Saturday, December 29, 2012

"I've been WORKING on the railroad..."

(traditional American song)

My friend Lilly has a penchant for projects. Last year, she set up each month with a theme and worked on that theme, I suppose like Ben Franklin did, once upon a time, but I don't think she was working on 13 virtues. I am exceedingly proud of Lilly, who has fulfilled her lifelong dream of home ownership. Her penchant for themes/projects has pushed me to try some monthly projects too. 

For instance, last year, when I was waiting to hear from that Midwestern school that eventually rejected my PhD application, I decided *I* needed a project. So every day for the month of February (starting on February 2nd), I made a collage. I figured, at the end of the month, I may not be in a PhD program, but I will have 28 collages. It was a mixture of "HOW DO I HAVE THIS MANY MAGAZINES?" and "I need a positive project." So every morning, before I even had breakfast, I made a collage. It was great. I sustained it through my end of the month trip to New York, but it really was a project that was good for a winter month, and not sustainable past the one month and a few days mark.

This year, I'm faced with no application to a PhD program (because I thought my local university would be a fit, and it was/is not one) but I have applied for a fellowship that would involve travel down South for a month. We'll see.

But I'm thinking, hmm. Maybe I need another project, something to keep me positive, in case at the end of January, I don't have a place to go in the spring to do research.

And again, at work, I've gotten rapped on my hands. In Children's, I'm doing great. But in Technical Services, folks are complaining to my director that I take too much time to get my coffee, I procrastinate, I use work time to do non-work related things. ACK. While these things are true, my productivity hasn't suffered because I get a lot more done when I'm in the office by myself evenings and weekends. However, I want to be on the good side of my co-workers and my director. Towards this goal, I've started reading books about work. Books about the workplace. Books about working. (They are not all the same thing, see below.)

It is not my dream to become the head cataloger at the Library of Congress. (You're shocked, I can tell.) But for right now, I enjoy my job, for the most part, and it pays my bills. So I need to make it work for my co-workers, and most of all, my director, who signs my paycheck.

But I also need to find out what is my next step. Academia and the PhD route? Freelance writing? Something else?

My book list right now, based on what I'm reading/have read/just got off the library shelves today:

Basic Black: the essential guide for getting ahead at work (and in life) by Cathie Black
I am devouring this fun read which features stories of Ms. Black's professional life as well as advice for getting along with co-workers, bosses, clients. It's geared more for executives, but she gets the fact that not everyone will follow the same path she did. Halfway through, I just want to call Cathie up and say, "Girrrrrrrrrrrrrrl, I love your book."

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
This novel by BK is about Appalachia, climate change, Monarch butterflies, and a lot of other things, but also about finding your place in the world and following your dreams, getting un-stuck. I gave it to my Mom for Christmas, as she loves all things Monarch butterflies, but reading it really changed my thoughts concerning that pervasive lie: "I can't change my life." 

Working: People talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do by Studs Terkel
Today I noticed that I have a big piece of yellow legal paper with my HUGE handwriting with a quote from this book. I've not read it, but I like Studs Terkel, and it seems like a good book to read if you're thinking about what work means.

Women and the Trades: Pittsburgh, 1907-1908 by Elizabeth Beardsley Butler
This just looked REALLY cool. Especially since I'm into Pittsburgh history, women's history, and well, women working in Pittsburgh.

Hard Work: "To make both ends meet" : Maine Women's Voices, 1888 by Jim Sharkey
This is a 59 minute documentary on DVD. It looks pretty similar to the book preceding it on this list. The link goes to a sample on YouTube.

No Job? No Prob!: How to pay your bills, feed your mind, and have a blast while you're out of work
by Nicholas Nigro
I have no intention of being unemployed, but this book piqued my curiosity when I was looking for books about work in the catalog the other day. When I saw it on the shelf, I thought, hey, why not? I'd love to see how it talks about having a very small income. This is my "one of these things is not like the others" to round out the book list.

Dancing Naked: breaking through the emotional limits that keep you from the job you want
by Robert C. Chope
The title grabbed me, the subtitle sold me.

I think the collage project may return for the month of January, because reading books about work? Not going to get me out of bed on cold winter days! But I think maybe my project for this year is to figure out what is next for Sarah Louise, career-wise.

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