28 December 2014

Normal is bullshit

"You look stupid doing that, you know?"
"That makes you look stupid."
"You don't want to look stupid do you?"

Over the last few years I've had all of those things said to me.  Because, you know insulting someone to get them to conform to your expectations is the best way to make people feel good about themselves right?  And I get it, I do, sometimes people said these things with the best of intentions.  They were trying to help me fit in.  To be "normal."  And for a long time that was something that I wanted.

Growing up I was the quiet, shy kid, which meant that people didn't know what to do with me other than I didn't fit in.  I was with the art crowd in college, although I was still a bit on the outside because I was an art education major so for a time I wasn't a "real artist," but I at least had people to trust and be with.  Then I started dealing with depression and anxiety, and well...I'll just say that apparently some in that community feel that there should be a "normal" way of dealing with both of those things. And god help me when I was diagnosed as being on the Asperger's spectrum, I was told that I needed to work harder to fit back in and do my best to be normal.

And there were times I went with it.  Because I mean lets be honest here, we all want to fit in most of the time.  To be comfortable in our own skins.  To belong.  To be "normal."

But over the last several months I've realized that the entire idea of being "normal" is complete and utter and absolute bullshit.  Normal doesn't exist, at least not the way we keep trying to assign it on a societal level.  Every person has their own level of what they consider normal.  Of where our moods should be, of how we should feel, of how we should look, etc.  But this should never be considered a measuring point for anyone else.  Ever.

Its time that we stop shoving people in boxes and telling them that can only be "normal" if they conform and fit in that box.  It's time that we stop talking about what "normal" is and encourage people to be comfortable in their own skins.  To find their own level of where they feel right by their standards, not society.

27 December 2014

On heroes, fear, and helping

When times seem to be dark and full of fear and hate, I remember quotes from two people that I admire. One is well known, the other, less so, but both cut from the same cloth.

Mister Rogers once said "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." - See more at: http://www.fredrogers.org/parents/special-challenges/tragic-events.php#sthash.dzJMpjsa.dpuf

Anton Schmid, born in Vienna, and drafted into the German army in World War II.  He used his position to help Jews escape, supplied information to the Jewish Resistance, and helped in whatever way he could.  During an attempt to help others escape, Schmid was captured and sentenced to die.  He wrote one last letter home to his wife and child and said: "I only acted as a human being and desired doing harm to no one." “Everybody must die some day,” he wrote. “One can die as an executioner or as a helper. I want to die as a helper.  (Read more about Anton here, here, here, here, and here.

May we all live our lives to be better helpers.

25 December 2014

Holiday Wishes


In this time of celebration
In this time of remembrance
In this time of joy
In this time of sadness

May you find treasures near
May the memories be strong cherished ones
May you find hope even when all seems lost
May you find joy even when the sadness is overwhelming

May you find peace, even in the darkness
May you find love, even amongst the hate

My hopes and wishes for you all for this upcoming year

May we all be able to see things from anther person's perspective and to understand them a little bit better, even if for you just a brief while.

Know that when all is dark and hope seems lost, remember that in this world, in this place, in this moment, someone, somewhere gives a shit about you.

And may a light always shine your way.

Whatever you may celebrate, whatever you may believe, and wherever you may be in this journey called life...merry holidays.

23 December 2014

Why I speak

xkcd:  http://xkcd.com/137/
This is one of my favorite xkcd strips of all time.  I mean, its something that we've all been through.  We write something on Twitter or Tumblr or our blog and someone comes along and says shouldn't you be worried?  Shouldn't you be worried that someone in the future will see it and you won't get the job that you want, or the girl or boy or alien that you wanna date or whatever.  And they're being helpful, at least as much as they can be.  And I get I do.  I mean writing that you eat narglesnarps for breakfast and dance with piña colada's on your head might just come back to bit you in the ass when you run for president.  God knows you don't want to be known for eating narglesnarps.  

But here's the thing that we all keep forgetting.  Every single person that has ever lived on the face of this planet has done or said something like this.  Every. Single. Fucking. Person. Ever.  They've said it in front of friends, teachers, enemies, whatever and life went on.  They lived their life, found dreams and goals and whatever.  

"But Andy we have computers now!  Stuff lives forever and ever!  How are you going to explain to your grandkids that you ate narglesnarps and danced with piña colada's on your head?"  And it's true, we do have computers now.  Stuff lives on long after we'd rather it not.  But you know what?  It's part of life.  And we handle things the same way they did before.  We ask questions.  We stop assuming that we know what someone means by 140 characters they type.  We let them apologize.  Or let them explain and blow our minds.  Part of life has always been doing things we might regret later.  Its how we learn.  Its also how we change the status quo and make the world better and more awesome.  

Its time for a change.  Stop telling people that they might regret what they write or what they say.  Stop reading into tweets like "I hate Monday" and assume that means they hate their job (yes I was really told this.  Apparently Garfield is not a good role model.)  You know what, just stop assuming all together.  Stop being embarrassed or trying to make feel people embarrassed that they stand up to businesses and corporations and whatever and say "hey you fucked up, you fix it."  Things happen because people speak up.  Not because they hide in the dark.  

Its past time to speak up.  Its past time to stand up. Make mistakes. Write stupid shit. Write sane shit. Change the world. 

05 December 2014

Death, living, and art

CC by me, Andy Shuping
If you've made it past the post title yay! Good for you.  Throwing the word Death in a title is never an easy thing, but this has been rolling around in my head for a while now and I'm getting it out with words.  Comic to come at some point on it.

Back in college I remember going to an overnight church retreat with friends that I probably only saw about three times a year, so we always had interesting conversations on everything and anything.  One of my friends at the time was premed, strong willed, opinionated, and didn't take shit.  I don't even remember what we were talking about, but when another dude found out she was premed he started an earnest conversation about wanting to know what the next big diseases were going to be so that he could prepare for them.  What was the next plague, the next cancer, and so on and so forth.  He didn't want to die and he wanted to know what he could do to keep living.  I don't recall if either of us actually said this to him, or if it was just something we were both thinking, but I think we said to him something along the lines of "Why spend your time worrying about what might come or might happen?  Live! You could die from something random, why worry about something that might never happen?  Live!" I don't think he ever got why we thought it was weird to worry about what might come.

Given everything that's happened in the last few months in the world, I've been thinking about that conversation again.  And in the context of my own life.  In part because the last couple of years I let other things get in way of me living life.  I listened to well meaning people that tried to shove me down a path they thought was best for me, thought it wasn't the right one for me. Of not standing up to people in my life and calling them what they are and speaking up for myself.  Of letting a former boss tell me that I needed to think about what I said, how I wrote, how I did things, etc. in life and how it reflected on her and my library.  Because that's what matters right?  Screw having an opinion of your own, toe the line and think my way.  Good times right?  I got caught in my own trap of worrying about things that were beyond my control and of not living.  And forgetting how to create.

And when things seemed at their worst, things that I'm still not prepared to talk about publicly yet, a new path presented itself.  And I left that world.  I cut ties with some things rather forcefully, the former boss for example.  Others, for better or for worse, friends and people that I miss, decided to cut ties on their own, believing what they choose without asking questions.  And while it hurt and while there were pains the last few months of being in an environment of creating, of making, of not having to justify why I do something for other than artistic/creative reasons, and not having to worry about how my art will reflect back on someone else, has been frightening, scary as hell, awesome, and amazing all at the same time.  Its freeing to be able to pursue my dreams and my passions again.  And to begin to feel like myself again.  

And in this season of remembrance, thanks, and wishes, I am grateful for those that have stood with me across worlds, of those that have entered my world and who challenge me, of those that never left, of those that have but may come back, and those that are yet to come.  

And so this is my wish to all this holiday season.  Life is too damn short.  Use those things saved for "special" occasions.  Tell people that you care.  Don't be silent.  Keep fighting.  Keep making.  Keep being yourself.

17 August 2014

Depression and modern society are lying aholes

This is a post that I've been thinking about for a few days now and it's rough, raw, emotional and if you don't like it that's fine.  I'm not writing it for you.  I've combined two ideas into one, because it works for me.  

I heard about the news of Robin Williams passing somewhere in Virginia.  I'm not exactly sure where, because my dad and I were in the process of moving 90% of my belongings to Vermont so I can start my new journey.  Like many I was stunned, shocked, and didn't want to believe it.  I couldn't.  Williams has been such a huge part of my life that its weird to think that we'll never see the humor and laughter in his eyes again.  Or hear the Genie's voice or any of the thousands of others that Williams could do. This YouTube video captures some of what I feel about Williams passing:

The news reporters being the jackasses that they are, went with "facts" that "speculated" that Williams had died of a drug overdose.  This was of course incorrect as it was revealed that Williams had been suffering from depression and committed suicide.  I had to keep driving to unload the truck and then turn around and drive 18 hours back to Georgia so that I can finish my life here, before moving to Vermont for the next couple of years, if not longer.  But my brain turned and turned, along with other things that have fired my brain into wanting to create and draw, which is a good thing.  It's also made me stop worrying, for the moment at least, on what others may say about what I want to create and write and do, which is also a good thing. And this post is one of those things.

Some of the events: Robin Williams passing; Ferguson, MO; an ARC of Liz Prince's Tomboy, Erika Moen's comic "I want to live," and preparing and moving a large portion of my belongings and life to Vermont.  Dots of connection in life, time, space, and everything in between and led me to think about my life.  The parts and events and everything that led me to where I am and to where I'm going.

I plan on writing a comic about my experiences with depression.  Williams passing has of course influenced it, as well as Moen's comic, posts by TheBloggess, Lee Thompson Young's death last fall, and others.  I won't share everything here that comic will have, but here is some of it: Depression for me is battling a monster.  A 15 foot tall, 20,000 pound beast, with razor sharp claws and intelligence that gives physical scars and whispers into my ear leaving wounds that gape open.  Some scars are small, some are deep, but while they may no longer bleed, they were never really heal.  The scars are cumulative and painful and we wear them and hope and plead that someone else will see them, but they may never. Some do, but they don't understand depression doesn't heal. Ever. It never goes away. We may beat it back, but it is still there waiting to come again.

Another part of the comic will deal with depression and suicide.  That is something that also struck me about Williams death that people have trouble understanding that depression doesn't care who you are, what you make, what you do for a living...it strikes none the less.  And some of the things people said about Williams suicide...well frankly they were and are horrifying.  The Bloggess says it best:  "Depression is a lying bastard" and as much as we may know it, it knows how to dig its claws into the brain and leave gaping wounds.  It says things like "Did you see how they flinched when you came in?  You're upsetting them. You. Not the situation, not the weather. It's you." It forces us to wall ourselves off and hide in hopes of not hurting others and then says things like "See. They don't care. And the ones that do all you do is hurt them.  They would be better off with out you."  That....that is some of what I have heard over the years, that is what has led me to wishing to have a button, like Erika draws in her comic, to remove me from this world.  It isn't that I didn't think about the people around me or those that I would leave behind, it is that I thought they would be better off without me around.  Depression is a lying asshole.  I am not listening to it now and I know it is lying...but it will come back.  And all I can do is believe that I am strong enough and have the support I need to fight the beast.

And this ties into the realization that "modern society" is also a lying ahole.  And there will be a comic about it.  It's inspired, in part, by Liz Prince's Tomboy.  And in part by the fact that "society" wishes to tell us what is and isn't the right way of doing things or being.  It does it with depression. It does it with life.  And I'm tired of society trying to tell me what it is that I'm supposed to be or do.  I tweeted about it last night:

I will make a comic about this.  And society and depression can bite me.  In remembrance of Robin and others that have fought and continue to fight depression I leave you with these videos:  

and this idea:
The lies will not win today and tomorrow will bring a new day and a new battle.  Make of it what you will.  Make of it what you may.  Make it better.  Make it different.  Make it weirder.  Most of all make it you.

21 July 2014

You are not alone

In recent months I've blogged about my depression and anxiety, my diagnosis as being on the Asperger's spectrum, and beginning new journeys.  And as I began packing and the sorting of my physical life, I've done the same with my mental life.  And I realized that I keep giving...this demon, this darkness, this despair, whatever you want to call it more power than it deserves because I haven't talked about it.  Not as much as I could have and not as much as I should have.  So I'm going to change that now.

I don't want to tell the whole story here, in part because some of it is still being written, and in part because this just isn't the right forum for all of it.  One day perhaps...I've lived with depression and anxiety all of my life.  I didn't know that's what it was called nor was I ever formally diagnosed with it until two years ago this August.  While it bothered me a few times a year, I could feel it coming and prepare myself and have it go on after a week or so.  Two years ago though it came and it stayed and it didn't go away.

I began seeing a counselor who has helped me more than they will ever know.  I've taken medication that has helped.  I've sought advice from friends, coworkers, and complete strangers some of which was helpful and some of which was not.  I hurt people that I care about and they hurt me in return.

I've been dealing with a bullying situation for quite some time now, where a person that I trusted threw everything that I had told them back at me.  That I hadn't progressed as much as they wanted with my depression.  That I needed fat clothes.  That I needed to rethink my career because I wasn't cut out to be a librarian anywhere.  That they wouldn't give me a reference.  And more.  Things that were more cutting and hurtful than anything else I've ever been told before.

And now I get to the part where I can count on one hand how many people know what I'm about to say.  Towards the end of April I came as close as I've ever come to breaking completely.  I was so distraught over some things that were going on that I composed an email that I was going to send out to a group of people.  Before I did so I shared it online, in a private place to ask what they thought.  And the people that responded thought it sounded like a suicide note.  It wasn't meant to be that, but...at the same time it was.  I wasn't looking to cause harm to myself or anything like that, but I didn't want to be around anymore.  I wanted to just vanish.  And be gone.  A handful of folks reached out to me and one in particular kept messaging me until I called my counselor, went to see them, and then got back.  And then kept touch with me over the next few weeks to see how I was and to help me out.  I took time off to get my head back in place as much as I could and made plans to how to improve my situation.

And we come to the present.  I'm feeling better, but still struggling.  Not what I was a few weeks ago, but there are still days that are rough and hard.  But there have been people that have continued to stand by me and help me when I need it.  To remind me that I am not alone.  So that in turn I can help remind others that they are not alone.

The world keeps spinning and I know that there are people that will sit with me and say nothing other than they are there.  And that I am not alone.

26 June 2014

The river flows and the journey moves on

via: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33488462@N04/3771091859/
When I think about life, I generally think about a stream and how it moves around the landscape.  Growing up there was a stream that ran behind our house and it had this one spot that was perfect for playing in.  It had gently sloping sides for easy access and the water was so still that you could see the minnows playing tag at the bottom and the water spiders could dance upon the surface.  But it was only this was for about five feet, before it changed, as a stream does.  It flowed down rocks and around trees, creating little eddies that trapped leaves, and it would flow down hills and create mini-falls and through culverts that man attempted to control it by. And sometimes...sometimes the stream would forge its on way to move past obstacles, before getting back into the path later on.  But it moved on.

And like the stream that forged its own path to get past obstacles, I'm doing the same.  After 8 years at Mercer University, I will be leaving my position on August 21, 2014 and begin a new phase of career/life/journey.  This fall I will begin the MFA in Applied Cartooning at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont.  This is the inaugural class for the MFA in applied cartooning and I'm excited to be a part of it.  I've been describing the program as using my skills, talents, abilities, etc. for helping connect comics/graphic novels to the larger community, whether it be schools or health organizations or libraries or other, but I'll be helping the larger community discover the power of the illustrated word.  Over the last few years a passion of mine has been helping my library, and others to a smaller extent, connect with how comics and graphic novels are an integral part of not just reading, but our learning experiences.  So I'm excited to have the chance to work towards expanding this on a much broader level.

So what does that mean for this blog and my connection with libraries?  Honestly?  Well...I won't be presenting at library conferences as much, at least for a while.  Otherwise...not much.  Y'all are stuck with me until the ends of time as the library is in me.  I still have ideas/things I want to write about the larger library world and I will.  As far as comics and graphic novels go, I'm still striving to help libraries with connecting with comics, graphic novels, artists, publishers, common core standards, challenges, etc....just on a bit of a broader level now.  I'll be sharing what's going on with me on in a variety of spots most likely, so look here or to my webpage, ashuping.net, to keep up.

So...if you're interested, stay tuned, and hold on cause the stream is about to curve.

22 May 2014

The problem is not with Google

So someone that I follow somewhere shared a link to this article from the Huffington Post about "What's really wrong with Google"and frankly...it's disappointing as all get out.  The writer identifies themselves as an ex-librarian and starts off with a solid point, that a lot of the time Google does not return the results that people are looking for.  But she then delves into the fallacy that it is Google's fault that this happens, that Google is trying to do away with libraries, and gosh darnit! get that technology out of my library! Or at least that's what it sounds like, given that she states that DIALOG is the pinnacle of searching interfaces.

I really wanted to respond on the post with my thoughts, but...well let's just say that I have issues with their account creation system and leave it at that.  So instead I share my thoughts below:

I'm a librarian and frankly I'm disappointed in your argument that there's something wrong with Google and how people use it.  Yes Google doesn't always return results on topic, but should you blame them? 
You mention DIALOG and I've only used it once..in library school.  DIALOG has faded into the background because it was overly complicated for people to try to use and only librarians could use it. As far as it being able to provide good results, those didn't happen by accident. It happened because someone went through and assigned them the correct terminology. The same could happen today, but it's up to the web programmers to do that 
As far as Google's interface goes, I don't blame them from running away from library interfaces. I mean seriously? I've got a Master's and I still struggle trying to figure out some of the interfaces of the databases that we use today.  Look at DIALOG's "classic" interface! I understand it better now that I've worked with the Linux command line, but no wonder most people couldn't figure it out.
Is Google the be all end all? No...but nor is it Google's fault that result are not what people want. It is because we don't know how to search well and what words to use. We never have to be honest. Even back in card catalog days we had to depend on the librarian to be able to follow the trail. The problem is not Google, but that we have failed to teach people how to search properly. And that is up to us to improve.

And I'm absolutely serious.  We've failed at teaching people how to search.  With card catalogs most of the population couldn't figure out the trail to connect A to Z without a librarian's help. I mean seriously, I remember looking for information on dinosaurs in middle/high school and we had to look at 100 different cards to find 10 sources that I could use.  And it wasn't because they were bad sources, it was because we had to trace through 3 to 5 different cards to find the item sometimes.  So it really should not be a shock to our systems that people leaped at the chance to have a single search box interface that they could actually understand and it would give them some things that were what they wanted?

If we, as librarians, want people to be able to find better results then we need to stop blaming the products like Google and teach our users on how those results are found, and what they can do to get better results.

21 May 2014

My Favorite Thing About Zita the Spacegirl


(cross posted from my Musing Librarian Reviews blog)

Today I’m here to honor Zita the Spacegirl as she embarks upon her greatest adventure and journey yet...the adventure of a reader’s imagination.  While Zita’s book journey is at an end, for now, she will accompany her loyal fans readers on new journeys.  Journeys that they have only just begun to imagine and dream of.  Zita will follow them as they explore the world around them, lending her courage and strength as they face challenges around them, and even lend her experience and skills as they journey into the great unknown.  Zita and her fellow companions will keep us all in good spirits no matter where we go.

We loyal fans and readers have been lucky to be able to follow Zita’s journey, as faithfully chronicled by Ben Hatke, in webcomics, in minicomics, and in three books.  We have watched as Zita has journeyed to parts unknown, to save friends, make new ones, to stop evil in it’s tract, and to find her way home...only to set off on further journeys to help us, to lend us her strength and courage as we continue our journey.  Zita and her friends are beloved, not because they are superheroes with fancy gadgets and powers that we can only dream of.  No...they are beloved because they give us strength and courage on our darkest days.  Because we know that no matter what trouble we may be facing that we can count on Zita to stand with us and give us strength.  We know that no matter what the world may look like outside, Zita will stand with us.

So let us stand and cheer for Zita and her friends!  May their journeys be full of friends wherever they may go, and may their courage and strength never fail.  To Zita!

In honor of the occasion I broke out my pastels to make a little fan art (once I have access to a working scanner I'll post a better image)

20 April 2014

CIL2014--Presentation and Notes

So...I'm a little behind on this (not that much...really. mostly.) as I presented just over a week ago now, but I finally finished typing up the notes for my presentation since most of my slides are just images with captions.

But just in case anyone is interested in seeing my presentation, here it is in all of it's glory with three different titles:
Good not perfect!
Perfection is the enemy of perfect
Perfection is the enemy of good

And you can find the link to my notes here:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxYx6rXiiRGYdmZvUU9JV1U3aDQ/edit?usp=sharing

03 April 2014

I'm heading to Computers in Libraries

I keep forgetting to post here, but next week I'm heading to Computers in Libraries up in Washington, DC.  I'll be presenting on Tuesday, April 8 at 4pm on the D track with a presentation titled "Perfection is the Enemy of Perfect" (and yes, I know the webpage and whatnot has a different title...not my doing.)  Anyway, if you'll be at the conference or are in the area and want to meet up let me know, either via a comment here or tweet me @ashuping.  Look forward to seeing all of y'all!

03 March 2014

Letter Quote--"Must we hate them?"

One of my favorite blogs to follow, is "Letters of Note."  The goal, or mission if you rather, of this blog is to share with readers letters, telegrams, faxes, postcards, or any thing else that they can find that readers might find interesting or fascinating.  They've posted and shared items dating back to the 1600's and to the present.  And what is most interesting is that regardless of the passage of time...is how much we're all still the same.  Love, hate, hope...it crosses time without boundaries, to let us know that that those that came before us, still talked about the same things we did.

In the letter that was shared today, "Letters of Note" found one of the most powerful letters I've ever read or seen on the question of...must we hate them?  The letter was written by a Jamaican-born mechanic, Canute Frankson, in 1937 as he was fighting in the Spanish Civil War against Franco. The letter was to a friend back home, who wanted to know why, he a Negro man (wording from the letter) was fighting alongside white people, the same white people that had hated and enslaved people like him. Canute preceded to write one of the most impassioned arguments for why hate must not be allowed to win.

Here's a small part of that letter, just to give you an idea of what Canute writes:

All we have to do is to think of the lynching of our people. We can but look back at the pages of American history stained with the blood of Negroes, stink with the burning bodies of our people hanging from trees; bitter with the groans of our tortured loved ones from whose living bodies, ears, fingers, toes, have been cut for souvenirs—living bodies into which red-hot pokers have been thrust. All because of a hate created in the minds of men and women by their masters who keep us all under their heels while they such our blood, while they live in their bed of ease by exploiting us. 
But these people who howl like hungry wolves for our blood, must we hate them? Must we keep the flame which these mastered kindled constantly fed? Are these men and women responsible for the programs of their masters, and the conditions which force them to such degraded depths? I think not. They are tools in the hands of unscrupulous masters. These same people are as hungry as we are. They live in dives and wear rags the same as we do. They too are robbed by the masters, and their faces kept down in the filth of a decayed system. They are our fellowmen. Soon and very soon they and we will understand. Soon many Angelo Herndons will rise from among them, and from among us, and will lead us both against those who live by the stench of our bunt flesh. We will crush them. We will build us a new society—a society of peace and plenty. There will be no color line, no jim-crow trains, no lynching. That is why, my dear, I'm here in Spain.
 So please, take a moment, and go read this letter and ask yourself, must we hate them?  Must we hate those that are not like us?

02 March 2014

What it is...

I had a different post that I had planned on writing today.  A follow up to a post from a couple of months ago.  But that changed a little while ago....I noticed that friends were tweeting with the hashtag #NotMyShrink and discussing some of the judgments they've faced for having depression, anxiety, and other illnesses that can't be seen.  And I can say for the most part...I've been lucky not to face that.

But, sometimes I have had trouble describing what depression/anxiety is like. It's one of those things that can be hard to explain and even harder to understand, because while it never really goes away, how it acts and how it behaves changes...sometimes on a day to day basis, sometimes on an hour to hour basis.  One of the blogs that I follow, linked to another blogger and her post on depression.  And that's what I wanted to share today.  Why is this post so special?  Because she's a writer...and she's written one of the best explanations I have ever come across on what depression is like for those of us dealing with it.  So please...take just a moment to read it. It might just help...you or others.

28 February 2014

Guest blog post at "Letters to a Young Librarian"

Last fall I wrote a guest blog post for Jessica Olin's fantastic blog, "Letters to a Young Librarian."  That post was on Interlibrary Loan and somehow made AL Direct (which was a bit of a surprise to me!) But I enjoyed the experience so much, that I've written a second guest blog post for Jessica, this one on graphic novels, which is of course one of my passions.  So if you want to know more about graphic novels, how I got started collecting them, and how to build a collection for your library, go check out my post!  And while you're there, make sure that you check out the rest of Jessica's fantastic blog.

25 February 2014

Where to go from here?

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi
I've heard that quote so many times it seems like one day it's just going to appear as a tattoo on my body.  It's a great quote isn't it though?  You want things to change in the world? Go out and show them how.  And when I started thinking about this blog post, and how I wanted to provide an update to my last post about my diagnosis with Asperger's, that quote popped into my head.  I could even hear different friends, coworkers, random strangers say it to me.  And I realized something about the quote...it's a double edged sword in it's meaning.  It tells us to go out and change the world, by leading by example.  And that's both a good and a bad thing.  Because think about the people that you know and encounter, if you suddenly start living you life differently, exemplifying what you want them to see, to be accepting of you as you are...how are they to react?  Some of them will stand by you and hold you up; some will be there for you, but express worry about how others will view you; some will ignore you; and some will tear you to pieces for being different.

And so...I started thinking, what do I want the world to see about me.  How do I want them to perceive me?  And I Googled the quote, to make sure I had it right, and I discovered...I don't.  Gandhi didn't say those words, at least not like that.  What he said was:
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.”  (via: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/30/opinion/falser-words-were-never-spoken.html)
So...that's a bit different isn't it?  At least how I read it.  It isn't that the world changes around what we do, it's that how we perceive the world changes towards us.  The world may still treat us the same way, but if we change ourselves, if we adjust how we approach the world, then our feelings towards it will change.  And that last little part..."We need not wait to see what others do."  That's what struck me the most.  Stop waiting for others to put themselves out there to guide us and tell us what to do, and instead take the first step.

So, in my last post, I took the first step to a new path in this journey and I laid out that I was diagnosed as being on the Asperger's spectrum last December and what it's like for me.  Since that post I've gotten advice from a lot of different people that was all across the board.  And most of the people were genuinely trying to help me out, that were worried about me and my future, and just about me in general.  All good things, but I struggled with aspects of what they were telling me, and that's why I started thinking about the quote.  Because some of them told me to be the change that I want to see.  And once I saw the original quote, everything in this post clicked.

I am changing how I see the world.  I am changing how I approach it.  They may be small changes.  They may be big changes.  But they are the changes that I choose.  And the first of those changes is.  I am me.   I am most comfortable, most happy, most at ease when I am not trying to fit into a traditional mold or follow the path that others have taken.  I hear the drummer and I march to my own beat, with all of my weird ticks, tendencies, and strange habits that I've developed over the years.  The biggest change to make, is that I am job hunting again.

Don't get me wrong, my library is great, but it is not where I fit and if I'm honest with myself, I've known that for a while.  I am looking for a library that wants a librarian that thinks outside the box, that is slightly eccentric, that is honest, and that can work outside the traditional mold.  I am that librarian, regardless of the position, I am creative, I am passionate, and I am innovative.  I play well with others, I work independently, and I forge new paths.  If you hire me, if you let me be me, then I promise to make that position awesome and to spread it to the rest of the library.  If you want a librarian like this, then drop me a line.

I am taking a stand.  I am forging a path that is mine and I am trusting my instincts.  Also, just because this is on my play list, I leave you with this video, Sara Bareilles--Brave:


29 January 2014

I am...

So we all have stories to tell.  Stories that define us, that make up who we are, that describe us...and everything else in between.  I've written randomly in the past about part of my story, most recently talking about my battle with depression/anxiety and my thoughts on bullying, and random other bits and pieces.  With my 2013 end of the year post I mentioned that I had recently had another diagnosis that I wasn't ready to discuss then.  Now though...I'm ready to share the information widely (had to wait on a few other things first.)  It's another part of my story.

Although I've never written about it before I was diagnosed early on in my life with ADD, and of course I've blogged about part of my battle with depression and anxiety.  And if you've met me in real life you'd be apt to describe me as the quite, shy, quirky, but mostly nice dude that could probably speak up a bit more cause he's pretty smart.  That's the way I've been described all my life.  But...I never felt like it described me right.  Growing up I knew that I thought differently than everyone else.  I could never describe it or put it in words, but I knew I didn't think like everyone else around me. So I just went with it.  I did things to emphasize that I was different, that I was me, and I didn't care what anyone else though. And it worked for the most part. Sure I had to conform to rules for some jobs, but overall I could just be me and I still had the things that I wanted. I'd get the job done my way and no one was bothered by my quirks. I had friends that hung out with me and would occasionally make allowances for my weirdness.  That all changed a good bit when I started my first professional job.  It wasn't bad though and I could make it. And then in the summer of 2012 the depression/anxiety hit like a ton of bricks and it don't go away.  I could almost get back to an even keel, but there were situations that I kept encountering that just made me feel lost and confused no matter what I tried.  And a lot of the advice I got from so many different people, some meaning well and others not so much, just didn't click or fit for me and just added to everything else that I was feeling. That something was wrong with me, because I couldn't match what they did.

Then last spring I had the chance to visit a friend and they were talking to me about one of their kids, and something clicked.  I kept thinking the way they were describing their child...they were describing me.  Having to watch people to see how to fit into groups, what they did to get invited into conversations, a lot of things just...matched.  And in December I was diagnosed as being on the Asperger's spectrum.  And a lightbulb went off in my head.  Lots of things that hadn't made sense growing up, things that couldn't be described by just being shy or ADD...the pieces finally fit.  Why I couldn't figure out how to talk to people, why I do poorly in some social settings, why I say things that violate "societal norms," all of it finally made sense.  When I told some people their response was "I would never have pegged you for being on that spectrum" and others were "Yeah I started to think that a couple of years ago" (thanks I think?)

If you read the Wikipedia link above (yes wikipedia provides a good overview) you can see that Asperger's is a broad ranging spectrum that is part of a larger scale of Autism Spectrum Disorders, which is why some people were surprised when I told them that I'm on it.  For me, I fall somewhere in the middle of the Asperger's spectrum.  Some of the traits/characteristics that apply to me:
  • I'm not the best at social interactions.  95% of the time I have no idea how to start a conversation with someone new. My brain just can't figure it out so as a coping mechanism I'll try to talk about something that I like, with varying degrees of success.  Once I get to know someone and learn what they like I can start conversations, but....they're going to be on the topics that I know that person likes, which can get old after a while.  If someone else starts the conversation though, I'm generally OK.
    • As part of this I also tend to use repetitive phrases, a coping mechanism I developed to be able to fit into conversations. Like saying "I'm tired" a lot if I'm responding to how I'm doing.
    • Another part of this...I don't always say or ask the right thing in social interactions.  Nothing malicious, just questions that one shouldn't ask, like asking if someone is pregnant because they just announced their engagement and were out sick for a few days.  Can't explain why, but that's just where my brain goes.
  • I don't do well in crowded spaces. If I'm with someone I can control it a bit, but being on a plane or movie theater or conference where someone sits right next to me is...uncomfortable 
  • I don't do well with nonverbal communication or nonvoiced expectations.  This crops up on projects and what not where other people get the sign that things should be done a certain way, just because...I miss it.  Or mistake it for something else.  As for the nonvoiced expectations, I have to ask questions or clarifications for things that may be obvious to others.
This post from CNN.com, written by a father of a child with Asperger's and someone that talks about hiring people with Asperger's, resonated with me on so many levels and just fits...me.

So needless to say all of this, has impacted my life, both personal and professional.  And it's created some unexpected challenges in a part of my life that I've been working through lately, which has made this the worst start to a year I've ever had.  And...yeah.  And yes this is only part of the story. I may blog more about it later, I don't know. I'm still figuring out where I fit into all of this, but things are getting a bit easier now that I know a name for it.

But these things aren't all of me. They're a part of me.  The shape how I view and process and interact with the world around me.  They are a part of me, but not all of it.  I am also these things:
  • librarian
  • artist
  • Blogger
  • Book reviewer
  • Lego builder
  • designer
  • problem solver
  • trouble shooter
  • excellent listener 
  • fan of graphic novels
  • doer 
  • role maker
And a lot of other things that I can't list or name or don't even want to start naming.  

I'm still figuring out some of what that means. And if you don't like it...frankly that's your loss.  I know I've got good ideas, that I'm a good person, and that I mean well.  And I may say stupid things, I may not act or react like you do or how you want me to, but that's ok because I am me.  Meanwhile, I'm going to remember this line from Batman Begins where Alfred Peenyworth says to Bruce Wayne: "Why do we fall sir? So we might learn to pick ourselves up." Not that I've fallen...but I am going to pick myself up again and go on with life.