You know what is really hard for me at work? Trying. Seriously, this sounds stupid but this is the thing that I struggle with the most. It’s not like I never try, but I have a hard time trying something that could totally fail. I tend to “try” the safe or safe-ish programs or events that I have a pretty good idea will work or have worked in the past. Why am I talking about this? I was talking with my mentor this week (Hey, Valerie!) and she asked if I was doing a Doctor Who program this week for the 50th anniversary of the show. I said that I sort of wished that I did because I’m a new fan, but that I wasn’t sure that it would be something that my teens would be into. Mostly I’ve tried talking to them about Doctor Who and their eyes start to glaze over, but I could just be a little too eager.
Anyway, it’s not about Doctor Who, it’s about the fact I am pretty terrified of failure. I know that this is something I really need to work on. I might have even talked about in my NELLS post from this summer, because I definitely talked about it at NELLS. This extends not just to work but in my personal life and hobbies as well. I think that since high school – when I was a terrible, obnoxious perfectionist – I’ve gotten a lot better but I still have a ways to go. I know in my head that in order to be successful, I have to try a lot of things and that not every little idea is going to work. And it’s not like I haven’t tried anything. My awesome idea for movie theatre advertising campaign for summer reading? A bit of a failure. A coworker mentioned this to a patron the other day and I wanted to crawl into the book drop cart under the desk and roll away. I did not, but I experience this really deep sense of shame. Shame?! For an idea that didn’t work! Now that I’m thinking about it, I probably overreacted. It’s not like I committed some terrible crime; an idea just didn’t work. But I still felt like a terrible librarian because one thing (it’s not just one…) didn’t work.
At NELLS we talked about the idea of the Plan – Do – Check – Act (PDCA) cycle and it’s something I’ve been trying to implement at work. It’s a business-y thing but I think it can work well for libraries: plan what you’re going to do, do it while gathering information/data about it, check out how it worked, and then act upon those results to either change it or keep it the same. Right now my process is a little bit of “SOPDFALBAIMO.” That’s “Sort Of Plan, Do, Feel A Little Bad About It, Move On,” for those of you who don’t get to see into my brain. This is not ideal. I need to work more on the planning bit for sure, and especially on the checking and acting to see if it worked. And to do that divorced from my feelings and without feeling bad about something that wasn’t absolutely perfect.
It’s funny that I am weirdly perfectionistic about programs and especially program attendance, because part of my librarian philosophy is that no matter however bad you are, or how small your programs are, you should be in it for that one teen, that one patron who needed a book/program/craft/display/whatever at that time. I want to be the librarian for that one moment so at the end of the day it’s about the interactions and time, not the numbers. But . . . I also want to be able to show off my stats and feel like I helped a LOT of people.
Another problem is that my fear of failure has a super BFF in my lack of confidence. They hang out a lot, making me second guess myself all of the time. It’s really wonderful. Again in my personal life, too, I need to remind myself of the good/cool/helpful/interesting things that I’ve done and be happy about that. Being kind to myself and trusting in my abilities is a constant struggle despite most of the time feeling super awesome. How does that even work? How can I feel like a total badass one minute because I had an amazing school visit last week (Hey Tenney, 8th graders, you ROCK!) and then let myself feel really sad about the decreased attendance in my Catching Fire program from last year’s previous Hunger Games programs? I’m really a mystery even unto myself.
So someday I’ll learn how to try new things, take risks, and feel good about it. When I figure out how to do it, I’ll let you know. Thanks for letting me work out all of my work-life feelings in front of you. I swear the blog is not going to become a big “PLEASE BE NICE TO ME AND MAKE ME FEEL BETTER” blog, so I’ll get some more positive stuff up soon. I swear.
Finally, a heads up for this week: I hope to talk about 1) Fault Line by Christina Desir, the YA book with the terrible rape in it since I read it this week, 2) the author visit with Malinda Lo, A.S. King, and Karen Healey that I attended yesterday at the Cary Memorial Library in Lexington where I teared up because of all the inspiration (I cry ALL THE TIME now, I don’t know what’s happening to me), and 3) OK, I don’t really have a number three other than I’m writing a HUB post about the Walking Dead for Tuesday. Check that out and I’ll see you all soon.