If you had told me three months ago when I was still in the USA getting ready to make the leap to New Zealand that once I was there, basically all the way settled and into the daily routine of being Justin living and working in New Zealand that I’d also be seeing a counselor I would most likely think that you were watching a weird episode of the Twilight Zone. First off, they’d never make an episode of The Twilight Zone about me. Secondly, why in the world would I need to see a counselor in wonderful, perfect New Zealand? Shouldn’t I be extremely grateful and excited that I got this chance? Shouldn’t everything be perfectly hunky dory in the land of Justin?
For all of my life I’ve felt myself being pulled by two invisible forces. On one side is the Justin that can take charge if needed, the Justin that can offer his suggestions and world view in a positive and forward thinking way. On the other side is the Justin who has to remind himself that he’s actually a human being, the one that disconnected, withdrawn, and anxious at every turn. Let’s make sense of that using Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys: some days I feel like I could make my own personal Pet Sounds in this career that I’ve chosen and on other days I want to stay in a bath robe in bed singing Shortnin’ Bread over and over again. You can see this nicely illustrated by my counselor in the image accompanying this post. I’m glad I took this photo. I keep referring to it and it helps me visualize just what I said above. The pendulum that is Justin swings back and forth, the invisible forces pulling me in a life that finds me alternating between these two versions of myself.
We’ll start here. There is a stress that comes with moving yourself, your family, and pretty much everything in your personal orbit across the world. I was aware of this stress and I recognised it, but at the same time I did something that I usually do. It’s a pretty stupid thing to do. I saw myself as someone that could conquer all of that by the simple fact that I could recognise that stress was coming. A combination of a very blue collar upbringing and someone from my past whispering in my ear that depression and mental health were not real and that everyone got the blues from time to time so just pull up those American bootstraps gave me the courage to believe that I could defeat that incoming stress. I was very wrong. That stress was and still is very real and it has affected me greatly.
But let’s go back a little bit more. I wrote a piece earlier this year called Do You Want To Work In A Public Library? I was and am still proud of that post. Every once in awhile ideas all come together and the right words line up and that was one of those moments. I wrote honestly and openly. It’s the best way to go in life. Reaction to the post was, well let me think here. There were like 7 people who got what I wrote about and then an entire profession coming out of the walls to scream. I closed the comments because I was tired of getting notifications all through the day. I was tired of deleting snarky comments. I kept a few up on the post as a reminder that people can be rude. Library Twitter, a place that I had long found to be a great fountain of ideas and sharing, was now a place I despised going. I muted every single person that showed up in my timeline until nothing showed up. It basically remains that way minus a few people I’ve added back into the mix, a couple of sane voices in the mix of a lot of yelling. My favourite part was the person who linked back to pretty much every single thing I have ever written on this website in what must have been a 10,000-20,000 essay on how horrible I am. That last sentence was covered in sarcasm. I didn’t enjoy that part, let alone any of those parts that I mentioned at all. It made me want to go into that staying in bed in a bath robe singing shortnin’ bread Brian Wilson mode. I’m good with constructive discussion. I’m not great with yelling, screaming, subtweeting, and just down right mean things being said. At that point I changed: I realised that the world in 2019 was a very different place than I was hoping it was. I retreated in my head and my heart.
We can go back even further to around 2015. This is the year that I became a Library Director and also oddly enough the year I visited New Zealand for the first time. This was a transition year, the moment I made the move from being in the very creative and liberating Chattanooga Public Library towards being a Library Director at the Benson Memorial Library. It was quite a change, going from developing Creative Stations for a floor focused on giving kids & teens the best possible library experience to writing from scratch and expanding an entire set of policies and procedures for an entire library. I got it in my head that my time for creativity and the fun stuff in libraries was over, that Justin The Librarian as the Library Director was to encourage and support the creative needs of others. I don’t think I got that bit wrong at all, but I do think I was a bit crazy to completely cut myself off from that creative thing that I had grown so accustomed to. Doing so changed me a bit. I got pretty boring, more robotic, and I lost something that I’ve yet to get back in myself. The balance wasn’t there, and my own personal pendulum was swinging wildly.
By this point if you’ve read anything on this site you all know that I’ve struggled with this stuff in the past. I could write a few chapters in a book about depression, Prozac, and everything in between. These are just the kinds of things that have always been there. Some of you may even come here only to hear me talk about that openly. I’m aware that this has become less Justin The Librarian more here’s a person named Justin openly and honestly talking about struggling on the internet dot com. What I’m trying to say is that these things have always been there, but in the past five years as I race towards 40 years old (June 2020) these things have accelerated. Moving 9,000 or so miles with my family and the stress of that (stress I thought I could beat) combined with the last 5 years and then everything else that came before and now I can clearly see how three months into my New Zealand journey why I am seeing a counselor.
We’ll end here. Thank you for listening, reading, commenting, and just in general being there when I put these things out into the world. At some point I’ll come back with more to talk about and more to share. See you then.