Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Whatever you are, be a good one"

I will potentially catch flack from my mother, several friends, and a number of colleagues for sharing a blog post with this title and agreeing with most of what is said, but I'm going to do it anyway (I live life on the edge, clearly):

My Job is Not What I Do, It Is Who I Am

During my first year as a librarian I remember a colleague asking me how things were going, and when would I be done and able to take some down time. And I remember saying, "There's no point at which I'm 'done.' There's just a point at the end of every day when I say 'enough for today' and I stop."

That is, I think, the nature of working in education (and in a lot of other fields, I know; it's just that most of my experience is in education). I get frustrated with colleagues who want to do something "like we did it last year." Even if a project went perfectly (ha!), I always want to try something new, make something better. And every year we're working with new students who bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table. No matter how good a lesson or unit is, it never feels "done" to me.

Which is not to say I never drag my feet through a day, or want to do something that's just "good enough" or get frustrated or feel like work has consumed my entire life to the exclusion of the possibility of social interaction. 'Cause I do. But 9 times out of 10 a positive interaction with a student (whether that's working with a kid on a major project or someone just stopping in to say hi and ask for a book recommendation) will bring me back to where I need to be.

This is, I think, part of how I'm wired. Even when I worked in, um, let's just call them "jobs not crucial to the future of our nation" I often spent too much time at work or thinking about work. I'm not very good at just leaving half-done things aside at 5:00 and not thinking about it till the next day. And I took any feedback on my work--good or bad--to heart. Often too much so. So I suppose it's a good thing I'm in education, as leaving half-done things aside at 5:00 is never really an option, and taking critiques of your work--good and bad--to heart is incredibly important.

Like the quote that is the title of this blog post (attributed to Abraham Lincoln, who I think it's fair to say took his own advice to heart), whatever it is I do, I think it's important to be--or try to be--good at it. But I've come to realize, too, that being good at what I do also means taking time away from work; it's important to create balance, and perspective. Spending all my time immersed in and consumed by my work creates a kind of myopia that is counter-productive when it comes to actually improving.

My job is who I am; there is no way I could feel as passionate about my work, or unbegrudgingly give over so much of my life to it if it didn't speak to something deep within me. But it's not ALL of who I am.


  1. I love you for your daring honesty and the passion with which you live your profession. I am so glad and proud that you're a new friend & part of my PLN!

  2. What a fantastic post! You have managed to articulate, so eloquently at that, the very thing I have been trying to explain to my family and friends for the last two years!
    It is this exact reason that we are so well suited to our roles and I often wonder if people misunderstand our passion for our work, simply because it is something they have not managed to find in their own work?
    Well done you and keep fighting the good fight!!!

  3. I think, too, part of what helps people in any profession get and stay passionate about their work is the opportunity to stay connected and involved outside the walls of their workplace. I know that connecting with Twitter, blogs (my own and others), and good ol' face-to-face conferences plays a significant role in my ability to stay passionate and stretch myself in ways I wouldn't think possible.

    PLN FTW!

  4. I believe I am a good one. I'm divisible only by myself. (I likes math humor.)

    Although I enjoy parts of my day job, working for a large corporation with an overabundance of bureaucracy has sapped much of my passion for the work. Luckily, I have outside passions to keep me going.

    Oh yeah, and I hope in your current job you spend a lot less time thinking about calendars.