Raccoons & Diapers, musings, and a monster post…

Exhausted. I mean it has been ages since I could hardly even walk straight from yes, exhaustion and nothing else. Yet, Saturday night, I literally had to brace my knees as I made I up the stairs, sat down for a quick 10 minutes to just grab enough energy to push myself off to walk the dogs who had been inside for over 7 hours (the “pups”) still believe in frequent visit outside, and then literally, after pushing myself back up the flights to my apartment (calculating in my head, since Friday, I had done the Observatorio stairs 8 times since this Saturday night, my 4 flights of stairs at LEAST 16 times,)   and literally, let Kinah, Wriggley, and Amaya go back to their favorite bone chewing, and dropped, I mean DROPPED into bed, trying to get rid of a four day headache, and poof. Out.

Yet, looking back, it was amazing the events that transpired this weekend, and despite the utter “nothing left in me” feeling, I was amazed at this weekend of activity.

Casually sending messages back and forth to family and staff members on Facebook this weekend, I received an instant message – and this one of all things impresses me about Facebook – it connects people you have lost touch with and actually wish you had contact with. LOL. True – Facebook connects you often with the good, the bad, the ugly, yet, once in awhile the finds you receive are worth all those in a handbasket – (love that key word phrase) – but a coworker from my past life as a stable worker and educator at a magical place in Pennsylvania just happened to drop me an instant message, and just like that, my day was made.   At one time in a past life I used to help maintain a stable of horses and the whole bit – shoveling the stalls, causal rides, everything, it was heaven. Mainly because I had an amazing group of staff that took me in, embraced the life of horses and being outdoors, and literally, I was in love with my job and those experiences more than anything I did. I was lucky enough, thanks to her email, to reconnect with one of them and one of the oddest things came up yes, raccoons and diapers.

The phrase, “He’s goofy as a pet raccoon like the rest of us!” came up and I instantly remembered my Dad, taking on every animal that came our way, since we lived near an interstate and often there were casualties, from deer, to fox, to yes, raccoons. So, for awhile, until they grew mean – we were able to have them around as pets and well, Dad thought it best to keep them in diapers, and it did work. Little mess and it was kind of like watching those clowns in a circus waddle in their shoes? – only we have raccoons, and diapers. Their literal grasp of food at dinner and being content to settle in your lap while you pet them added to the charm, but as always, they had to be let go at some point and always know of one base that they could return to grab food if needed.

I always said if you have friends that can help you pull up memories that keep you warm, you truly have friends. It was so amazing to reconnect with someone I had been thinking about for years, and sure enough, she is training, riding and grooming the horses and young riders to ride those horses in completion, what she does best. I can hardly wait until the day I begin to do the same, that is one goal I have yet to set but know I will get there, to retreat to a small area calling it home and have the chance to ride, relax, and contemplate all the experiences that had led me to that point, all the amazing people that had been in my life, in a home of my own design and making. Yet, I have to say it is comforting to feel that way around certain friends that bring that out on you, and certainly she is one! It is exciting to see her help so many people as well, and serve as a role model with the element she loves and knows best, the sport of horsemanship. (In this case, horsewomanship…)

What is a librarian? I have to say, it is one thing to buy into a program and

1) to get more credits to get a higher pay

2) Get a higher degree to just make a transformation to another career change   3) To get bragging rights and say, aha! “I have TWO Master’s!”

4) Being genuinely interested in the subject matter, wanting to internalize the information to make yourself a better _____________ (fill in the blank) and also help further those around you.

Overall, I always heard and knew of the stereotypes of librarians, from growing up, loving books, and always trying to be around books.   The books, the libraries, LOVED. I knew I always wanted to be involved with them somewhere along the line and throughout all my life. Yet, I knew fro ages ago I looked at librarians as powerful and having secret abilities many did not see, or so I thought.

When I finally came to the realization how much energy and excitement librarians COULD HAVE – (yes, librarians and Exciting in the same sentence)…I knew I wanted to be one, KNEW. And so , while many people in my first and second year of study while I was in Delaware, many colleagues, began taking courses in things to simply add a new title to their resume, I knew I was on the right path with the amazing workload and amount of information I hoarded away every semester, and here I was, 11 years later – ELEVEN YEARS, finished and I have changed so incredibly much – all from the experience of one single degree that grew with me through much heartache along the way. So, yes, I wish in one aspect that I did not take 11 years to complete, however, yes, I am glad it did because I grew along with the changes in the field as I studied, sweated, and put out so many late hours past just reading, by applying and interacting with people all over the world, my degree was more than a title and a piece of paper and a credit increase, it became a part of me.

You think that changing yourself or growing with a new field of study is well, cut and dry, right? I have this belief, to truly become what you envision in a field of study you are genuinely interested in, you need to develop a very, very thick skin. Remember, I wanted to change how people saw librarians because I believed they had something more to offer. I wanted to show the world this belief, which became part of who I was as well. Along the way, and this is true of anyone wanting to change a stereotype o image that has existed for ages – I have received criticism that has helped me change for the better, I have received criticism of those ignorant of what has been going on behind the scenes and in reality I have received criticism for trying to break a mold that has been set for years, criticism based on jealousy that I never saw but everyone around me told me existed, and just criticism for being me. I do think this, wanting to change something you believe in is no easy task, and you need to be prepared to stick you to your gut, you know the felling when you come across the campus, or being with a friend that nothing has to be said and just being – and it is fine, that gut feeling – you need to stick you and ever compromise, unless you want to compromise all you stand to be and believe in. I am not willing to do that but I have to admit, the school of hard knocks have made me realize, it is important to stick to that gut knowledge and sift out the aspects that are critical to me growing, and critical to the realization that I am doing something right.

What kind of roadblocks would inhibit you to change something you believe in you ask? Wow, looking back I had everything from comments on my class discussion that people, studying to be librarians felt I was not sincere about my studies because I phrased my posts to songs and past movies (I realized there is a major decline in humor from those studying to be librarians, not good news for future libraries and interacting with patrons) – to lack of support from administration in the states due to their belief that parents, despite the actions of their students in the classroom – are always always always right – until something serious happens, what is often not realized is when not backing up the educator, that educator’s legs are cut from underneath them, – yet, with the proper documentation and track record of excellence, it should be much more difficult to not support educators than TO support them, to individuals around you jealous or angry at spending time with the very people that are future patrons of a library, I mean we could go on and one, but it comes down to this – everywhere and nowhere.

Everywhere and Nowhere seems to be the mantra I always feel – being everywhere and nowhere yet covering and involving so many diverse groups into activities, always providing, organizing, and researching and implementing, this is just the tip of what the 21st Century Librarian is capable of, if they believe in the power of others. What I mean is being able to provide opportunities to others and let them relish in these accomplishments, not needing to take credit for many things but providing chances for others to be starts, be successful, and being literally everywhere, yet seemingly out of site (nowhere) yet still putting into motion ideas and activities that will only help others – this is the ultimate Pay it Forward, and yet, that is truly the full potential of what a librarian can do.

Scrap the ideas of cataloging, budgeting, and dusting as the primary traits that define a good librarian, or not…but by opening the doors and windows to being capable of more than those foundational traits (test they are still important and essential!), add being in the classroom, in the library of course, but also willing to be everywhere else and connect links, resources, people in general, activities, ideas, initiatives, grants, projects, and so much more, (WHEW!) the general term “librarian” begins to shrink and the librarian themselves become something larger than life and a hub, an informational center if you will, allowing a meeting place of ideas, possibilities and excitement to grow and multiply in others. I want to be known for that, passing on ideas and seeing others run with it and letting it grow and become something even greater for others!

I have noticed one major thing since coming to Mexico and becoming a librarian/Media Specialist according to a piece of paper that states I studies courses in this area. I have become more contemplative and demanding of the quality of life I want. I also realize I am far from perfect and have come to see my flaws, but embrace them and create a life around those that I want. Examples of how I have changed and developed?, Hmmm, okay here goes:

1)    I hate gossip. I hate gossipers. I tolerate someone coming to me trying to share this, and I notice, the more people gossip, the more I want to do it, and that isn’t even me, I hate it – ironic, eh? I try to distance myself from this as much as possible and spend my time on people’s strengths and if I share something, this does not mean it is automatic ticket to tell someone else, it means, wow, I feel this way about something someone did or said, and as a friend, how do I deal with that? Opposed to picking up someone’s conversation and passing it on to another for the sake of being the person that passed on a tidbit of gossipy conversation.   At first I was like, how did this develop in my studies of being a Media Specialist, YET, with all the social media, we have a job as Media Specialists/librarians to discern what is appropriate for ourselves and how we pas that information on for a beneficial purpose, not a private one.

2)    I am not sure about you, but me? Part of the draw of libraries is they are like a haven, I need tons of light, tons, streaming in, feeling the warmth, and just being around all the possibilities that are contained within the pages. I want others to feel that way too, even if they do not like to read I mean, there are moments I need to have quiet to roll through my thoughts but overall? – I want a place that can contain Quiet and Loud, not being shushed in one area and being able to express my excitement and discovery of a topic and be a little loud if I may, in another area. That has just opened up the possibilities that can occur in a library for me, and I want to be IN THAT PLACE! I want to feel mu lowest, and my highest, my moments I need to hide away, and the moments I want to be around everyone in a library – if I can do that, wow, that power I feel in my soul in a place I value.

3) I know I am a talker, I realize this and somehow, through the genes of my family, I have obtained this limitless supply of energy that just needs to be directed in many ways, and a lot of the time, I mean a lot of the time. A LOT. Yet, it’s funny, when I am around someone that just can’t shut up, (laughing) had this energy that just comes out and yet unnerves me, puts me on edge, seems to be the energy that is unproductive, or just can I say annoying? (and annoying is different for some people than others) – I just need to GET AWAY, and STAY AWAY. Lol I need about 4-5 days of just quiet, and replenishing the time I need for myself to recover from that annoyingly busy, rapid, and at-you-all-the-time energy that just drives your last nerve dancing across the table. I have to say – I am lucky to have an apartment that the breeze blows through, the quiet is ever present, and the air seems fresh as the mornings and nights I wake up to. For me, that is my retreat and heals the moments that seem I am being brought across the jagged rocks, I am lucky in that respect. I also think I have been able to collect the confidence and independence to know, these are my limits, there are my expectations and I will be more in charge of deciding who and where I place myself. I have been able to look within myself and realize these things about what I need and who I choose to be with and for how long, lol more as I have been able to create, develop, and plan the direction I want to go as a librarian/advocate for information. I never thought I would realize things that were personal and be able to build on them, but, I am surprised every day at how I have developed base don something I enjoyed so much, and how many doors it opened in the way of possibilities.

4)   Learning is limitless unless you want it to be.   I am fascinated with how books can truly make connections to other things in your life and well, sometimes not, but still have the power to shape how you see things. For example, and kind of funny, when The Lord of the Rings came out, this was the same time I received a ring that I thought would never come back to me from my Dad, long story, but if you search in my blog the title “The Rings Around Us” it’ll come up. That is a long read in addition to this current post, so just warning you, but well worth it in applying how we see ourselves among others, one of the best lessons and gifts my father ever gave me.

I remember reading Stephen King’s The Stand and at the time I was sick. I mean MAJORLY sick, in bed out of commission for a few weeks sick. It fascinated me how real the aspects of that story seeped into my real life in the form of “ohmygosh – the symptoms they have, um, I have and I have…AGH” – it was a little creepy at the time but never ceased to amaze me how real writing can be sometimes and internalize in what us happening around you in your own life.

Today, I just finished a book titled, “Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands” and I have to tell you, I was just – I could not put it down. The face that so many people have in the public – their self preservation over the concern for others, how raw life really is and the reality of so many people that have nothing, how we so take for granted what we have, all of this is humbling and it is amazing how strongly this comes out – just in one novel! Thin of all the others that do this – and thin of how exciting it is to take that knowledge and go on and do something powerful with it – there is much more power in reading if it becomes inspirations to motivate an action, similar to how there is so much more to the role of a librarian, if you choose to make it more than just the stereotype it has always been.

Aside from the above that branched out from me being able to muse more about myself from influences of things I have read, I also have realized this about myself and others:

I now know why I hate gift certificates so much. Well hold on. I LOVE receiving them, I mean it gives me a gift, heck, and that is pretty awesome – and sometimes, gift certificates are for places that fit your personality, and that is pretty freaking awesome. But, I always tread close to the proximity of not giving a gift certificate, because I always wanted to be a person that went out of their way to get something that reflected that person’s personality. I know, kind of weird but I thought – the gifts people gave me that represented something I have a specific interest in, LOVE. And for the most part, they are simple, and sometimes cost nothing – I mean, okay you are asking, I have no idea what you are talking about, have an example? Of course you are asking this, and what can I say, they are the hardest to come up at last minute’s notice, but I mean like…a basket full of individual items that that person truly likes, maybe an Etch a Sketch bringing back a reminder of what it was like to be a kid and to you they still seem a kid, possibly a cd that is from a video that you used to watch as kids, or the shirt that you had made that can’t be found anywhere else and has that phrase you laughed about for an hour – those kind of things. When I receive those? I hang on tight to them for years and treasure them more than anything you can go and find out in a store, yeah, I’m weird that way.

Retreating within myself. Lately, I am not sure why, but I have found myself much more independent, and not sure why now, but I love it. For example, I went to the opening of Les Miserables put on by our ASF students, (check out the next post in a little for that review, I think you will understand how amazing it was) – and for once, I saw people al around me I knew, and I consider myself a pretty social person needing that interaction with others, but, I mean, come on, I am a 42 year old, single guy who likes to do cool things for others but the term “cool” doesn’t always mean the same for the students that see me outside of the educational setting, and I dunno – I feel that they might be embarrassed and well like “Mr. Brake, great um will he try to come over and embarrass me outside of school?!’ lol, I have no idea what I think that. But in some settings, I just like to remain as invisible as possible wall fly style and take in everything around me to the fullest effect.   I saw several people from the past year that had graduated, and I saw them at Les Miserables, and it was amazing to see them yet, I felt like this was THEIR time back as ASF and they did not need me expecting a welcome back etc , and besides, I look older and didn’t want to cramp their style- but seriously, I like to just retreat and take in the evening which I did Friday and Saturday and then just quietly leave, and it helps me take in the amazingness of the events around me, and that is okay. I just feel this need to more and more independent lately, not sure why, but I thoroughly love being able to go places without a plan, without warning, and I have some of the best contemplations and reflections about what I want to do, if I am on the right track, ideas for the future, etc. Okay, enough going Buddha on you, just showing that some of the moments you have on your own, and decidedly you choosing to be on your own, are pretty freaking awesome and I appreciate being able to have the moments to do that in a pretty amazing place like Mexico!

Respectful without compromise : This is a funny thing – I actually enjoy positive and thoughtful criticism, and is has always guided me. Lately, I have developed a “Screw you” philosophy side to myself as well, ad I have to say, it’s about time. Remember the gut feeling I mentioned earlier? I am serious, your gut never steers you wrong. I have noticed from careful observations of those around me, the impact of certain actions and opportunities, sometimes they are good, sometimes they are not worth the time and trouble, and you should try to learn from that to be better next time. However, as you get better at evaluating the end product of projects, ideas, etc, you begin to also realize what makes you a better person. This goes back to people telling you to change, etc. To a degree, I think it is important to take all criticism into consideration, you do become a better person for it, even the advice that sometimes is hard to swallow at first. Yet, when your gut has had time to process it (so your gut being a combination of intuition, knowing yourself, and either that good feeling inside or the one that keeps nagging you saying “But this doesn’t feel right!”) it is SO very important to never compromise what you feel is important and valuable to yourself. This has so many implications I could not possibly go into detailing them all, as it is different for everyone, but, this one aspect is true. Be it job, what you do on the weekends, how you motivate others, what you do to make yourself good inside, you need to do what is right by others and yourself, yes, but at the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with evaluating your actions and making sure you are true to yourself. For me, I need to see that things I do help and benefit others, and do not need to result in praise of what I did to start it, in fact, I kind of hate being the source of all things good, and people doting on the fact that they can’t believe I was able to this or that, I’m not sure, but it embarrasses me and makes me feel uncomfortable; however, if I can see someone benefit take something and do amazing things that change them for the better, whoa, that matters to me and that is what I want, need, and desire to be able to do. I think my parents raised me well, but being humble and being able to “pass it on” is so vital to who I am, and I am sure I have gained that from my Dad and Mother on down to the people I choose to be with.  I in fact love that trait.    I simply detest cockiness, stuck up attitudes, and the “me or no one” attitude – ah – it simply sucks.   To a degree, I have been able to standup and follow a path that allows me to be my own person and do those very things. If I feel I am being compromised and unable to exercise the right to do that – wow- it is so important to me to be able to do a VARIETY of things, so I can have many choices of where to go, what to do, and be able to maintain that lifestyle for my own sanity.

I think this brings me maybe to my largest pet peeve, those that truly are out for themselves, usually major law makers that need to have strict rules all the time and follow them, unbending and inflexible and whether you realize it or not, life just passes them by. I have noticed life itself has so many changing elements to it, you need to be able to adjust the rules at a moments notice and develop ideas and aspects that work for you, as well as help others feel motivated and empowered. It is no good for one person to have this “power” and others suffer silently, frankly it sucks. As long as we have people willing to share a bit of themselves with others, believe in the inflexibility of life, and willing to just take life as an enjoyable experience and make it better for others around them, theirs in turn becomes better.

All this contemplation, and all I want to make sure is, as long as I am under the category of “librarian” I want to continue to change the ideas of how people see that role, and if motivating them in ways they did not exist or that they were aware of occurs, I think that is a mission accomplished. Everywhere and nowhere, I like the ring to that.

And to you readers, that have actually read this from beginning to end, part of me sympathizes with you, because this was quite burst of thought over a contemplative weekend, full of Les Miserables late nights, (late after coming home and walking the dogs) concessioning for gymnastics amid this, as well as squeezing in more climbing and running and waling that I thought my body was capable, I relish in the amazing people that surround me and made this weekend full of restoration, relaxation, and contemplation – and that by far is the best weekend one can have ever. Truly the phrase “”To love another person is to see the face of God” from Les Miserables sticks with me in so many of these above mentioned areas, and I realize, those that go out of their way to show how much they care for others, while also standing up for those things they believe in, are those who I want to walk with daily. Fortunately, there are many like that around me – and I think they are priceless! I also through the pondering and musings have realized, how many faults I have, and yet the friends I have made along the way take that into stride and accept me for the way I am, and we have amazing times together without any expected decisions, stressful moments or any sense of comfortable moments, what to say, how to act, putting a guard up, etc., and this goes beyond words in allowing me to keep moving forward n many many areas – including one monster of a blog post, lol.

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About Harry Brake

Employee of ASF in Mexico City, Librarian, Media crazy! :)
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