Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Choice

Once upon a time when I was  a teenager my best friend at the time invited me to go camping for a week with her family.  Her twin brother also had a friend go along.  Their family went camping at the same lake every summer for years and years.

They were fortunate enough to have a boat as well, hence the choice of the large lake as the venue.  The favorite boat related activities were fishing and water-skiing.  I had never water-skied before and was anxious to try this activity since it looked like a lot of fun to skim gracefully across the surface of the water.

The first day out on the boat my friend and her twin brother took turns showing the brother's friend and me how it was done.  They each strapped on the skis, leaned back in the water and waited for the boat to pull them up and out before they glided effortlessly.   Then it was time for the brother's friend.  He tried a couple of times and declared it was too hard.  Finally, it would be my chance.  I was a little nervous since the assessment of the other novice was not favorable but I was undaunted.

I slid into the water awkwardly tumbled around between the life vest and the skis as I struggled to get the skis on my feet.  Once strapped together I flailed like a wounded seal trying to reach the tow rope bar.  I was instructed to sit back in the water with the tips of my skis above the water line.  When the boat started I was to keep leaning back and let it pull me up and out while continuing to lean as if getting ready to sit in a chair but to hold on tight.  I was told the boat would do the work.

My friend's father opened up the throttle, revved the motor and took off.  I popped right out of the water, stood straight up, and within a nanosecond was on my face in the water.  Having failed at remaining upright I was determined to hold on the boat continued to tear across the lake.  This was the only goal in which I my own detriment and the great amusement of my friend's family.

Once the boat slowed to a stop and the water ran out of my ears I could hear the raucous laughter.  Once the laughing ebbed my friend's father asked with incredulity, "Why didn't you let go when you fell? "  I told him I didn't want to be left behind (plus, what I lack in skill, I make up for in tenacity).  He roared with laughter again before assuring me they could see if I fell and they'd circle around to pick me up again, not to worry.  Just let go.

I had to let go of the the rope, fear of being left behind, and the desire to be seen as competent, otherwise I'd be dragged mercilessly through the water taking a worse beating than the fall itself provided.  I did not have to let go of the hope of being able to water ski.  My friend's family was patient with me and coached me through dozens of more attempts before I finally found the balance needed to pop up and out of the water and stay up to enjoy the ride.  I had to transfer my tenacity from a death grip on the tow line to perseverance in repeated effort and refinement of technique.

Decades later I am still a stubborn person inclined to just hold on tight through whatever difficulty comes my way and just grind through it. I know that comes as a terrible shock to all of you. 

School has been incredibly frustrating since the beginning of the year.  It's an urban school district.  I knew that going in.  Last year I worked in far less than optimal circumstances, without even an adult-sized desk in one school, in a library chunked into classrooms, managing a collection that is embarrassingly inadequate in numerous ways, for abysmal pay.  I was willing to endure all that because I am passionate about libraries and getting books into the hands of kids. 

I started this year knowing I'd have to reshelve 10,000 books that had been boxed while a major work project took place over the summer.  I was undaunted.  I have argued with administrators about the purpose of a library.  I have had my meager resources pillaged for non-library purposes.  I have had my only computer turn into a doorstop and I have come up with plans B, C, and D as contingencies for that situation as well as other major hindrances to accomplishing my job.  I've done it without much assistance from anyone having the power to make a difference.

It's been completely frustrating.  At times it's been downright infuriating.  This past week there was a brief reprieve during in-service when all the other library paras came to my one school and we had some training followed by my receiving their assistance in getting some big things done that I had no free time to address.  It was an encouragement to be with folks who care about libraries and understand what goes in to keeping them running.  They are all facing similar challenges to those I deal with.  This past week we also found out the central administration is not done yet with its plans to make life increasingly difficult for those of us working in the libraries.  We were all demoralized by the news.  We all know we cannot possibly do our jobs adequately with the new burdens placed upon us.  Our libraries will deteriorate significantly under the new mandates. 

Being the tenacious and stubborn person I am I was trying to figure out how to make it work.  How to keep holding on through this rough ride.  Given that my back is still fouled up I was struggling to come up with workable answers.  I felt I was coming to a breaking point.  Something had to give.

Then, as I wandered around a store I literally saw a sign reading:

Let Go or Be Dragged

Like being determined to waterski, I am determined to bring books and kids together.  I may just need to let go of this alleged opportunity for doing so, pursue other avenues, and trust that I will have greater success in so doing.  I won't leave this job until I have another but I have decided to be more active in looking now rather than waiting until the end of the school year.

I just hate that the kids I leave behind will still be dragged along by a system led by fools.


Bijoux said...

I'm so sorry. I have friends who are teachers and they become more discouraged every year by the cutbacks and the increasing burdens being placed on them to teach state standards that are redesigned every other year. Our educational system really seems to be in the toilet.

Good luck in your search!

Jackie said...

Another great analogy, my friend.
I understand your frustration. I do.
I hope that the administrators will learn of your decision to probably "let go"...and will do the right thing and get some help for you. It will be a shame for the children to lose you.
Hugs to you,

joeh said...

Terrific post except for the sad conclusion. I can feel your frustration.

Tabor said...

First, thank you for doing what you do with your tenacity. You have made a difference, I am sure. This ugliness is happening to library programs in many places. American spends big bucks for sports programs and almost nothing for reading and library programs! You have a good philosophy and you will find success elsewhere...and who knows, maybe the power to change things.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I'm stubborn myself, so I get it. I often need to remind myself of this W.C Fields quote:

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it."

Suldog said...

I doubt anyone could do as much, with so little, as you have done. I'm proud of you.

Hena Tayeb said...

that is awful.. one of the most important systems.. so broken

Stephen Hayes said...

I can't imagine anyone working harder or putting out more effort than you have trying to make this work. Like you've said so artfully: sometimes you just have to let go.

Trinity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beach Bum said...

I feel your frustration. In fact I could go all political but I won't. I'll just say that for all the talk we Americans make about wanting great schools for each and everyone of our kids we never quite can make that commitment real.

Craig said...

Those fish-or-cut-bait decisions are the worst. . . I'll pray for discernment. . .

You also remind me of my one-and-only, solitary experience of water-skiing, when I was 12 or so. It went a lot like yours; many trials, and much water pounded into my face (and down my throat), before I finally managed to get upright. But I did. Oh, yes I did. . .


Logophile said...

You, my brave, beautiful friend, already know how I feel about this. You've held that rope with incredible strength because you value what you hoped you could give by holding on. I am so sad the administration is determined to undervalue that and make it impossible for you.

I am hoping an amazing opportunity will come along at just the right time so you can make mountains of money doing the things you love and value.

snowelf said...

Lime, I read this the other day at work and didn't get a chance to comment. I want to say something profound about this post, but you really already said it--Let go or be dragged. And you lived it. And the universe said it.
You are every positive influence I would want my kids to be around and I know whereever God and the universe places you, it will be where you are needed The Most. So I guess what I mean is that maybe God is trying to put you somewhere else that you are needed more. Just food for thought, cause you know, I believe that kind of silly thing.
Not sure how profound that was, but I just wanted to put it out there.

Craver Vii said...

That's just a shame. People ought to know better. My own opinion (whatever that is worth) is that the way people avail or abuse their library is a reflection of how much they honestly appreciate learning. It is hypocritical to give lip service to cerebral aerobics and then neglect one of the most useful and practical tools for learning. I am groaning along with you, Lime. I hope you will soon find yourself enjoying a work environment with like-minded people.

GAB said...

I can not imagine you out on water skis. LOL but with that said after reading your determination to learn how to water ski I had the most highest respect for you to keep at it. Same way with your work. You are keeping at it even if you at times feel everything your working for will be left behind or some person will be left be hind. IDK maybe Im not getting your total message in this but either way IM PROUD OF YOU and the work your are struggling to do. Keep being stubborn. I wish I could be as stubborn as you maybe then Id be up and walking again.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

I can finally comment again.
There are some things of which we should not let go...
...when the expression, Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy? does not apply.
Standing up for our principles is one of those times.
Do any of those educators realize just what they are teaching those kids?

Kat said...

Oh man. I am so sorry. I can imagine how frustrating and heartbreaking it is. There is great wisdom in knowing when to move on, difficult though it may be.
Continued prayers for you, for your health, and that you find a new fulfilling job that doesn't make you crazy. ;)

Jocelyn said...

You're wise to weigh pros and cons and, in the process, not lose sight of what you're passionate about. Yes, this may not be the right job. But someone, some place, somewhere, needs you and will know how to value your contributions.

Stop with the horizontal water skiing already.

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