owners of sites which distribute other peoples’ private information…and not without in some way disabling the tracking of aliases of authors who have not committed crimes.

(Of course, to some, the “wrong people” writing and speaking, might as well be considered a crime…and the Library of Congress is not exempt from politics. It is the Library of Congress. Not a national library. Not the people’s library.)

The obvious issue is that elements protecting the privacy of authors can be circumvented, and we trust strangers on the Internet, far too much. Tim Berners-Lee’s original Internet, that is…doesn’t seem to have included protections for information that wasn’t supposed to be shared. Perhaps it wasn’t intended to have grown as large as it has, or to include the people it does. As far as I can see, it involved utopian ideals, but…utopias can fail. Especially where failure was never expected; where the ideal was implicit that people would be decent and responsible, not malicious.

In other words…we do not live in a utopia, even given the chance to live in a utopia. The most brilliant and insightful ideas can still be bent towards destroying our own kind and utilized by the most inept, ignorant and callous among us — because of how our societies are set up.

What I’m taking as my provisional reality is the assumption that if someone wants to know who I am, that information is not impossible to obtain. There is also the question of whether I actually do want to be known for my ideas; if “good trouble” is not a bad thing to get into.

I am aware of the First Amendment. I am also aware that a portion of this society is biased against me because of what I am, and that laws are not applied even-handedly. They’re applied by people with biases, assisted by computers which have likewise been programmed by people with biases. Both those factors — and others, like poor school funding sourced from low property taxes which relate to intergenerational poverty and a history of segregation (among other skewed variables), reinforce systematic outcomes of inequity which are then blamed on factors such as race and essentialism: that what people look like defines who they are and what they can be and become.

The issue I have been dealing with is the relative peace of my life since I got out of the main fray that I was dealing with as a young adult. I’m moving out of the phase of being a student, into the phase of being a working adult, hoping to eventually become an independent working adult…which has other attendant, “issues.” Like the rewards (and penalties) of conformity, and silence.

But writing implies communication. Communication infers saying things that not everyone may agree with — at least, at first.

In essence, it ensures conflict. I’m not a person who seeks conflict. But I can see that there are some things worth fighting for, that the world can be better than it is; that we can be better than we are. In this world, change is preceded by conflict; and not everyone right now is living in a state which guarantees a sustainable, hopeful future.

I guess part of that is my utopian idealization. But if you’re going to have to fight, it’s good to know your ultimate goal. What you’re fighting for is one of those questions that can’t be avoided if you want to keep up your pace and your work. Even when a life of quiet, dull, closeted obscurity beckons.

DISCLAIMER: This entry is not meant to represent the views of any organization, professional or otherwise; I am representing myself, and myself alone.

career, libraries, writing

Strengths

I began this post thinking that maybe Librarianship wasn’t a bad place to travel in my career, after all. Then I wrote out a few paragraphs, and realized…no, this…Public Services is something I really shouldn’t do. I mean, really should not.

When I first started a job as a Library Aide, I got a lot of pushback from patrons (including the guy who tried to get out of his fines by doing a “Godfather” impression). I was thinking how, after two to three years, after I learned to expect the unexpected, that mostly ended. Even given that: in reality as a Library Assistant, I was only on the Reference desk for seven months before COVID forced the libraries to close.

That is, I didn’t get the chance for things to become easy. They were never “easy” for me, at the Reference Desk, because that work is basically having to respond to the environment in the moment, never knowing what is going to happen next. It’s fielding random questions that I almost never know the answer to, offhand; and even if I did, best practice is to look it up, anyway. The problem is, when you’re at the Reference Desk, the patrons seem to always expect you to already know the answer to their questions. Because, you know, you’re the Librarian, and Librarians all know everything. Well — no. We know how to help find information, we don’t already know it.

Of course, finding information isn’t the hard part. Even trying to figure out what you really need to know so we can help you, isn’t the hard part.

The hard part is dealing with disruptive and criminal activity (most apparently from what I can tell: stalking), protecting some of our patrons (like youth) from others of our patrons, and routine policy violations: e.g. eating inside; letting one’s “Service” Pitbull sleep in the middle of a walkway around a blind corner where someone can trip over her or step on her or run her over with a 120-lb cart (and we’re trusting her not to bite? Not to bite?); leaving one’s dog tied up outdoors where he’s obviously in great distress and crying loudly for you to come back. For 45 minutes. Or worse, running around loose and unattended.

(Okay, maybe I have a thing about dogs.)

Then there are the people who are lonely and want to sit and talk to the person who is at work and can’t leave the desk (and just assume that she also wants to have a conversation — with them — at that time); or incessantly ask for assistance they don’t need, because they want social contact. As much as I wish I could say that we aren’t paid to be friends with people (which feels one step away from prostitution/consort work), upper Management seems to have no problem with expecting people to do so.

Then there are the people with (usually, assumed) mental problems who behave erratically (and/or ritualistically) and sometimes in a hostile manner, depending on the brain chemistry of the day. Not to mention the ones that will comment on librarians’ bodies (is that worse?), or ask intrusive personal questions. I guess, “because they want to know you.” And they don’t think that maybe you don’t have an interest in giving out facts about your personal life to someone you don’t know.

And yes, I did break up with somebody who insisted on calling me a, “sexy Librarian.” That **** doesn’t help. I don’t get a buzz out of being called “sexy,” especially when you’re simultaneously misgendering and stereotyping me. You are supposed to know better. I imagine you smacking your lips, self-satisfied — I am not the person you want me to be.

That is, there’s a host of interpersonal difficulties that come with being behind that desk, which are made even harder when one gets into libraries for the perceived safety, the inclusivity, and the information; and not, so much, to serve the public (meaning, “everyone who doesn’t violate policy [regardless of whether you agree with policy]”). When that’s compounded with a lack of effective training from Management on dealing with these points (and then chalked up by Management to the employee’s [or Manager’s] personal failing when it isn’t handled well), it’s not a good situation. Especially when one asked for applicable training, and had it denied.

But seriously: it was only seven months. Although that list up there ^ is from 10 years of experience.

Well, actually, maybe it is a good thing that I’m not in Public Service right now, and I really should aim for Cataloging Librarianship. The thing is, I’m not sure to what degree I will be able to both handle a job as a basic, “Librarian,” and also avoid Public Service. Kind of like I’m not sure to what degree I can be a Metadata Librarian and also avoid Computer Programming.

Or how I can learn Computer Programming without my brain screeching out of stress. I’m not a Programmer. At least, not at this point; but I would suspect, not ever. Markup Languages (HTML, XML) and Stylesheets (CSS; I stopped at XSLT) are different, but higher-level functionality (XPath, and I suspect JavaScript) makes my brain hurt. Then there is MySQL and…I think it was, Oracle (that is, an instance of Relational Database Design & Implementation, and language to Query that database). That wasn’t great, either.

And no, I didn’t know what I was getting into before I got into it.

I’m thinking it has a lot to do with all the vocabulary getting mixed up together: entities, attributes, elements, relations, values, etc. And the teachers using the terms like we already know what they mean, when I have to think about the definitions of words within at least three different compound terms just to try to understand a single sentence.

Given that…I realize that, in contrast, I have a lot of insight into social dynamics, even though I’m not a particularly social person. Last night, I was writing a post on my own…facilities, and special knowledge. I realized that my personal experience with disability (my own, and others’), and my mental focus around the area of marginalization in general…probably would help me in a Public Services capacity. (Not so much as a different temperament would, but.)

I do suppose that with everything that I’ve experienced, I’d also likely be good as an Academic Librarian.

What I realized, when I was writing my post, is that I have deep, visceral knowledge of what it’s like to be a multiply-impacted minority in this country. It’s…something that I am not entirely aware of, until weighing the benefit I could bring someone else through my experience, and realize that — for something like Ethnic Studies or Gender Studies (and hey look, there is a Disability Studies [now]), I have direct experience of what it’s like to live through what a lot of people just read about.

That is, I forget that my experience could be influenced by others altering the way they deal with me because of my (ambiguous) race in addition to my sex in addition to my apparent gender (which is not my gender) in addition to my apparent age (which is not my age), while my disability’s stigma (after I reveal I have one) can cause fear in those who are supposed to help, and none of the random sexual attention from men on the job is wanted (that is, I’m not a heterosexual woman, and I certainly don’t want a man who starts off by playing power games based on who he thinks I am [that is, subordinate to him], based on my appearance).

Wow, that’s…clear.

Maybe I should just be a Writer. It’s a solitary vocation. Of course, though, it requires a second income. And also, reading; which is not entirely…something I feel comfortable prioritizing while I’m in classes, but it would feed my writing.

I’m having two issues with my writing, right now.

One, when I spend the majority of my time writing, I cut down on time that I should be spending reading in order to enter into dialogue with other ideas and other writers.

Two, when I write, I write some things that I don’t feel safe publishing (even with the First Amendment; this country can be grievously unfair when it comes to the full protection of minority citizens), and that stops the entire discursive process in my mind. What I know I need to do is write my way through that content, without intending on publishing it, so I can get to what’s after it. Or, develop what I’ve written before. I don’t even necessarily know what I’ve been doing for the last week, but I know I haven’t been working on any of my Creative Writing projects. Or art projects (other than setting up the new palette).

Ah, that’s right: I’ve been working on second language acquisition (which by its nature is very basic) — particularly, new kanji — and my class. Hmm.

Then, there’s the point that major life decisions have come up within the last week.

I’ve also been writing, here, and that takes more time than I realize. One recent post took five hours. I’ve been writing this one, since last night.

I don’t feel so bad, anymore. The thing is, in my evenings, I can write here or in my notebooks, and/or study Japanese language. In the daytime, when my mind is sharper, I should be studying Library Science. Maybe after that, I can read in English and, you know, develop content…though perhaps the book I’m attempting to read isn’t actually interesting to me, right now. Regardless of its disputable topic aligning with my interests.

I still need to be looking at Writing and Editing jobs. Seriously. Even if Editing is an interpersonally-intense vocation, at least I wouldn’t be dealing with the general public. I’d be dealing with approved Writers and other people in the Publishing Industry. Not that that would necessarily be easier…

…but I know Writers. I’ve been around Writers. I’m a trained Writer.

Maybe it would be. (There’s also the fact that if I’m an Editor, the authors of the works I commission probably wouldn’t be as likely to overstep their bounds — because hey, it’s hard to get a book deal. And Editors aren’t designated as, “Public Servants,” which some members of the Public interpret to mean, “sub-human and unworthy of respect.” [And we wonder why minority Librarians are apt to leave the field?])

So right now…I know that I want to be reading and writing, and learning Japanese language (nihongo), and working on my class. That’s enough to plan on — right?

Reading and writing could further my career in the direction of becoming a published Author, which could help me become an Editor or Professor. Learning nihongo could further my career in the direction of becoming a Japanese Language & Literature Professor, and/or an Academic Librarian with a Subject Specialization in Japanese Language and Literature and Creative Writing. And my current class allows me further specialization in Cataloging Librarianship.

As for hobbies: drawing and watercolor, fountain pens/stationery, sewing, beadwork (weaving, stringing, micromacramé) are current…but the only things I’ve been doing recently have been playing with pens and stationery, and trying to organize my watercolors.

As for specializations: we have diversity & inclusion — especially in regard to LGBTQIA, cultural and racial diversity, neurodiversity. Then there are color interactions & color harmonies, which tie together my hobbies. Beaded micromacramé. Jewelry design. Parapsychological thrillers. Library Science.

…and maybe…just maybe, I should work on sewing that blouse I cut out at the beginning of lockdown. Making and altering clothing could be a valuable skill, even if I can’t see myself as a clothing designer, at this point.

And, regardless…it might take my mind off things…

creative writing, culture, politics, writing

Priorities, Version 3

In beginning to write this post, I took it upon myself to dig up past versions of my priorities. There are at least three other versions in this series. I seem to have circled back around to the first one. In the second, I began to consider doing what was easy (refreshing Spanish language) instead of what I was motivated to do (learning Japanese language). That…hasn’t lasted. All it took was trying to read a few kids’ books and seeing references to, specifically, “black slavery,” that pushed me over. Before I go on too long, I’ll leave a link to the third post in the series (ironically titled, “Version 2”).

I have had so many political and social and religious issues with Spanish language, and U.S. missionary and imperial politics in relation to Latin America, and exploitation of immigrant workers here — I’m not even kidding. It triggers me. I know that Japanese isn’t the same way with me, though it could easily be different if I were, say, Okinawan or Manchurian or Korean. I’m not blind to that. But Japanese language is marginally psychologically safer for me at this point, even though I’m aware that it’s still not a great thing to be of African descent, in the area.

The latter, combined with the lack of legal protection specifically against male sexual violence, has caused me to consider not ever visiting; though there are some people who aren’t racist who are (or have been) here — issei (first-generation immigrants) — who have encouraged me to go. Of course, though, they haven’t been marginalized for doing nothing except looking different. After a while one gets used to the listless, hollow stares that plagued me as a youth. That, though, is different than being actively characterized and fetishized as subjugated and inferior (or a possession) and made into a spectacle.

Of course, I do know how often people of Asian descent have to deal with that, here. I am still a part of my family, after all. I’ve also had to deal with it in my life, because no one thought to introduce me to the idea of racism (other than the knowledge that I would have to work twice as hard to be seen as equal), as a child. (Of course, neither did they introduce me to the idea that I could, and likely would, intimidate others by being underemployed.)

This is a reason why I left off of my last major writing project, when I did. I’m repairing it, though. All I have to do is address it, and complicate it, and humanize it; and possibly, I can get around just perpetuating my erroneous youthful thought.

That last paragraph may be for insiders. I’m not sure I should get into it openly, right now. It has to do with racial dynamics combined with age dynamics and gender dynamics (sometimes also with economic dynamics). If you still don’t get it…I might get into it, later. Or you might see it in a book. One or the other. Actually, probably a lot has been written about this, though I’m not sure if it’s been written from my angle.

Though I do seem to have hit a useful vein of content, here…I never intended to be a feminist writer, or, “that nonbinary author;” there’s more to me than just how my gender and sex and race and ethnicity and mental state have combined to produce conflict in this life. But hey, a lot of it is connected. And writing is a great medium to work out conflict, which…due to the complexity of the situation, I may need help with.

Also, if I take all that stuff away, what’s left visible is not even the tip of the iceberg.

I had wanted to try for Spanish to, I don’t know, not be trapped in my own cultural bubble, or not be another person who wants to become a manga superstar. (So far as I know, the sentiment is — or was — common among youth in Japan.) But. It’s pretty apparent that I grew up being influenced by Japanese anime and manga. As far as I can remember, it’s what first exposed me to the language, both in spoken and written form. Of course…there are some weird politics around learning Japanese. Maybe it wouldn’t have affected me so much after the people who just wanted to understand their J-Pop had left, which should have happened after I’d passed my introductory classes.

I didn’t keep on, to that point. Nor did I foresee a desirable future in tolerating the same environment — or dealing with what had been my world of, “Japanese culture,” (i.e. hostile nikkeijin “family” and “friends”) for the rest of my life. (I believe I’ve been told more than once by others, that they, “wanted to be Japanese,” which makes me wonder what they meant by that — and how it was that they felt their culture was inferior.) But those dynamics could have been the reason I would have been required to wake at 5:30 AM if I wanted to major in this stuff. Anime and J-Pop were trendy at the time I was trying to learn, and the Internet had just opened attention to international music that otherwise wasn’t available. However, there’s a lot more to Japan and Japanese culture, than pop culture.

I don’t want to get into race politics right now, but having to deal with unaddressed discomfort based on the makeup of the language class, the students’ seriousness, and their reasons for being there, were largely the reason I stopped taking foreign language classes. Cultural isolation was also part of the reason I left my first University. (Little did I know that cultural isolation would also be the reason I would have trouble in English classes, and also later in my Master’s program.) Then there’s the complex nature of manga-styled art online, which I don’t even feel I can address, here.

I’m thinking that it’s apparent I have a lot to draw off of — and a lot of conflicts that I’ve avoided at the cost of creative growth. The issue I’ve had is, basically, not wanting to deal with this, as I have suspected others don’t have to. Of course, you avoid conflict too far, and soon you don’t have a life worth living. And the people who will drive you out, don’t know; probably wouldn’t understand if they did know; and likely, it wouldn’t make a dent in their lives.

But like I said, writing is an excellent medium with which to work out conflict. Moreso for me, than my other arts. The key is to avoid getting bogged down in the work and so myopic and single-minded about the only possible consequences, that the issues you’re working on drown you.

Another reason I stopped. However, I’m in a much better place, this time around. I’m also thinking that my priorities have again shifted to this:

  • Work
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Japanese language acquisition

…with the subtle switch that puts my writing over my reading, in importance. I still haven’t decided whether to work out the story I’ve started in literary or comic format. I’m leaning towards literary, just because I’m a surer author than illustrator.

Some tougher stuff has happened at work, but it hasn’t developed into anything major, yet. I don’t know that it will, and I don’t know that it’s worth thinking about at this moment. However — it would be good not to push aside my writing. The writing requires the reading. The reading is helped by my work. And…Japanese is just something I want to do, which will enrich my life.

I think I’ve just realized, that is, how central writing is to my life, the calming effect that reading entails with me (when it isn’t offensive), and I’m re-centering Japanese where it comes to acquiring a second language.

Outside of this…I have my watercolors (including ink work), and my quilting, now (including origami-based design). Neither of them is really important, but both of them work with color and can get my mind off of the heavy thought that comes from reading and writing. I also have my beads, but I am not feeling this is the time to schedule overt time for them…