I’m not a positive person

Positivity vs Negativity - Two-Way Street Sign

Someone recently thanked me for being such a positive person. This is not the first time this has happened, but it always takes me aback and I never really know how to respond. Every. Single. Time.

I’m not a positive person.

I’m cynical. I think people are not basically good. I think we’re all doomed and headed for oblivion. I expect the worst. I expect to be hurt and let down. Most of the time I’m really on board with “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

But I get thanked on a regular basis for being so positive?

Parents teach us all sorts of things, both directly and indirectly. It’s what they do. They teach us the basics of life as well as the larger issues of how to behave socially and (hopefully) how to be a good person. My parents taught me two things that I think back on regularly – multiple times a week.

1. God expects Christ followers to work hard. Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people.” Ecclesiastes 9:10 “Whatever the activity in which you engage, do it with all your ability.” The way my parents explained and lived this out was that working hard and doing things with excellence is part of how we live out our love for God. This means to give everything at work, not working half-heartedly. Do the work, and do it well.

2. Treat people how you want to be treated. Matthew 7:12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” All of the do’s and don’t’s of religion boils down to this. Don’t do something to someone if you would be hurt by someone else doing to you. It’s that simple.

I think people look at me and see me working hard and trying to treat people right and assume I do it because I’m positive. But I don’t. I do it because this is how I was taught to be a good person, to live a good life. I can be cynical and negative all day while doing these things.

I offer people the benefit of the doubt because I want people to give me the benefit of the doubt. I offer people grace in their mistakes because I need so much grace myself. I recognize people have bad days and say stupid things because I have bad days and say stupid things. I respect people’s professionalism because I hope people will respect mine. I forgive offenses because goodness knows I offend all the time and need forgiveness. How can I ask someone to extend to me that which I will not extend to them? How can I ask someone to respect me if I offer no respect?

I don’t work hard at my job because I have such positivity about it. I don’t work hard because I need a paycheck (although I do need a paycheck). Sometimes I don’t even work hard because I am filled with passion. I work hard because God calls me to work hard, because my using my skills honors the Divine.

It’s not positivity; it’s working hard and treating people how I want to be treated.


Google Books

I seriously love Google Books.

Today one of the faculty at my school requested a stack of article requests, all of which were really old. So old that I was afraid no libraries would eve have them, let alone send them to us. It turns out that some of these were so old that I couldn’t even find them in our resource sharing service.

old bookThinking maybe I would have more luck if I had more information about the articles, I turned to my dear friend, Google. Not only did Google give me more information about the article, Google gave me the article itself! Google Books has always been one of those resources I knew existed, but never really used a lot, so naturally I never think of it as a place to find resources for my library users. However, Google Books had every single one of the articles the faculty member requested. What I hadn’t thought of when I saw how old the articles were is that they are now in public domain, and thus available for Google Books to offer digitized versions of to all users.

Once again, Google saved my bacon.

On School, Adulthood, and the Giant Squid of Anger

Staring at the empty page of my computer screen, I come to the disheartening realization that I have no clue whatsoever what I am supposed to do.

I now understand why everyone says grad school is so hard.  It has nothing to do with the difficulty of the courses or the amount of work to be done.  Well, maybe not nothing; the work is somewhat more challenging than undergrad course work, but this makes up only a small facet of the strenuosity of grad school.

Why, then, is grad school so hard?  Because your state of life has changed.  When you are an undergraduate, you are still in the process of becoming an adult.  No matter how much you think you are an adult as a freshman or sophomore, if you’re jobless, living in the dorms, and your biggest concern in life is making sure you get papers turned in on time, you’re not fully an adult yet.  Your life is centered around classes, friends, assignments, having fun, dorm life, and the experience – which is much the same as high school.  Somewhere between walking across the stage and walking into your first grad class, however, a shift occurs.  It’s hard to pin down exactly when it happens, but it does.  You get a job, move into an apartment, buy some furniture, stock your pantry, and realize that there is a whole world out there entirely independent of and separate from school.  You wake up one morning and realize (while staring into your closet full of professional attire, perhaps?) that you are undeniably and irrevocably an adult.  You’re not quite sure when it happened, but you know it is true and you know you cannot go back.

Your focus in life shifts school to everything else.  And that everything else is pretty great.  Your time belongs to you, fully and truly, for the first time.

Then grad school starts.

And your life falls into chaos.

You have to learn how to fit time for all the crazy amounts of reading and writing and everything else into your already full life.  No, you can’t go see that new movie this weekend; no, you can’t leave town for the weekend to see family; no, you can’t redecorate your apartment; no, you can’t deep clean your apartment; no, you can’t read the pile of books you just bought.  Why? Because you have homework.  Have a significant other?  I hope you don’t like spending time with him/her, because you won’t be able to.

Grad school is hard because it strips away everything you love about your life and leaves you as a stressed-out giant squid of anger.

I Love My Job

When I interviewed for this job, the director tried to talk me out of taking the job. Not because he didn’t want to hire me (he approached me about the job in the first place), but because he knew I could get a job at many other places that would two, three, four times as much as I will ever make here. He was concerned that I was going to unknowingly hitch myself to a horse with no flow.

He is not the last person to ask me why I work here for next to nothing when I could make more elsewhere – almost anywhere else. People seem baffled about this for some reason.

My answer is always the same: I’m not doing this to get rich; I’m doing this because I love it.

I love working in my library. I wake up in the morning excited to face the day of work.  Not many people can say that. Far to many people hate their jobs. They wake up in the morning dreading going to work, and by the time they get home they are too drained from a job they hate to enjoy life outside of work. What is the point of having a bank full of money if I am too miserable to enjoy spending it/giving it away? Why would I want to live dreading five days a week? Living for the weekends is not enough for me. I want to love every day (even Mondays)!

I work with a wonderful team. These people genuinely care – not just about me, but about everyone. I can be real with them and they with me. Our staff meetings always start with Bible reading and prayer. If I ever have something I need prayer for, every one of my coworkers will stop what they’re doing and pray for me.

I don’t have to miss church for work. In fact, I’m pretty sure I would get in trouble if I skipped church to work.

Will I get rich here? No.

But I will be happy, and happiness trumps money every time.


On Ghosts in the Hall

Today I am the only person at work in my department.  While I am holding down the fort, answering emails and the phone, processing periodicals and check-ins, the other departments keep walking up and down my hall. On a normal day this does not faze me, but on a normal day there are five other people in the office with me. We make noise; we chat, answer phones, type on keyboards, squeak chairs, click mouses (mice?), and breathe. Our noises cover up the sounds of people in the hall. I do not make enough noise on my own to conceal said noises, not by far.

Yes, I know it is just people waking to and from their offices, but being alone in this big empty office makes them seem more like ghosts than like people. The building I work in used to be a men’s dormitory before being converted into office space. Sixty years ago the original dormitory burned to the ground, leading to this odd, w-shaped replacement building’s construction. Surely a plot of land with such history has a hoard of ghosts to throw at lonesome fort-holders, no?

If Money Was No Object?

Yesterday I was challenged to think about the question, “What would you do if money was no object?

Watch the video:

After deliberating a good while, I talked to my friends about how I would travel the world and study under the greatest artists in the world and learn to translate the incredible images in my head onto canvas. I went to bed sad because I know this can never happen.

Today, however, I thought about it again. The point of this video was not to make people depressed because of the impossibility of their dreams. The point of this video was to impress upon people the importance of doing what you love and loving what you do. Do things because you love it, not because it is going to line your pocket.

I currently work part time at a library I’ve worked at since October, 2008, making $8.50 an hour. My pockets are so far from lined that my paychecks fall through them almost instantly. I realize that I am being under paid and (according to coworkers) undervalued at this current job, but that is not the point.  Yes, I could probably go to another library and work there full time for a lot more than I’m currently making, but that, again, is not the point.  My thoughts today about this video and the principles behind it lead me to an epiphany: I do not want to work at a different library. I like this library very much. I understand how it works, I have great camaraderie with my coworkers, I share the same belief system with both my coworkers and the university the library serves, and I genuinely enjoy what I do every day. I look forward to going to work because I love it.

I could work for another library. But I wouldn’t be as happy.

And that, my friends, is the point.

Appearance vs. Reality


His name is James, and he’s a scholar.

Everyday a balding, upper-middle-aged gentleman rides his bicycle to my library wearing mis-matched clothing, a duct-taped helmet, a back brace (held on by a belt), and lugging a patched up, ancient military backpack. He is going deaf, so he talks louder than one should in a library, and he mutters to himself not-so-quietly the entire time he’s here.

He doesn’t know how to use a computer. He takes copious notes in his giant three-ring binder, and when he needs to look up a definition (which he frequently does), he has to break out the stone tablet-sized, weighs-more-than-you-do dictionary.

He believes in conspiracy theories – as far as I can tell, all of them.

He seems like a kooky old man who has nothing better to do with his time than make work for the librarians and disturb other patrons with his eccentricities.

He professes to be ignorant, but he’s not. Over the four years I have watched him in the library, he has studied every topic imaginable. He studies ancient warfare, the SAT, army tanks, Bible commentaries, religious cults, aircraft, the government, Sunday School literature, theological debates, sermon-making, geography, philosophy, psychology, and missions. Every few days he has a different set of books he’s poring over.

He’s a scholar.

He makes me ashamed of myself.

Here I am – in the midst of my Master’s degree, graduated magna cum laude, nationally ranked Bible Quizzer – and I can honestly say I have never studied as much or as hard as he does on a daily basis. I have studied by requirement and I have studied for reward, but never have I ever diligently studied because I wanted to.

Where does his drive come from? I wish I knew.