“What you truly want to become”

In his 2005 commencement address at Stanford, Steve Jobs said that your inner voice, heart, and intuition already know what you want to become.   As he quoted Jobs at his blog, the Big Dude, aka AOTUS David S. Ferriero, said it was the best commencement speech he’s heard or read.  Advising people to listen to their inner voices at the start of or early in their working lives is especially important.  But listening for our inner voices is an ongoing process.  Even as we grow older, we still work on who we want to really become.  And of course, not everyone stays on the same career path all their lives, people change jobs and even professions, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes involuntarily.

David writes short blog posts in comparison to mine.  He’s a real blogger.  I’m just someone who pours out my heart in essays!  But if you have a discerning eye, you can pick out where his essence lies.  I smiled when I saw him write, “I’m trying hard to help people discover and heed their own inner voice, heart and intuition.”  That was the money quote.  Because, as I’ve noted here before, I’m one of the people he has helped.

If your opportunities seem quite unlimited when you graduate from college, as you grow older, you’re more aware of limitations and the consequences of your past choices.  Some doors close, probably never to open again.   That doesn’t mean you don’t feel joy or like having fun.  Far from it! Joyful moments form precious memories that you reach back and consider when you need a boost.  My morning post yesterday was quite somber in part, as I discussed shortened lives, people we loved who no longer are with us in the physical world, and limitations that can affect what we hear from our inner voices and carry in our hearts. 

When my sister Eva  died, I told people I was lucky to have her in my life for 51 years.  In the years before her terminal illness, people used to ask me, “what’s it like to be a twin?”  I would laugh and reply, “What’s it like not to be one?”  To some extent, I know that now.  I’m influenced by the experience of having once had someone in my life with whom I had a huge trust zone.  I was lucky in that! 

I still dream of Eva, of course.  Initially, and even now, some of the dreams involved medical appointments.   I accompanied her to all of hers.  During the spring and summer of 2002 when she had chemo, five days a week every third week, I worked half days so I could sit with her during those sessions.  You don’t let a twin go through that alone! 

In addition to working half days when Eva had chemo, I would then go in to the office and work 8 hours or more each Saturday and Sunday.  Sometimes I worked on my backlog of reference requests,  sometimes I handled other assignments.  My agency archives was due to be moved and because of the nature of the holdings, I moved more than half the materials myself on weekends.  In recent years, when I see Eva in my dreams, we’re doing something fun, such as traveling or walking together. 

Maybe we (or I) are wired to focus on and cherish fun and joyful experiences and to use them to cope with tough experiences.  You couldn’t always tell that on the Archives & Archivists listserv, where I repeatedly pleaded with people not to let what happened to my archival cohort happen to others.  As in any professional forum, there always were people who said, “stick to business” and discouraged us from showing who we were in other areas.   When I tried to show my fun side or post OT items, such actions sometimes met with on or off list pushback.

My posts tended to be long and although I was taken aback when people said, “go away and blog instead,” there also were those like @meau who said there should be a place for my “thoughtful” observations.  Blogging suits me well although I miss the back and forth of debating issues with others.  My blog draws a fair amount of readers, including David Ferriero.   He wouldn’t comment here, of course, but sometimes I wish more of my lurkers would!  I may be an Introvert but I do enjoy chatting with people.

If David Ferriero were a young archivist, I bet he would have posted a link yesterday to the A&A list about my Thursday lunchtime blog post about how I had fun at NARA!    It was a post about workplace joy, something in which he believes strongly and early glimpses of which among librarians influenced his decision to work in the library field.  The photos I posted here yesterday illustrate so very clearly how far I’ve come in my journey since I showed up on the listserv around 1997, to discuss my NARA experiences.    I’m still laughing at how David greeted me last Wednesday. 

AOTUS was SO funny.  And, of course, making me burst out laughing was the perfect way to greet someone who had once walked into that very same Archivist’s Reception Room in 1992, frightened and feeling so alone.  I got caught in a thunderstorm yesterday evening during my walk.  No umbrella, I tend to avoid carrying them during walks because I don’t want to be encumbered.  Just a National Archives cap and hooded windbreaker over my work clothes.   I was soaked to the skin half way through my hourlong walk  But I laughed my way through it and although wet to the skin, felt relaxed when I arrived at my doorstep!  Memories of past fun can really bolster and support you.

The great thing about the photo by Margot Schulman for the Foundation for the National Archives of David showing the photographer my blue nails last Wednesday is how everyone is laughing.  I love the expressions of the onlookers!    Making others laugh is a wonderful feeling.

David has exquisite discernment and is very empathetic, so it doesn’t surprise me that he cites sensitivity to the conditions that surround different individuals and empathy as qualities he believes good leaders have.  The Big Dude observes that to work in the world of archives, you have to like people. There were no web forums for librarians and archivists and records managers when he started his civilian career.  But I know, I just know, that a pattern of David doing helpful, even kind, things that illustrate naturally how he truly likes people, not just in reference service but in other areas, must have caught the eye of managers looking to develop future leaders.   My inner voice tells me that!

2 responses to ““What you truly want to become”

  1. A beautiful post Maarja. I love what you’ve written about finding your inner voice, joy, Eva, and laughter at work. Too often it seems that many archvists who are doing the speaking/posting are becoming bitter activists, looking for something broken that they can fix. But your post today is a breath of fresh air, joy. You’ve lightened my morning and I’m going to approach today looking for the fun, the joy, that comes today. Although, I’m not at work – I’m home with my 6-day old son. I can still find plenty to smile about when I think about my archivist job. (Thanks to PeterK for sending me the link to your blog this morning.) Oh, I just noticed the date of the post – Friday, the day my son was born. A good day for joy!

  2. Thank you so much for your comment, Shelly! You just made my day and what’s more, you made me smile. Very kind of you, much appreciated. Please thank PeterK for his thoughtful forward of my post to you. I’m honored that you took the time to read my little essay and to post such a thoughtful comment. Much thanks!

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