Slice and Slice Again

I first participated in the March SoL Challenge in 2015. Every year, I’d try to get back to it. Until this year, I never did.

It is a little painful to look at those Slices from 2015, knowing how oblivious I was to the hardship ahead. I had written about my father and how he was becoming eccentric and curmudgeonly. I later understood that in 2015, we were seeing the onset of dementia. For a long time, I didn’t want to write about my dad because I wanted to respect his privacy.

My father is still alive, and, for the most part, he knows who everyone is. If he did find out I was writing about him, he might be angry. He might not care at all. If he did care, he’d probably forget about it in a few hours. Furthermore, he hasn’t turned on his computer in over a year, so it is unlikely that he will even find out. I feel a little guilty writing about him, but I also need to put words to what’s happening.

It’s hard mourning someone who is still alive. It’s hard missing someone who is sitting across from you at the dinner table. He is Schrodinger’s father—he both is and isn’t my dad at the same time.

Since my last March challenge in 2015, I’ve also had to come to grips with the fact that I am never going to be a mother. In 2016, my only known pregnancy ended in miscarriage at sixteen weeks. I still think about her—the baby—every day.

We waited too long to seek treatment, and the doctor told us there wasn’t much that could be done. We spent thousands on fertility drugs anyway.

When we gave up on that, we met with adoption agencies. We learned that due to our age, it was highly unlikely that we’d be able to adopt a child under ten years old. Maybe that, or becoming foster parents, is something we will consider later, but now, we’re not ready. We’re still too sad about not hearing little feet too bring home larger feet.

In spring of 2019, I resigned from a high school position I liked to move to a new city for my husband’s career. He did not pressure me to do this at all; I thought it might be good to change things up. I completely underestimated how difficult it would be for me to find a job I liked as much in this new place.

In June of 2019, I accepted a job at a private school. It turned out to be a poor fit in important ways. In February 2020, when I received my contract for the 2020-2021 school year, I wasn’t sure I should sign it. I did, thinking I should put in one more year.

It turned out to be a moot point. In June of 2020, my position was eliminated. I scrambled to find something else, and ended up in a part-time position at a technical college. I like it, but I miss the sense of purpose and the relationships I had at work before we moved. Like every other public school teacher, I was often frustrated, but I also, especially in my fifth and final year, felt good about the work I was doing.

I think I found solace in my role at that school, more than I realized. Being away from the school has somehow made all the other losses harder to live with.

I know I have much to be grateful for. That awareness doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to be sad sometimes. I also know that it won’t always be this hard. I will adapt. I will find solace in other things, volunteer work, maybe, a new job, or a project of some kind.

I may always carry some sadness, especially around the child I lost. The sadness may never get any lighter. But I will get stronger, and the load will be easier to bear.

Wicked Headache

I have a headache. It’s all I can think about. I don’t think it’s a migraine. I think it’s from seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies don’t make me cough. They rarely make me sneeze. The barely even make my nose run. They just give itchy eyes and a sharp pain over my right eyebrow and underneath my right eye.

I don’t remember the pollen being this bad last year. I don’t remember seeing footprints in yellow dust on the breezeways of my building. I don’t remember my car being covered in pollen after being inside the parking deck all night. I don’t remember feeling this bad.

There is a possibility that I forgot to take my 12-hour Sudafed this morning. The allergies have been so bad this year, I decided to take one every morning. When this headache started today, I took some Tylenol. Later, I realized I had–possibly–forgotten to take the Sudafed. I settled on a four-hour dose, just in case I had already taken the 12.

Except for the Sudafed, I keep all the allergy medicines in one of those pill boxes with slots for morning and evening every day of the week. The reason I don’t keep the Sudafed in the box is that it’s so frustrating to separate the pills from their multiple layers of packaging that I only force myself to take out one at a time. You’d think I’d develop a knack for it after the third or fourth pill, but I never have. The pain I’m feeling now is an inspiration to try harder–but not right now.

My doctor put me on Singulair for allergies years ago, which I take in addition to an OTC antihistamine every evening. With my allergies being so bad this year I did a little research, and decided to switch from the purple one to an orange one. I know they have names, maybe Allerfex and Xyzial? The orange one starts with an X. I could go check–but not right now.

I also use Nasocort everyday in spring and fall. My doctor said to try that or Flonase, and I bought the Nasocort because it was cheaper. I was excited when it came out in generic, but then I could not use the generic bottle I had bought because the pump was terrible. That stuff is unpleasant enough when it mists properly.

I also just went out to the car and took a can from my stash of medicinal Coke Zeros in the trunk of my car. Keeping them there is only way I can keep Ed (and myself) from drinking them in non-headache situations. The Coke Zero seems to have helped a little, but it was probably stupid to go outside.

Later, I’m going to take a shower to get the pollen out of my hair. The steam might also relieve some of the pressure in my head. I’m going to do it–but not right now.

Excessive!

There have been times in my life when I’ve been writing, and there have been times in my life when I have not. Generally, I have been happier when I’ve been writing. Sometimes, it goes well. Sometimes, it doesn’t. The important things is that I show up and do the work. It’s one of the great things about this challenge, not only do you commit to writing everyday for a month–an entirely doable goal–but you know there is a reasonable chance that someone else might read it.

The first few days of the SoL Challenge were like trying to get back to regular exercise after not doing it for months,. I couldn’t believe how rusty I’d become. It didn’t feel good. I was disappointed in the results. I thought wistfully about how strong I used to be, and figured that my best days were behind me.

I was going to say that the big difference is that after a few weeks of working out, I never lose track of time and realize I’ve been exercising for hours. That is completely untrue.

Just one year ago, lockdown started and the university I live near sent most of its students home. I used it as my own private park, exploring the empty campus on foot. I walked almost everyday, often for two or three hours hours. I started picking up speed and choosing more hills.

I would often lose track of time. I would rarely stick to the route I thought I would follow. Sometimes, I got lost. Sometimes, I’d spend so much time walking, that I’d neglect other aspects of my life. You can replace “walking” with “writing” and that’s a reasonably good description of my behavior as a Slicer. Enthusiastic but undisciplined.

By May of 2020, my ankles had started complaining when I first went out. I did some stretching and strengthening exercises, and I noticed they didn’t hurt as much after the first half hour of walking or or so. I figured I was fine. I was not fine.

One hot July day I had been walking for about an hour. Instead of getting better, my ankles were feeling worse. Then a lot worse. I decided I should head home immediately. I had walked about about ten minutes in the direction of home, and then the pain became excruciating. I tried modifying my steps in a variety of ways to make walking less painful, and then I texted Ed, who came and picked me up.

The doctor said that normally she’d want me to go to physical therapy, but due to the pandemic I should just do the exercises at home. She I needed to stay off my feet as much as possible for at least a month. She said when I started walking again, I needed to be systematic about it, and increase my mileage gradually. It’s difficult for me to be systematic and gradual with things I like to do.

In terms of writing, I have written too many words and spent hours on tangents so many times this month. Before this month, I thought I was bad about finding time to write, but I think I’ve often been afraid to start writing on any given day because it is so hard for me to stop.

I’m not sure what the answer is. I could try outlining and sticking to the outline. Just setting a timer might be more productive.

I’m a little bit frustrated because for the first part of my life, most of the writing I did was returned with red ink in the margins: “Provide examples,” “Needs more description,” Not enough detail” etc. At this point in my life I have detail for days, and it’s too much.

I am exhausted from staying up writing until 3:00 on Saturday night. Still. I’m not a kid anymore. I don’t want to never write, but I have to impose some limits on it. As with exercise, I have to incorporate it in my life in a sustainable way.

What is the Most Egregious?

My husband Ed took the day off work on Friday and drove four hours north to have a “socially distant” visit for the weekend with some old friends. I am not sure how that all that shook out, but unlike Ed, I’d already had the virus and we were both vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson last week. I know the vaccine hasn’t fully kicked in yet, but I also know that he’s been pretty lonely working from home, so I didn’t kick up a fit.

Ed was going to be gone for two nights. Surely, I could maintain my normal routine and our apartment for two nights, on my own right?

We said good-bye Friday morning and I went to work. The chiller has been broken and it was disgustingly hot, but I did my best to stay focused. After work, I wanted to go home, but I went to Lidl and bought groceries as I had planned. I even bought lots of vegetables. When I got home, I brought in everything that had to go in the refrigerator right away. I left the rest in the trunk for a few hours, but them I told myself to buck up and bring everything else inside.

Saturday, I woke up late. I was getting ready to take a quick shower, and then I thought, “What’s the point?” With the dysfunctional HVAC, I’d be drenched in sweat within the first hour. I probably wouldn’t skipped the shower with a witness present.

I worked. I came home. I made a to-do list. I took care of a small number of items. I started Slicing, and then I got lost in what I was writing.

I found myself fussing over my description of the awkwardness of a particular building I encountered in college. I tried, unsuccessfully, to find a picture of the building as I knew it. I read about its history and felt compelled to comment on some of its stranger features.

Was any of this relevant to the story I was trying to tell? Nah. Did I spend hours on it? Yes.

I posted my Slice just before midnight, as I am wont to do. I told myself that I should go to sleep—that writing about college did not mean I had to act like I was in college. I did not listen to my own good counsel. I started writing something else. I stayed up until 3:00. I might have stayed up later, but the words started blurring on my screen.

Unlike when I was in college, I woke up early despite having stayed up late. I read the news. I did unusually well on the New York Times weekly news quiz. I know I could “be prepared for the quiz each week” by subscribing to the daily briefing, but where’s the fun in that?

I ate a few squares of chocolate. I read a text from Ed saying he’d expected to be home by 2:00. I went back bed and tried to sleep a little more. Eventually, I got out of bed and took a look at my to-do list.

I sat down at the computer determined to write a concise slice about the biggest lesson I have learned this year.

I was doing okay. I was staying focused, I was laying out my points in a logical fashion. And then for illustrative purposes, I started telling a story.

And then I kind of fell into a trance. If you’ve read the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, you might say it was that. If you know I have what used to be called ADD, and is now confusingly called ADHD, type 2 (inattentive) you might say it was hyper-focus. If you were one of my elementary school teachers in the eighties, you might say I was not following directions.

At one point, I looked at the clock. It was 1 p.m.

“Oh,” I thought. “It’s gotten late. I need to finish this.”

I wrote a little more, and checked the clock again. It was 1:30.

And that’s when it clicked.

Ed expected to be home by 2:00.

By 2:00! I turned off the computer, spun around amd jumped out of the chair. I made a lap around the apartment.

“What’s the most egregious?” I asked myself. “What can I fix fastest?”

I finished my rounds in the bedroom, so I made the bed and picked up my dirty clothes. The next stop was the kitchen. Wincing, I remembered that it had been spotless when I came home from work on Friday.

I quickly finished unloading the dishwasher that I had only managed to unload partway yesterday. I put everything that could go in the dishwasher in the dishwasher as fast as I could and then I started in on the stuff that had to be hand-washed.

Last night I had pulled a little leftover pizza crust out of the fridge and made a mini pizza on a small baking sheet. Some baked on cheese and sauce splatters refused to be scrubbed away.

“Stop,” I thought. “Use your time wisely.”

I plugged one side of the sink and ran some hot water to soak the sheet. I looked around the kitchen, trying to see it through Ed’s eyes.

There was still a little flour left where I’d rolled out the dough. How had I missed that? I wiped down the counters more carefully. I spotted some crumbs on the floor from a crusty roll I’d purchased at Lidl on Friday. I got out the broom and dustpan started sweeping the floor.

I was horrified to see that I’d previously overlooked some carrot shavings that had missed the trashcan. And when had I dropped all those peanuts?

I finished the floor, almost forgetting to put the broom and dustpan back in the closet. I went back to the baking sheet and was relieved that the hot water had softened the baked on food enough that I could scrub it away. I rinsed it and added it to the drying rack.

What else? The delicates I’d hung to try in the guest bathroom—were they dry? I raced across the apartment to check, and found I could put away everything but a lightweight sweater and a some pajama bottoms with a waistband that needed a few more hours. I pulled a pair of leggings off the drying rack, and wondered why I hadn’t put them in the dryer. I decided it was to save energy.

I was sweaty and out of breath. There were still a lot of my belongings strewn about, and I put them away until the apartment looked slightly better than when Ed left.

He made it home safely, and he’d had a nice time. He unpacked immediately as he always does, and then he started in on his laundry.

I started writing this slice—determined to finish it before dinner. He came in with a pair of houndstooth dress pants that had cost me more than I’d wanted to spend.

“These were in the dryer,” he told me. “They are still a little damp. Do you want me to restart the dryer or hang them up?”

Huh. I thought I’d hung everything in that last load in the bathroom. Apparently not.

“Oh,” I said. “Hang them up please.”

“Sure,” he said agreeably. “How do you like them hung?”

The words I wanted were “from the bottom of the legs along the crease and then draped over the bar of a hanger.” I could not remember them. I told Ed I’d hang the pants. I got up and took them from him.

No wonder they were still a little damp. I’d never turned the dryer on.

The College Secret

On the way to work this morning, I found myself thinking about something I did in college. Approximately 25 years ago. That’s more than half my life ago, a fact which barely seems possible.

Way back then—more than half my life ago—occasionally, I would realize that I way too behind on my studies to go out with my friends on a Saturday night. This should have happened more than it did, but at least it happened occasionally.

When I lived on campus, I had a plan for those Saturday nights. It was a plan so good that I actually tried not to let anyone else in on it, because I was afraid they’d do it to.

After my roommate went out for the night, I’d pull out my duffle bag and shove my laundry bag in it. I’d figure out exactly which books and notebooks I needed and take everything else out of my backpack. Wherever I could find room, I’d shove in my detergent, my stain stick, my roll of quarters.

I’d always be completely overburdened, but I’d always do it in just one trip. I’d shuffle to the closest dorm that that had washing machines, and then I’d slink down to the basement.

The dorm in question was old and brick. It had an original straight line of rooms, completed in 1902, and then a much uglier 1958 line of rooms, extending back from original line at a perpendicular angle. The new wing was not at one end of the building forming a corner, and it wasn’t at the center, forming an even T. I tried to find a picture to show you how disconcerting this was, but that building has been renovated past recognition, and strangely, ugly dorms of the past is not a section featured on the school website.

I also wanted to tell you about the brutalist TV room that burst forth from the front of the building like a pustule, but this is not an architecture blog, and it is getting late.

Where were we? Yes, it was 1990-something, and I was one my way to do laundry. The stairs entered the basement from the old section slightly before the junction with the newer section, and you had to walk through a set of double doors to reach the newer basement and the laundry room.

There were eight washers. Typically, I’d find they were all empty, and typically, I would use four or even five—simultaneously.

I went to a large state university. The ratio of washers and dryers to on-campus students felt low. People who washed clothes on Sundays derived a thrill from competition and conflict that I will never understand. Even on weeknights, students eyed each other as they hovered around machines nearing the end of their cycles like lions around an injured gazelle. Ouf, and if you weren’t there to collect your clothes when the buzzer dinged, you could expect to find them chucked on one of the beat-up tables from God-knows-where.

On a Saturday night, the tables were both empty and dry. I’d find a beat-up-chair, also from God-knows-where, pull it up to one of the tables, roll up my sleeves, and study with a sense of purpose I struggled to find at other times.

Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t study in the laundry room on a weekend night more often. In retrospect, trying to have fun at college parties was often the least fun part of college.

I guess I know myself better now. I’ve been doing some research and some writing most of the night. And now it’s time to move the wet clothes in the washer to the dryer. At least I can go to sleep before they dry.

Absolutely No Chill

It’s almost always too warm in the library where I work.

This is not usual. I’ve been told that schools and libraries present unique HVAC challenges. I’m not sure I buy that. In the United States, its rare to go into a Walmart or a grocery store or a mall or a bowling alley and find the temperature oppressive in either direction. It’s rare for the air to be completely stagnant in commercial spaces. By contrast, in public schools and public libraries, HVAC problems seem to be the norm.

I worked at one public library where we could keep the temperature at either 60F or 80F. Rain or shine, summer or winter, we could be cold or we could be hot. There was no in between.

We were told the HVAC system was so outmoded that a new system would require extreme custom retrofitting, and the county just couldn’t afford it. This library was built all the way back in 1991, after all.

At the last public school where I worked, some students did more than dress in layers, they carried fleece blankets in their backpacks because some classrooms were so much colder than others. Some teachers had loaner sweatshirts in their rooms.

Personally, I’d much prefer to work in a library that is too cold rather than one that is too hot. I find it easier to stay focused if I’m a little chilly than if I’m a bit too warm. I get sleepy when I’m too warm.

Like generations of librarians and teachers before me, I’ve kept a grey cardigan handy in case the heat stops working or the air conditioning is too much. After yesterday, I’ve decided I need have a plan for when the library is too hot.

Yesterday, when I opened the door, I noticed it was even warmer than usual, but I thought it would be manageable. My supervisor told me that a ticket had already been submitted.

As the day went on, the temperature marched upward. At the service desk, the indoor thermometer read 82. It felt hotter. I don’t have a measurement for the humidity—it was like being outside before a thunderstorm, except with no breeze.

I put my hair up with a pencil. I rolled up my sleeves. I found that the far side of the desk was less unbearable than the one closest to the door. I stayed over there as much as I could.

I became listless. I moved slowly. I became sweaty, and then sweatier. When I left work, I was sure I looked like I was on my way to a wet wrinkle-free blouse contest.

What I need to do is get some of those wicking shirts that golfers wear. Or maybe the kind that are made for frequent travelers? Just one or two reasonably professional looking shirts I can keep in my desk for when the building is super hot. Although, honestly, if it’s going to be 82 and sticky, “reasonably professional” seems like an unreasonably high standard.

Parasympathetic Sympathy

Today, I got my shot. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine. I snagged an appointment at a pop-up clinic provided by my employer. I had to drive 40 minutes to a faraway campus, but it was an easy drive and I arrived in plenty of time. As luck would have it, I fell in line behind one of my coworkers from the campus where I work. I was happy to have someone to talk to while I waited.

At the check in desk, I turned in my consent form, handed over my ID and insurance card to be copied, collected them back, sanitized my hands and went to sit at a desk with orange tape.

People were being sent to the next room for their shots in fairly quick succession. My coworker and I chatted for a just a minute or two, and then she was sent over. The coordinator told me I’d be next, but then the gentleman sitting behind me finished his consent form—that we were supposed to bring with us completed—and the coordinator told me she was going to send him in next.

I nodded. He went in.

I waited.

I waited some more.

And then I was told to stand in the hallway by the water fountain. The person behind the desk in the injection room was hurriedly sorting some supplies—needles and bandages and things. She told me I’d have to wait.

I nodded.

I waited.

When she was ready, she called me forward. I was so excited to get my record card from the CDC that I didn’t realize right away what had caused the slowdown. Someone had had a reaction. The college had contracted with an EMT service to provide the shots, and one of the EMTs was talking to the person. The other EMT had just resumed providing injections.

After my turn, I was told to have a seat and to wait until 10:43 to leave. I spent longer than I should have looking for a place with orange tape before realizing that there was no orange tape in this classroom. Odd.

I was trying not to listen to what was happening with the person who had had the reaction. I heard anyway. I understood that a relative had been reached and was on the way to pick the man up and take him to an emergency room to get checked out. I knew that it probably was not too serious, or else the other paramedic wouldn’t have started back with the injections and an ambulance would have been called.

I heard the EMT clearly when she used the radio. She was contacting emergency rooms. This was the part that startled me: The ER departments all said that his symptoms were not severe enough to warrant their attention.

I knew the healthcare system was struggling with the pandemic. Hearing an EMT be told, “No, don’t send him here,” snapped it into much shaper focus.

I am no doctor, but later I wondered if the man might have been having a vasovagal reaction. I only thought of this because I am prone to them. Read what the Mayo Clinic has to say about the condition here.

I can start to black out and I feel like I am going to throw up when I am extremely grossed out by something. It usually has to be medical, and it’s much worse if I have to hear about it than if I only have to read about it. Add pictures to a lecture, and I can be toast. I took human sexuality in college, and I spent most of the class out in the hall with my head between my knees.

Another time in college, I had to have surgery on my gums. They hadn’t healed properly after I had my wisdom teeth out. The doctor hooked up the IV, told me to relax, and then left me alone. I could feel the anesthesia rolling slowly through my veins. It was so gross. My vasovagal nerve reacted and my heart rate plummeted. The oral surgeon and the nurse came running back in. I wanted to tell them that I was just vagaling—but I couldn’t because of the anesthesia.

I had that feeling a little bit when the serum was injected today. Something thick in my veins and a slight tingling in the back of my head. I took a deep breath and it was gone. I am so much better than I used to be.

I hope the man is okay.

Fancy Pants Wrapping Paper

A day or two before Christmas, Ed came out from wrapping presents in the guest room. He said that he’d like to try some higher quality wrapping paper—not immediately, just eventually.

“But I gave you the “Premium” wrap,” I told him. “That’s the nicest paper Target carries.”

“I think,” he said, “I would like to try something nicer than what is carried Target. Do you know where I could get some?”

“Well, sure,” I stammered. “At a stationary store. But you won’t be able to get it for 75% off. And it’s more expensive to begin with.”

“I think that would be okay,” he said, and then he went back in the guest room to finish his wrapping.

On New Year’s Eve, I had some errands to run. I told Ed I was going to be near a stationery store, and asked if he wanted me to pick up some high quality wrapping paper. He said, “Yes, please.”

I first went to Target for the dental floss and whole wheat flour and whatever was on my list. While I was there, I decided to pop into the Christmas area. I had clearly missed the reduction of wrapping paper from 50% off to 75% off, as there was not a scrap anywhere.

I couldn’t help browsing the Wondershop detritus. Some of it was merely half price and some of it 90% off. It’s hard to maintain social distancing in the Christmas clearance though—the hardcore scavengers were willing to come closer than I wanted.

I shook my head to clear it, relocated my shopping cart, checked out, and then headed over to the stationary store. I’d taken a card making class there in February, just before the pandemic began. It was the most stressful afternoon of crafting I have ever faced. I was a little scared to return.

The store’s Winter Holiday section had only been reduced 50%, so there was more to choose from than at Target. Unfortunately, the only half priced paper left came in unwrapped sheets you had to ask a salesperson to retrieve for you from wooden files built into the wall. I wasn’t sure if I could get it home uncreased and unsmudged. Keeping it that way for a year seemed entirely unreasonable.

I browsed the rolls of multi-seasonal paper. I selected a roll of solid turquoise, a roll of variegated stripes in shades of blue and green, and a blue floral on a gold background.

Last night, I wrapped Ed’s birthday presents in the solid turquoise and in the striped paper. In terms of wrapping, neither was a revelation. The striped paper was in separate sheets, and so stubbornly curved that it was hard to get it around the box. The solid was easier to handle, but failed to conceal the Scotch tape. I knew there was a reason my mother always bought prints. Neither she nor I are the type to buy double sided tape.

Ed noticed the heft of the paper as he opened his gifts, and he commented on how attractive it was.

I suppose I am glad he liked it.

Exit Ramps

One Tuesday in the spring of 2019, my husband Ed came home and told me he was going to lose his job. The company he worked for had lost its biggest contract.

Wednesday, he came home in a unexpectedly good mood. It had been announced that the employees would have two more months of work, and then the other company—the one that had yanked the contract—would pay them six months’ salary as a bonus for working through the transition. He’d known his company had issues even before they lost the account, and now he was being offered an off-ramp paved with cash.

Thursday, Ed came home furious. He was not going to be laid off after all. He was one of three people his company planned keep. After the transition, he’d be transferred to a different account.

“Is that so terrible?” I asked.

“Yes!” he said. “I won’t get the bonus.”

Within a few days, he had decided that even without the bonus, he didn’t want to stay with his current employer. An employee from the other company, the one that was ending the contract, suggested that he apply for a job with them.

The job would require him to relocate. He asked me what I thought. I wasn’t terribly keen on the idea of uprooting our lives, but I told him that it wouldn’t hurt to see what they had to say.

They offered him the job. He was, as he would say later, dazzled by the offer. Moreover, he thought he would like the work.

At that point in time, I was well aware that school librarians were becoming rarer and rarer around the country. My state legislature had only narrowly defeated a bill to reduce certified and support staff in school libraries the previous year.

Why, exactly, it didn’t occur to be concerned about conditions in the state we would move to, I am not sure. I suppose I was dazzled by the offer too. Maybe I figured that if I couldn’t get a job in a secondary setting, I would be able to get one elsewhere.

Once we decided he would take the offer, I started looking for work. There were two multi-district teacher job fairs in the area coming up, both on the same day, and we hastily made plans so that I could attend both of them.

I was early to the first one, but I didn’t beat the crowds. I had to present my out-of-state teaching license at the door to be admitted. The HR rep checked me in, found my name tag, and handed me a map. One table on the map had been circled. She pointed to it.

“That’s the school with the media specialist vacancy.”

“The school?” I repeated. I tried to keep the horror off my face.

The rep had already moved on to the next candidate.

I found the table. A chalkboard listed the available positions. There were a few besides the media specialist, which I took as a good sign. The administrators were doing on-the-spot interviews.

I joined the line and used my phone to research the school and its priorities as I waited. I realized I had much on my resume they would like, and I began to relax a little.

The candidate in front of me turned around. “You here for the media specialist?”

I nodded.

“We all are.”

I looked to the the three younger teachers in front of her. They nodded. I looked at the teacher being interviewed. I heard her say something about an increase in circulation numbers. Crud.

While I had been on my phone, three more young candidates had fallen in line behind me. They all indicated that they were interested in the media specialist position.

I thought about bolting. The candidate immediately in front of me eventually did. I stuck it out and eventually had my turn. I talked about SIOP and the Coretta Scott King award books and collaboration and relationships. Apart from a persistent tremble in my hands, it went pretty well, but I knew competition was fierce.

At the next fair, there were zero media specialist positions. One recruiter explained to me that there was only one media specialist position in her entire district. That person worked in the central office and planned lessons for ESPs to conduct in the schools’ libraries. She suggested I consider a private school.

There was a position open at private, I mean, independent school. I was hesitant. I was working at a Title I school with many EL students, and I liked it there. I was aware that my school was unique in that it was the only Title l school in an otherwise wealthy county, one that funded its schools well. My students had many challenges, but we could often help them meet those challenges.

About a dozen years prior, I had worked one year at a Title l elementary school in a different state, in a district that seemed to support its libraries primarily through the PTA. I went to a meeting on the other side of town and was amazed to see five volunteers shelving books and helping with checkout, lots of new books on display, and beautiful furniture. I sat in the car and cried for 20 minutes before I went home.

I have written about that year previously, and I know I am incapable of summing it up nearly, so I’m not going try. You’ll just have to believe me that I worked incredibly hard and didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anything. At the high school I worked hard, but not to the point of exhaustion, and I did not have the same crushing despair.

I applied for the private school job. I had two phone interviews, and then I flew down for a campus visit. I had two more interviews and lunch and a tour. The campus was like a small college. I was glad I had worn flats.

In the afternoon, I was dropped off at a lab for a drug test. I had said I could find my way back to my hotel. I was desperate to get out of interview mode. I just wanted to sit in the waiting room and read a book on my phone. After my hair sample was taken, I requested a Lyft. The call came while I was still in the car.

It was a good offer. I took it. I had some reservations, but it was late June, and I wanted a job. It wasn’t a great fit. I worked well with a number of faculty members and started a formal volunteer program which the students enjoyed. A few international students told me I taught in a way that worked well for them. Mostly, it was the existing library culture that I banged my head against repeatedly.

I had never reported to another librarian in a K-12 setting. I don’t think I will again. It wasn’t a shock when my position was eliminated in June of 2020—in some ways it was almost a Get Out of Jail Free card. I hadn’t been fired, and I hadn’t flaked out by quitting after a year. It was coronavirus.

There were few openings that late in the school year. I took a part time job at a technical/community college in July. It’s good experience, and I know I’m lucky that my husband makes enough that my not having a full time job isn’t a crisis. I just don’t know where I go next.