Thursday, May 27, 2010

When I Grow Up

It used to be so simple. When I pupated my way into adulthood, I was going to be a famous writer - slightly less prolific than Ann M. Martin, and much more awesome than Jack London. My books would be about funky tweens who lived on the same block, communicating by flashlight out their windows at night. They would have, for plotting reasons, minimal parental influence (maybe something along the lines of the glamorous orphaned Boxcar children), and, of course, there would be mysteries.

Sadly, I've outgrown the Babysitter's Club (gasp!) and most of my writing tends to be either really self-indulgent messes about apocalypses and falling in love, or this humble blog. I've done a little published writing, but even "professional" is a stretch there, since I interned at a magazine and hence was not paid. It's strictly amateur hour over here, vis-a-vis the written word.

It sort of sucks to realize that your childhood dreams are probably not going to flower the way you thought they might. How many fairy-tale weddings are there? How many people end up working their dream jobs? No-one had the perfect family growing up; we were all messy and horrible, with the stomping and the screaming fights, the silent treatment and the sibling rivalries. Why do we always expect the future to be a shining, golden place, when the here-and-now is often disappointing?

I know this is coming off as a total bummer. While I do struggle to be the glass-half-full kind of gal that seemingly comes naturally to many of my friends, I'm not really sad about the demise of my never-created young adult series, although I do sort of wish I had the cash that a board game tie-in would have brought in. I'm more fascinated by the way my dreams have grown up with me.

Fifteen years ago, the answer to the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" would have been a snotty eye roll and a sneering "A writer," because I was a shitty little brat. Ten years ago, I wanted to graduate high school and be a mom, an option that now fills me with horror - I would have never moved to Toronto, gone to school, grown out of my unflattering high school wardrobe or become the person I became. A year ago, I was set on being an urban planner, which is still intriguing in a distant, dreamy way. It's amazing how things shift and change, how we grow as people.

My parents and I sat down tonight to talk about my job search - what do I want to do with my life? As a recent university grad, I think I've got some sort of three-month window where I get to eat raspberries off my fingertips and swan around, but that seems self-indulgent. Since I got involved in co-op housing six year ago, I've been fascinated by the dynamics of communities and communal living. Artists' colonies, hippie communes, co-housing projects: they seem both retro and revolutionary.

I'm not going to write about the ins and outs of housing co-ops; there are other places to go for the inside track on that. But I realized over the last couple years that I like being involved in this little life-slice. I want to work here. My dream jobs are the jobs I'm applying for now.

That's a weird thing; I feel like a lot of my parent's generation stumbled into their careers without thinking about what they wanted. Maybe that was just my dad? Anyway. My father happens to be very good at what he does, but I'm not sure that, at the age of 26, he sat dreaming of one day becoming an IT consultant and project manager. But a lot of my friends have thought very critically about the jobs they take. Where will they lead? What will they learn? Does it go somewhere, or does it dead-end at a call center in Mississauga? My friends aren't afraid of getting their hands dirty, career-wise. We take out loans, construct spaces, and go back to school. We're trying.

This summer was originally going to be very laid-back: escape to my family's cottage on Lake Huron, work as a waitress, call people "hon" all day long. Then I realized that there's no reason to delay the inevitable: my dream job, my right-now, I'm-getting-there, grown-up job is out there somewhere. Waiting. And who knows, maybe I'll end up writing a wildly successful series of young-adult novels on my days off; that'd be nice.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Public Library Love

I'm having a passionate love affair. I know, I know: it can't last. But it's so glorious! The hours of pleasure, the constant checking in...I'll get my heart broken eventually. It's inevitable. Unavoidable. But the sweetness now is so wonderful that I can't tear myself away.

My friends, I have fallen in love with the public library.

Lame! Or? Awesome! I'm going with awesome, since the Stratford Public Library is just so wonderful. It's a big brick building, built right where downtown Stratford starts to bleed into its residential surrounds, with great shady trees on its front lawn. It's air-conditioned, which, given this preposterous heat wave, is a total boon. Originally one of the Carnegie libraries - of the 2500 hundred he helped build, it was one of 125 Canadian projects - the Stratford Public Library is a three-story storehouse of stories. And movies. And music.

I'm not a frequent user of the Toronto Public Library, since I still owe them sixty-four dollars in overdue fines from 2003. I find the Toronto system kind of annoying, to be honest: while the Stratford library has a wide selection of books, the Toronto libraries nearest my house hold special-interest collections: the Spadina branch is home to the Native People's Resource Collection, which, I'm sorry, but I just don't care about, while the Lillian H. Smith branch houses a large children's collection I'm not privy to unless accompanied by a child. The way people are expected to use the Toronto system is to work with inter-library loans: since most branches don't have most books, people ask for the books to be whizzed around the city, and they'll be delivered to your home branch in a matter of days.

I'm an immediate gratification kind of gal, so I hate waiting for things to come through on the Toronto system. The whole appeal of the library is to go and browse, grabbing novels and CDs, maybe a memoir or an anthology, and then meandering towards the checkout with your treasures hugged to your chest. If I have to ask, and then wait, and then pick starts feeling like less of a treasure and more of a chore. Like homework. Like a drag.

The first time I went to Robarts, the University of Toronto's mega-library and notorious eyesore, I got teary. Not because it was mystical and magical; I was miserable. In high school, I used to cheer myself up from particularly black moods by stopping in at the library - at the very least, no-one is going to talk to you, and there was always the chance of stumbling across some life-affirming book. Robarts, on the other hand, uses the Library of Congress shelving system (instead of dependable old Dewey), and is a lightless repository of moldering books no one could possibly give a shit about. It was disheartening to walk those stacks, knowing that the next four (what? Okay, eight) years of my life were going to be spent in a place that considered this soulless cipher of a library the ultimate in biblioacheivement.

It's funny, because in most cases, I'm usually firmly planted in the "Toronto blows Stratford out of the water" camp...but thinking about this library sort of makes me feel warm towards my bedraggled hometown. The public library here is a friendly, welcoming place - one where, over the years, I've probably funded a wing or two with my overdue fines - just stuffed with interesting stuff. It's airy, full of light, and doesn't take itself too seriously, and works in the ways it's supposed to. It gives you the books you want. And the movies, and the music.