Back to high school: facing demons

I just finished reading a book by Jill Stark called Happy Never After. It was about her struggles with anxiety and depression. Some of this book was difficult for me to read. Her experience of anxiety was a lot like mine. Even more her experience with bullies and feeling friendless in high school resonated.

When I was in high school I had very few friends. I don’t know why, you’d need to ask those girls who said they didn’t want to be my friend. I cannot to this day explain to you why no one wanted to hang out with me.

Social media is on these occasions a blessing and a curse. I’m friends with a few people I went to high school with but I’m picky. I didn’t have a lot in common with those people then and perhaps less so now. Some of those who weren’t kind to me have messaged me to say they wonder what happened to me. I haven’t responded.

What happened to me is that I grew up. I went to uni and found people who had broader minds than them with their middle class snobbery. I found my people amongst book nerds and librarians. I found people who have accepted me with all my weirdness, just as I am.

But it hurt. Like only rejection can. It felt fundamental that somehow I’d been made wrong. And it made me scared too. Scared that what I was into was weird and stupid. That I was weird and stupid.

At 15 I wanted to kill myself because it got too much. No one liked me, I was a terrible person. These days that would trigger alarms and get you some help. This was the 90s and no one believed me. When I tried to talk about it, I just felt like I was disappointing people. so I pushed it aside and got on with things.

I went back to my high school for the first time a few weeks ago. Some friends and I snuck in. It looked exactly the same, with its white tower and 19th century English stately home vibe.

For a girl with a romantic heart such a school was the perfect place – it had a croquet lawn and history. Mostly, I just remember it being cold not just in the winter but cold and unkind. Ironic for a Christian School, where one should have expected generosity and acceptance.

The school format didn’t help with its English grammar school pretensions, ranked classes and prefects. Nothing is more irritating than being told what to do by a 17 year old with a little bit of power and a superior attitude.

Of course it wasn’t all bad. In the last two years things were mostly better or at least bearable. I made friends through the school play, a shared love of literature and there were some people who were genuinely kind.

But there was a cost – being scared of my own shadow, feeling like I didn’t deserve to occupy a place in the world and the need to be validated. When the opportunity arose, I had a completely inappropriate relationship with a man 15 years older than me. I was an adult but he was not kind and I was too naive to see he wasn’t perfect. It ended as one would expect.

About five years ago I got an invite to my 20 year high school reunion. You won’t be surprised to find out I didn’t go. I told the person who asked me, that I’d rather stick needles in my eye. Given the generally awful experience sitting around reminiscing about “the good times”, and feeling like I had to justify my life didn’t seem like a healthy choice.

I’ve now reached the end of this post, and I wonder why I’ve written this. It’s water under a very distant bridge. I’m not that person anymore, as I’m sure the people I went to high school have changed too. But experiences shape you for good and bad.

The hole they created – still hurts sometimes. It’s a faint feeling that I’m still not in on the joke that everyone else gets. I sometimes feel physically awkward – like my body is weird and wrong. I have tried to be invisible and take up as small a space in the world as possible.

While this is a painful story to write, it’s also been joyous. I’m not unhappy. Your life is your life; you do the best you can, play the hand you have been given. I’ve been privileged and blessed. And I hope that this experience has made me more compassionate, with a heart for outsiders.

I’m still working on the forgiveness thing. I know Jesus was rejected and still loved but I’m not at that level of grace. Perhaps it’s also forgiveness for myself for not being whatever it is they needed. I was quiet, and did the right thing, to afraid of upsetting people. Rightly or wrongly, I was heavily influenced by my family. I was in no ways cool, I liked whimsy and romance and by their reckoning had poor taste in clothing or music. I was not brave enough to own that. I am now.

Jesus shines a light in dark places, he gathers up those who have been hurt. So perhaps in telling this story, in reckoning with the sadness  and sharing it, it stops being painful and the healing starts.

Post script… If you are experiencing difficulties or this post has triggered things for you please consider talking to your doctor or call these numbers

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636












Where are you going with your life?

Some friends and I decided to sit down and think about what we wanted to do with our lives. We are going through some changes at work, and it seems to be a good time to do a check in. I’m not much of a planner so rather than a firm idea I was hoping to uncover some sense of not just wondering about aimlessly.

I hate the question where do you want to be in five years. Because the answer to that is always on the beach, with an endless supply of books and cocktails.

Here are the questions we talked about… I hope you find them useful if you too are asking yourself the question – what do I want to do with my life?

-How does this job fit into my life?
-What tasks inspire me/what tasks drain me?
-Am I progressing how I would imagine?
-What am I really passionate about and why?
-What does my dream job look like?
-Is my career allowing me to do what’s important?

The last question I think is the best and most useful one. Because in answering it, you need to think about where you career fits into your life.

Saturday night movies

Last week for reasons I can’t explain I got all nostalgic and looked up Bill Collins Wikipedia page. It was probably Saturday night and I was probably moaning about how they don’t show good movies on TV anymore.

Generally my tv watching goes like this – looks rubbish, really rubbish, super violent, boring, super scary, what even is that. Oh Carlton Heston great let’s watch that for a while.

Of course I know a lot of the classic Hollywood movies because as a kid I grew watching Bill Collins Golden Years of Hollywood on a Saturday night.

Saturday nights were pretty fun at our house. We made an 80s Aussie version of Pizza with a meat sauce base. It was delicious. We’d watch Hey Hey it’s Saturday and we were allowed to stay up a bit and watch a movie. Mum and Dad always said to get into our pyjamas and clean our teeth first – so they could carry us to bed if we fell asleep.

I think this is why we sometimes groaned at his long introductions because it meant we’d see less of the movie before falling asleep. But eventually the movie would start and we’d be transported to Casablanca or Paris after the war or the America during the Civil War.

This was how I came to love musicals. Rodgers and Hammerstein movies were great. State Fair was a favourite. I could never stay awake for all of the Sound of Music. Watching Gene Kelly tap dance, inspired me at age of 16 to take it up for myself. After watching Roman Holiday I knew I was going to visit the mouth of truth if I ever made it to Rome.

Hitchcock Season was the best – I’ve never forgotten watching Rear Window for the first time. For obvious reasons, I was restricted to the not terrifying for little people movies, so no the Birds or Psycho, which I still have never seen.

One of the best things about Saturday night movies was having an intermission in the middle, where you could make a cup of milo and go to the toilet. Often this was also the cue for me to go to bed as the littlest. Until I was a teenager I’d seen half of some of the best films ever made from Hollywood’s golden age.

Nostalgia isn’t always a good thing, it gives you rose coloured glasses about what the world was like. What I remember mostly though was these movies were fun, violence happened but was not gory, men wore hats and were effortlessly cool, and Audrey Hepburn was the most gorgeous woman on the planet. Oh and there was usually a happy ending.

Things you can eat on couches

I’ve been a bit sick so there’s been a lot of lying and eating on my couch. I’ve come up with some rules about non-mess making couch eating.

Here are my rules for eating on couches…

1. Things in bowls – cereal, noodles, dessert, pasta but not soup. I like soup but getting it from the bowl on a spoon to my mouth without spilling any requires way to much hand eye coordination. Note also big bowls are better than small ones.

2. Things on plates – anything that does not require a knife or fork. Also not eggs because those things are messy.

The best thing to eat on a couch though is anything out of the care package your parents bring you after you decide that you have had enough of trying to be an adult and tell them you’re sick. And then the call and say – what do you need?


It’s a stupid word if you think about it. Deadline. Its origins are as grim as it suggests. From my, albeit scant, research it looks like originally the word meant – a line  drawn around a prison camp, which if you crossed you could be shot dead. So quite literal then.

According to wikipedia, it came into its modern parlance as “due date” in a round about sort of a way. Printers used it first, to indicate the space on the page under which they could no longer print. And then publishers joined in a few years later to bring it to the sense of due date – get your book/article/writing to use by this date or you’ll miss the deadline.

I stayed at work tonight until late because of a rather pressing deadline… There was only one other person in the staff area when I left. Even the university librarian had gone home.

It’s always a difficult decision to stay and do the work. Harder still when you are casual. But I choose too because after four weeks and approximately 370 emails I just wanted it done.

While I wouldn’t say it’s a matter of pride, I would say that regardless of my work status doing the work is important. To put it another way, I didn’t do it so people think I’m diligent or how great I am to stay, I did because it needed to be done.

I like deadlines because they give me something to aim at… When I was doing my library degree, my friends would have completed the assignment weeks before it was due. I’d start the day before and write 19 hours straight to get it done. You do your best work when working to deadline.



Unpleasant surprises

Last night I got home to find that someone had ripped some of the grasses I’d recently planted out of my rockery. Not the nice expensive ones mind, the crappy tube stock ones that are worth less that $20. But they didn’t steal them, they just left them behind – an act of stupidity and vandalism.

My first reaction was shock, I mean who does that. I’m not sure I was angry;  annoyed and concerned mostly. Concerned that this will be a pattern now, annoyed that I need to think of upping security to stop morons who have nothing better to do.

I don’t think I want security cameras. I’ve installed an alarm but security cameras seem like a step too far. Like developing a siege mentality where you think the world is out to get you. I’m considering a fence but not sure if this is something I want to do right now.

Even better than any of these measures is asking my bible study group to pray for God’s protection over my house and garden. For non-believers this probably seems a bit weird but is quite a normal thing for Christians to ask for prayers for all sorts of things that are going on in their lives.

I’ve replanted the grasses but God knows whether they’ll be any good now. And it might take me a while to be at ease about the whole thing too. It’s not a pleasant feeling to know someone has been wandering on your property and vandalising it. But mum said grasses are hardy… So I guess I can be too.




The perils and joys of social media.

I’ve been a bit busy over the long weekend to write anything proper for #BlogJune. Between sorting out my garden, cleaning the house and spending large portions of yesterday following the #classic100 on twitter. It’s been full on… Mozart was robbed, robbed, I say.

Social media is both a blessing and curse. It lets you enjoy the fun of the classic 100 countdown but also is a massive waste of time. I’ve been reading this book called Happy Never After and it talks about the dopamine hit from social media; how it’s actually designed to make you care about how many likes, follows, shares, retweets etc.

I’ve noticed this myself, particularly on twitter. When I post something that gets liked I feel the need to refresh the app to see how it’s going. It’s unhealthy but no doubt taps into our need to be recognised, or liked or some such.

Of course it’s not all bad…  I talk to my friends on messenger apps and today I used Youtube to find out how to remove a halogen globe from my ceiling fan. But the mindless scrolling isn’t a great and when I feel the need to reach my iPad regularly even when doing other things – it’s not good.

I’ve installed software on my computer that allows me to block social media for a certain period of time. It’s called Cold Turkey, it’s really effective and a total pain in the arse. Once you have a block in place you can’t turn it off and you can’t delete the software. I accidentally put a block on for ten days once. Let’s just say I worked out how to delete the software but am now careful to not stuff it up again.

It’s a really effective tool for focussing on what you need to do. And by using it I’ve realised just how frequently I go to  Facebook or Twitter in the course of doing life stuff. When I’m writing something and stuck for a thought – I’ll go check twitter or Facebook, then come back start again. I’m almost doing it without thinking but with this blocker, I can’t access the site.  So now I’m trying to stay with what I’m doing but stop and gather my thoughts.

I need to work on getting the balance right. It’s a great tool to keep in touch with friends and family. One of the greatest things about social media is the world it opens up for you. I get most of my news now through social media and I couldn’t live without this. So I need it… But I don’t need to spend hours every day on it. And I certainly don’t need to wake up at 3am and think I’ll just check twitter as this will help me get back to sleep (an actual thing I did yesterday)

How to earn your librarian stripes: a practitioners guide.

Score yourself one stripe for every thing that is applicable to you. Please note… If you can tick two things off on this list, then congratulations you have earned your librarian stripes.

1. Own a cat. Bonus stripes if you own more than one

2. Cardigans. Remember everyone the exact number of cardigans a library worker needs is nCardigans + 1

3. Have seen Firefly, serenity or other cult TV shows. Loving Doctor Who also gives you a stripe.

4. Have gone too or presented at a library conference/seminar etc. Bonus stripes if you have networked or gone to a dinner/tweetup etc

5. Have a customer service focus. Note this does not require you to be public facing. It just means that whether you are in cataloguing, collections, research or other support services in either public, academic or special libraries, you put the customer at the centre and their needs inform your practice and decision making.

6. Regularly talk about smashing the patriarchy, the evils of capitalism and democracy. You must work in a library and or hold some sort of library degree at any level for this to count.

7. Engage with your professional association. This could be as a member, sitting on a committee or through PD programs.

8. Secretly wanted to work in a library because you love books. I know this one is controversial but if you thought you’d sit around and read books all day and now find you have no time to read, this is definitely stripe worthy.

9. You’ve been burnt out by libraries and pushed through. Those of us who started out as eager puppies, got broken but are still here, that’s definitely stripe worthy.

10. Have more books from the library at home than you can possibly read.

11. Regularly talk about how libraries are for everyone

12. Found a book on a shelf that a customer definitely said wasn’t there. See also the obscure references to weird stuff that customers want

13. Posted a meme on the library’s social media platforms.

14. Bemoaned the state of catalogue, cataloguing or library systems.

15 Have a password that is 25 characters long, has a capital letter, a number and a haiku. It regularly changes for security purposes.

16. Looked sternly and said libraries just aren’t about books or shushing you know to anyone who says “isn’t it all just on google”.

17. Visit libraries when on holidays.

18. Like Gin

19. Realise that real librarians and others are required to do all sort of work in libraries and being customer facing is just one aspect that doesn’t make you more librariany

Why librarians need to stand up for press freedom in Australia

Long before I was a librarian, I wanted to be a journalist. In fact I studied journalism, I worked on volunteer basis for the Salvos as a journalist. I could never quite get paid to do it, so I went off in other directions. Including about five or so years doing admin with the RMIT journalism program.

I have a great affection for journalists and love good journalism. A well written, well researched feature article or any long form journalism is one of life’s great pleasures. I’ve read some truly memorable articles where the story has been thoroughly researched and investigated and the journalist’s skill as a writer and storyteller makes you catch your breath.

The raids and threats on journalists and news organisations should ring alarm bells for everyone. Particularly as the AFP have now said that journalist and new organisations may face charges for printing or broadcasting stories that revealed classified information.

The government have of course said they are committed to freedom of the press and denied that they had anything to do with these “operational decisions” by the AFP.  This might be true but there are questions to be asked about all of this.

These events are a clear threat to Australian democracy and as Kerry O’Brien said on ABC Melbourne radio this morning they go to what’s at the heart of democracy. In a rare show of bipartisan even News Corp via the Australian are saying there is a clear risk to democracy via these action.

As librarians we should be doubled troubled by these events. Librarians believe in freedom of information as one of our core values. In ALIA’s statement on information literacy they state that free flow of information and ideas is central to a thriving democracy.

Journalists and the news media are critical to making sure we have access to information. They find the stories people don’t want told, hold governments to account and give us the tools to be able to participate in the democratic process. If we believe that libraries are vital to the democracy then journalism and the news media are even more so.

Now is not the time to be shy about our common goals of supporting democracy. As an industry we need to stand up and show our unequivocal support for press freedom in Australia. ALIA, as our professional association need to take a strong and vocal position, on behalf of all us who are outraged and worried by these events.






Breaking the monotony…

My work is pretty tedious at the moment, I’m responding to hundreds of emails, I need stuff to get me through the monotony. Here’s a list of things that helped today…

1. Playing my entire playlist on my iPod on shuffle. There’s some stuff I rarely listen to and it was like discovering a long lost friend. Josh Pyke, Jack Johnson, The Beatles, the Peatbog Fairies and some song off the chill out session volume 2 from 2001… I haven’t started singing yet but I’m bopping along to the beats.

2. Random non-sequitur comments on large group email lists.

3. Friends making comments about non-sequitur comments on large group email lists.

4. Friends emailing me about cats, puppies, houses, TV shows, new books or how capitalism is the root of all evil.

5. Once More With Feeling… The Joss Whedon Buffy musical soundtrack, still so good after all these years. It always makes me smile when I listen to it both because it’s funny and clever and I because I reckon Joss had so much fun writing it.