The best stories in my life right now are the ones I cannot tell.
Working at the library provides me with many things. A steady paycheck is one, and let’s hope I am not jinxing anything by stating that, as the city budget right now is highly contested territory.
Another thing the library provides me with is a plethora of life lessons. Sometimes these life lessons are neatly packaged within a patron interaction or two, and sometimes they are spread out over a series of days, weeks, or months.
I met someone last week who changed my life, and I can’t even tell you any of the specifics. To say I am frustrated by this boundary is an understatement, but I love my job more than I love writing here, so this is the decision I make.
What I can tell you is that I helped this patron who needed some unconventional help. As we parted, a rush of clarity came over me, sudden dizziness forcing me to sit down. This is what I was meant to do, not specifically within the context of a library, but in the general sense: I was meant to help people, directly, without levels of abstraction. My fascination with sifting and categorizing information led me to library science, but it might have been another field, had I differing interests, and no less fulfilling.
The second part of my epiphany was how dangerous this purpose has been for me, how much damage it can do and has already done. I associate helping people with who I am instead of what I do, and when I am not immediately being “useful” I lose my sense of self. This is evidenced by some of what I write here: I am less and less able to express myself in this format, hyper-focused as I am on bringing interesting or valuable content with every piece I write, as if this has ever been anything more than a digital diary.
Leaving work that evening, I skipped my usual route in order to take the main staircase. As I descended, I tried to visualize myself apart from the library, the building itself, focusing on where it stops and where I begin. My rumination was interrupted by a coworker calling my name, waving goodbye, and I was glad for the interruption because of the truth stepping out of the shadows.
I have lost myself, and I do not know where to look.