So, you lost your library job? What next… Part 1

As many readers of my blog know, I’ve had a mixed experience with library jobs. For most of the eleven years in the industry, I worked casually and had stints of being unemployed. The most devastating was in 2017 when after working 18 months at an organisation they gave the permanent job to someone else. My contract ran out at Christmas.

In this Covid world we now live in, it’s going to be harder to get jobs in libraries, not easier. So many people already lost positions and employers can afford to be fussier than ever. Also libraries are super easy to cut budget and positions.

So, if you find yourself unemployed, yet to get your first library gig or wanting to do something else…. here’s some tips from my experience.

It’s not personal but it also is

For the organisation you worked for, it’s a business decision. But for you it’s going to feel like you have been stabbed in the heart by a blunt spoon. Having said that – you need to know that you did nothing wrong, you didn’t deserve to lose your job (not get the job) and you aren’t a bad person. Take some time to grieve and process, do nice things for yourself. 

You’re going to feel super anxious

There are multiple ways in which suddenly finding yourself unemployed sucks – the worries about money; the loss of relationships, a career and purpose. Frankly it’s terrifying especially when you have no idea what to do next or where you next job will come from. First and most importantly please seek medical help if you need it. To be able to get through this, you need to be able to think clearly in the midst of one of the shittiest times of your life, if your anxiety is preventing you from doing this then you should see a doctor. You will also need the support from family and friends – never underestimate the power of a text message saying “how are you doing today?”, these can be a lifeline. Utilise these people, for career chats, perspectives and time outside your own head. 

It’s a good opportunity to try something new

I’m not going to pretend for a moment being unemployed is anything other than crap but it’s also an opportunity to try something else. You really have nothing to lose at this point, jobs are not forever, nor do they define you, so be bold and consider taking your librarian skills out into a different sector or into the wild.

De-library-ify your skills

This is one of the hardest bits to do but it’s time to think of yourself not as a librarian or GLAM worker but as a person with skills, experience and knowledge. You need to take the library out of your CV and selection criteria responses. Yes, even if you are looking for a library role. 

There’s a couple of important reasons for this: firstly, you might or want to look at work in a different sector like information management, or outside GLAM all together. You are not going to be appealing to potential employers if you’re using lots of library jargon that they won’t understand to describe your skills.

The second, being unemployed is awful, but if you breakdown your roles into skills you will have a long list of things you know you can do and you can be way more confident in yourself  – you can’t sell yourself if you don’t know your value. Even when looking for work in the GLAM sector, reflecting in your CV that you have thought about your skills shows someone who understands libraries, is mature and likely to be an asset to the team. 

Here’s how to go about it…. 

Look at your roles in and out of libraries and break down the roles into skills. This requires analytical and reflective thinking, it’s also really useful to do some research to see how people in similar industries might describe their skills. 

I’d suggest a piece of paper or post it notes is good for this. If you have copies, it’s useful to pull out any position descriptions you have for your roles, as they often list skills required. 

Here’s an example of what I mean. Many librarians would list preparing and delivering story time on their CV. It’s perfectly fine to do this but you’re assuming that the person reading it knows what that involves – maybe they don’t. So, thinking about what knowledge and skills are being drawn on to create story time is important. 

Here’s a list of some of the skills that are involved in delivering story time – agile thinking, creating engaging content, managing interactions, public speaking and teaching literacy through stories and songs. The even broader skills here are around communication, time management and people skills e.g. clear communication and ability to engage a diverse group of people. 

Obviously the point of this isn’t to list a whole bunch of skills on your CV, it’s to be able to market the skills you have in a way that makes you appealing to employers in different library, GLAM or outside sectors. Library skills can be a bit niche, so being able to make them relevant in a broader context is really important. 

Which leads me onto…

Putting your CV together 

You have now gathered and understand your skills. Great! Hope this has makes you feel empowered.  

I still have no idea how to set out the perfect CV. There’s a million different ways and everyone will tell you something different, so, take your pick. My advice is to be concise, use bullet points if you can – a lot of dense text will be hard to read and the selection panel might miss the gems in your experience. 

In mine, I have a career summary and list my achievements under each role but that might not work for you so just find something that’s going to show off your skills and experience. I’m personally not a fan of career goals because I feel they often unfortunately highlight the lack of experience rather than what the candidate could bring to the role. 

It’s really useful once you have done your CV to see if someone who’s been involved in recruitment outside of libraries (and inside too) takes a look at it. It’s a hard time to get feedback but it’s also necessary to make sure your CV is the best it can be. Also CVs are never done, it will always be a matter of updating and refining it. 

(In part two I’ll talk about job searching strategies) 

Life interrupted – 2021 edition (1)

Here we are again. Lockdown 3.0 – five days, masks everyone, four reasons to leave your home – which is fine because there’s no where to go anyway. I’m back to wondering what time Dan’s presser is, whether he’s in business casual or family hike wear, anxiously refreshing twitter to see when the DHHS daily number of infections have dropped.

If I thought this year was going to be less of a bin fire then 2021 has already proven that we are in for tough times. There was an insurrection on the US capitol and the former President has been impeached for a second time. Perth suffered massive bushfires. The number of deaths from Coronavirus is over two million, with the US death toll close to 500,000 people.

Coronavirus variants are wreaking havoc – the current lockdown is because the UK variant got out of the hotel quarantine program. This piece explains the worries with these variants and this one how much more contagious the new strain is, which is why we find ourselves in another snap lockdown. We are fortunate that we have vaccines that are effective when the virus seems to rapidly mutating.

Before Friday’s announcement, I’d been thinking that I need to make more of an effort to go out and do things. I mean I’m happy but there are worrying signs that I’ve spent way too much time alone – like writing bad poetry, so I probably need to get out of the house soon.

But the thing about this global pandemic – you have to pivot so swiftly from I had plans, too now I’m staying at home; wear a mask in all settings, you don’t need a mask now. It’s dizzying. Who wants to make plans when it’s all so uncertain? It feels like a monumental effort with the prospect of disappointment, so it’s easier to just stay home.

Of course you have to go with whatever is changing around you but processing takes a lot of energy and space. It’s been hard to find that because the rapid nature of the changes means there is always something else you need to respond to. It’s like you have 25 tabs open and someone is pinging you on messenger – so much stimulation.

In the beforetimes, activities outside my local area were something that required planning, I couldn’t just decide on the day. As a classic introvert social interactions, noise and lots of people can be exhausting – so I needed to prepare myself for that. Living an hour outside the CBD means there are practicalities of getting there and back to factor in, which adds to the emotional energy needed to go do the thing.

After a year of staying at home, I have lost my match fitness for going out – even locally. The energy needed to do things just isn’t there, so I’m being more picky than usual. It’s not that surprising; so much has changed, how you feel and what matters to you.

The upsetting thing about this new lockdown is that I was just starting to feel like things were maybe ok. Not the old normal, but the new one created by the pandemic. By normal I mean safe – that I’m not going to spend the entire time I’m outside my house stressing about if I’ve been exposed to a deadly virus. Clearly, this lockdown means that normal isn’t here yet.

Of course, I’ll get through the next five days, though I’m not going to pretend to be cheerful about it. But for all our sakes, I hope this is the last one.

Life interrupted – the last post…maybe.

It’s the end of the year, and I’ve gotten through it.  As I write this, there have been three cases in Victoria after 61 days of no locally acquired cases, it’s concerning, and we are all on tenterhooks, hoping this doesn’t lead to another resurgence of the virus in the community.

When the year started most of Australia was on fire. So much burnt, millions of hectares; so much death and devastation. I still can’t look at most of the news coverage of the fires without feeling sick. If you believe in such things, it was an ominous start for the year to come.

On the 12 March, the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic, a week or so later, Australia closed its international borders and by equinox we were under stay at home orders. The pace of change in those first few days of the pandemic were dizzying, emotions were all over the place as you suddenly faced a whole different world to the one you knew.

The rest we know – lockdown one, a short reprieve, a second harsher lockdown in Victoria; mask wearing, hand sanitiser, being restricted to an hour a day outside, having to stay within five kilometres from your home, Dan’s daily presser and through it all a sick feeling in your stomach that maybe, just maybe this was going to lead to something worse.

All in all for us to survive this year has been nothing short of a miracle.

It’s always good to do a bit of a reflection at the end of the year. What happened, what are you proud of, what did you learn and so on. But this year, there’s almost too much to process, my thoughts lack clarity about how to even begin to understand 2020.

And maybe that’s ok. This year has been something of a roller-coaster so lack of clear insight into what you learnt or felt isn’t that surprising. There have been a few thoughts swirling around mostly about work, which I’ve tried to articulate below.

-I don’t like working from home but don’t want to go back to one-and-a-half hour travel twice a day either.

-Replacing a repository during a global pandemic is like one of the Labours of Hercules. It was so difficult, and I have very complicated feelings about the value of it and my role in it. We lost key staff during the project and there was a huge emotional cost involved in just getting it done.

-Libraries are not good at tech projects. I’ve been involved in multiple tech projects in different library sectors and libraries really aren’t good at them. The issue is lack of adequate resourcing – often libraries are trying to do them on the cheap, meaning that no extra budget and trying to do complex projects as part of everyday work. There’s also a top down approach to project management ie senior leaders deciding the project means they are not adequately scoped or the complexities understood before go ahead is given.

-Expecting business as usual in a year where nothing was usual was weird.

-I don’t think I did a very good job as a leader. Leadership requires emotionally energy to give to other people, I didn’t have any spare this year. My team, some of whom were new, had a sink or swim a bit, I feel pretty bad about it but just couldn’t summon the energy most of the time. This year leadership came into sharp focus, Daniel Andrews showed what good leadership is, lots of other people didn’t but regardless it just hard work.

-Friends from MPOW, across the library sector and everywhere else were a godsend. Friends from twitter who I’ve never met and some who I have, called me, sent me things in the mail to keep my spirits up. Particularly friends who were single, understood the double edged sword that this year was, and together we circled the wagons to look after each other.

–After some passive-aggressive wellbeing nonsense from a newsletter at MPOW a friend dispensed this pearl of wisdom to get through the pandemic: don’t worry about how much you weigh, just buy stretchier pants. And honestly it’s the best advice for 2020. See also: is it ok to eat your own bodyweight in cheese?

-I like my own company and find god in quiet places. I haven’t missed going to church nearly as much as I should have. Instead it’s been in those moments where I’ve seen flowers bloom, or laughed at the cats, listened to Luka Bloom, received a care package from my parents or with the small group of women who met together every week to pray. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to go back to attending every week. I have, as it turns out, complicated feelings about organised religion, I will probably always feel a bit like an outsider and not be entirely comfortable. I’m ok with that.

-Never underestimate the life giving power of growing things, making things and doing jigsaws.

In this year of chaos and loss there’s been too many low points and not enough high points. We will hopefully never live through such extraordinary times again and while the pandemic isn’t done with us, at least there’s hope in the form of a vaccine. Because there’s always hope, always.

Life interrupted – 16

It’s advent, the christian season in the lead up to Christmas. Advent is the season of waiting; of looking forward, the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, the promise of new things in the dark.

Advent ties in well with endings and beginning, it’s what we need right now at the end of the 2020 hellscape as we hope for better things in 2021. For me it means taking a break, having time to reflect, to count blessings and regroup for whatever the next year brings.

Since April this year, I’ve been leading a prayer group. There’s mostly been just four of us, with a few others dropping in every now and again. Unable to meet in person, we have used Zoom, which has had the usual difficulties we have all come to know and love.

The weekly ritual of preparing for the group has been grounding in a year where events seemed out of control and time meaningless. The technology has sometimes been awkward and our words imperfect but said with great hope and conviction – it’s been a revelation and a blessing.

This Wednesday, will be our last meeting for this year at least. It’s time for a break and see the fruits of our prayers. It’ll be a wrench to stop, as you’d expect we have developed friendships over the 33 weeks we met together. I’ll miss seeing them.

In the middle of things you are so busy getting through that you don’t see what’s shifted. Indeed this year when things seemed to go from bad to worse it was hard to see if we weren’t just praying into the void. So, our break is a chance to pause and give ourselves space to look around us and see what has changed.

I’d like to explore prayer more in 2021 – its rhythms, practices and ability to change you. It’s hard to think about what next year might look like right now. No one had global pandemic on their 2020 bingo cards and I feel being too hopeful or forward looking could just lead to disappointment. Who knows what will come my way.

I have had to make some decisions about next year already, which has been hard when you are tired. I didn’t nominate for parish council again, for lots of reasons but mostly because I need space to do other things.

I was never felt entirely comfortable in that role. Despite loving traditional Anglican services, I have little interest in church laws or the proper way of doing things. Where I wanted to break down barriers, I often felt like I was part of a system that maintained the status quo, entrenched inequality and white voices.

This is not a criticism – all who serve in this capacity are good people doing their best. My fundamental issue is with the structure itself and it’s hard when you look at things a bit differently and feel like you don’t quite fit. But I made some good relationships with people and learnt a lot, which is never a bad thing.

Because of Covid, we aren’t able to have our usual Christmas services this year and the flurry of catch ups and busyness seem ill fitting under the circumstances. In a year where death has stalked us, and we have both literally and figuratively been on fire, I need this time of quiet waiting and preparation for what’s next.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this verse this year it was written for these dark times and this advent season of waiting… “The light keeps shining in the dark, and darkness has never put it out.” (John 1:5). For those like me who are wearied by this year and struggling to be hopeful about 2021, my prayer for you all tonight as we meet together for the last time will be that we see that light that never goes out shining in the darkness.

Life interrupted – 15

In Victoria, we have had more than 20 days of double donuts and for the first time since February there are zero active cases of Covid-19. In August we had 7000+ active cases so the turn around is remarkable.

The borders are opening up, we don’t have to wear masks outside anymore (thank goodness). Christmas can go ahead, all be it with reduced numbers; Bunnings is open, you can sit in a cafe and shop for things that aren’t essential.

I saw my sister for the first time in months and I’ve been able to go to a friend’s house as part of their social bubble. The sun is shining, people are relieved and grateful for the opportunity to do something normal.

But the world is still on fire. And if for five seconds you forget it there’s a few thing to remind you.

South Australia went into lockdown for six days and then lifted it again when they found someone lied to contact tracers about his relationship to a pizza shop. Even more surprising their outbreak was caused through hotel quarantine, exactly the same as in Melbourne. I mean it’s like all the other states with their smug return to normal were not paying attention at all.

In the US they had an election and the person who lost won’t concede and keeps claiming fraud and votes being illegal. The US always painted itself as a beacon on the hill for freedom and democracy, it’s terrifying to watch its descent into chaos.

Twelve million people in the US now have Corona Virus. The death rate is one of the highest in the world. Sweden, which went for some kind of herd immunity model have had 6000 cases in a single day. In the UK they have re-imposed lockdowns, as well as all over Europe.

Australia while relatively covid-free (touch wood), everyday we seem to be governed by a more and more morally corrupt, hypocritical and partisan federal government. But hey you’ll get a few dollars in your bank account because of tax cuts – the fact the mostly help the rich is just details.

There are allegations of war crimes committed by our soldiers in Afghanistan to just make you feel sick to your stomach. The horrifying report alleges 39 murders were committed by SAS soldiers during the Afghanistan war. It’s hard to read, and even harder to understand how we ended up here.

Meanwhile, the government had to pay out 1.2 billion dollars of our money in the failed and illegal Robodebt scheme that is linked to the suicide of 2000 people. Ministers should have lost their jobs but if there is one thing this government excels in is lack of accountability.

It’s the end of the year and I’m tired. The lack of distraction means there’s been nothing else to think about other than how messed up stuff is. While this makes things larger than they would probably be normally, it’s also given me time to clarify exactly where I stand politically and a whole bunch of other stuff as well.

And that might just be about the only good thing to come out of this year.

(I’m going to keep the life interrupted series going but it might be dispersed with other new topics now… Stay tuned and thanks for reading).

Life interrupted – 14

Donuts… That what today is, donuts day. O new cases, O lives lost. The first time since June we have had no new active cases.

A second lockdown period started in July and after 112 days today we were told that restrictions would be lifted, shops, cafes, restaurants would re-open. If hugging was allowed right now I think we would be hugging and dancing in the streets.

I knew it would be a good day when Dan Andrews wore his North Face jacket to the presser. Indeed, I think the tears started right then, so much has it come to symbolise good news.

The people of Melbourne have sacrificed a lot to get to zero; jobs lost, relationships put on hold, isolation from friends and families. In the midst of all this we have had to put up with the partisan media making us anxious and confusing the message and the less than helpful responses from politicians. It’s felt like us against the world.

2020 has been hard in so many way and the last few months of extreme lockdown in particular. Confined to my home for 23 hours a day, it’s been confronting, endless and often dull. I’ve barely left the house in months, there’s been nothing fun to look forward too and no relief from the misery of daily numbers both locally and overseas. From my couch it seems like the world is sinking further and further into a hellhole.

I’d definitely not recommend doing a large and complex tech project when working from home during a pandemic. Social media and Dan’s pressers have been both a blessing and a curse. Isolation has become normalised to the point where it’s going to take a long time to get back into the swing of things, whatever that is now anyway.

We lost over 800 people in this second wave of the virus, all who were loved and cared for. Mental health care services have reported huge increases particularly from younger people. So many people lost jobs this year, it’s going to be hard to recover. Like most people I’ve felt anxious about the future and frustrated wondering if this lockdown would ever end.

We have had to endure RWNJs calling for us to open up for the sake of the economy rather than stay closed for the sake of lives. That was some of the worst moments for me – as though older people should be sacrificed at the altar of money and productivity.

I have all the sympathy in the world for businesses, it must be so hard not know how long we will be closed for or whether your business will survive. But locking down and staying there until we got a handle on transmission was still the better option in terms of costs as this article from Liam Mannix explains.

I’ll be forever grateful that the Premier, for all his faults, was guided by science and data when making decisions. And while there have been Covidiots and maskholery, on the whole Victorians have show themselves to be a community that cares about each other and protecting our most vulnerable.

As many countries see a massive resurgence of the virus, they are looking towards Melbourne and what we achieved to prevent its spread in their community. Ireland has just reimposed another six week lockdown based on what we did here – I pray the strategy will work for them too.

For me, the most successful part of the lockdown hasn’t been the numbers falling but the way we have taken care of each other. If you were getting down, as I did on several occasions, friends both locally and interstate reached out.

As we looked at the unnerving pictures of the deserted streets of our city, Melbournians loved her more and mourned her empty streets. We talked about her as if an old friend and made plans for what we would do when we can get back to visit her.

And while there’s still more to be done, more outbreaks that could occur -covid-normal will be the new normal for a while. I think for the moment we can all collectively exhale the breath we have been holding for months.

Getting on the beers” is the unofficial motto of our state now. So raise your glasses and let’s propose a toast to our city and our state, for our outstanding commitment to each other and endurance during these difficult months.


Life Interrupted – 13

About two blog posts ago, I was going to stop writing this series on the pandemic – we were going back to normal and there’s only so much you can write about your cats or the existential dilemma brought on by the pandemic. And then the second wave hit.

Lockdown stage 4, has been extended by two weeks. There’s a furore because the Victorian Government is ruining the economy for everyone. When Melbourne went into lockdown again our PM said we are all Melbournians now, which lasted all of two minutes until he realised there was no political mileage to be got with unity.

Someone on twitter asked whether you felt Australian or Victorian. I definitely align more with my state than country, which is probably heightened because of the pandemic and watching Daniel Andrews front up every single day, doing his absolute best to get us through this.

The leadership in Australia feels like it’s not for me or about me. I’m not a conservative but it goes deeper than that. At some point the political leadership has taken a wrong turn, it seems like they don’t care about the most vulnerable in our community anymore; they would rather line their pockets with money from the fossil fuel and mining industries than take meaningful action on climate climate change and they have sold our souls for “safe” borders.

This week Scott Morrison said Australia was at risk of losing its humanity, which made me spit out my tea. It seems to me that we lost it along time ago, when we decided to arbitrarily lock up men, women and children in unending offshore detention. We lost it when we privatised nursing homes and understaffed them with poorly paid casual workers or when government after government failed to raise the Newstart allowance so people weren’t living in poverty. To name just a few…

Add to this the slogans, and obscuring and manipulation of facts to present the government in best light (not limited to the current government). And when journalists ask questions you get a bunch of pre-prepared talking points which they doggedly stick to regardless of what question is being asked.

It makes me deeply uncomfortable. It’s inauthentic, divisive and ultimately dehumanising. It’s like politicians are saying to us, you are unworthy of genuine interactions, we don’t trust you and your ability to understand that the world is complicated. It makes politicians less trust worthy; you forever feel like you are being manipulated and lied too.

Sure the Victorian government has failed badly – hotel quarantine, contact tracing and probably a few other things as well. Their roadmap out of lockdown is vague, if I was a business owner I’d be worried about the future. But as John Faine wrote in this piece we are more than just an economy.

It’s hard to feel anything other than fierce loyalty to my state, my city and its leadership right now. Even as the economics of the state look dire, it’s as if we we have become something more than that – like we have remembered that we are in fact a community that collectively rises or falls together.

Many people don’t like Daniel Andrews, his politics or his handling of the pandemic. Regardless of this, what is happening now is extraordinary leadership. In a world turned upside down, seeing Dan Andrew’s standing there in his North Face jacket is both comforting and the touchstone we all need right now. It’s like he is saying to us, the world is spinning out of control but I’m in here, I’m not going anywhere and it’s going to be ok.

It’s been six months since a global pandemic has been declared there have been 28 million infections and over 900000 deaths. By the end of October Melbourne will have endured the longest and harshest lockdown of any city in the world. But perhaps in taking away the trappings of our lives we have had the chance to come to the heart of who we are as a community. And maybe in a covid-19 normal world that gives us an advantage.

Melbourne’s motto is “Vires acquirit eundo”, which in English means “She gathers strength as she goes”. We are gathering strength now to come back and be bigger and brighter than ever.

Life interrupted – 12

On sunny days, I eat my lunch on the deck, listening to the birds and the sounds of the neighbourhood – a child’s cry, a delivery truck, the noise of someone else’s home being built. Midges gather and dance across the grass, the light glinting off them as rise and fall in the sunshine. The cats, always curious, sniff at my lunch, then stroll away to loll in the sun.

It’s winter and the grass is green though patchy after the intense early summer heat. I mowed it the other day, a pain to do but deeply satisfying once complete. My mowing technique needs some work, I generally do one bit, get bored and go do another bit. The effect is more drunken than uniform.

When I moved in two years ago, there was no grass or deck or even fences, which was kind of against the rules. Getting the fence built from our less than reputable contractor was six weeks of increasingly frantic phone calls and threats to consumer affairs. He left us with this…

Needless to say we got someone to fix it.

Building the house was both not much fun and completely exciting. The company started building before I had secured a loan from the bank(!!!), which led to some interesting days when I frantically scrambled to get approval. There was poor communication, some shoddy concreting, unexplained delays and an incident of sexual harassment, which led to one of their staff getting sacked. Even worse, I occasionally had to get my Dad to back me up because it always seemed to go better when a man was involved (sigh). 

Despite all this, my house is well built and for the most part exactly what I wanted. There’s a walk in pantry, a tin roof, and enough space for a library. I have a mix of antique and new furniture, with the requisite number of Ikea pieces required for a first home owner. My couches are comfy for an afternoon nap and my yellow hall stand makes me happy every time I see it. 

After living with family for most of my life, living on my own is both complete freedom and really hard. If I want to stay in my pyjamas all day and eat chips on the couch there is no one to stop me. But there’s also no one else to cook dinner or help with chores. And financially it’s all on you to pay the mortgage and bills. 

It’s not lonely though, at least I’ve not been, even during the seemingly endless lockdown. I’ve always liked my own company, or as I jokingly said to someone I find myself endless fascinating. In my last post I wrote about missing my people – my friends and family. But loneliness is something else; a disconnection from the world around you, not just people and that’s not me.

If anything, in second lockdown I’ve felt more connected to the turning of the earth; the slowly extending days, the changing light, the trees and the weather. In the before times, I would have missed these details – the light at four o’clock in the living room, the second time its snowed here in my lifetime, the double rainbows and the buds on trees as spring approaches.

I have found watching the seasons and weather, endlessly consoling. It’s different every day (and it’s Melbourne so sometimes more than that) but it has own rhythm and reasons for being that knows nothing of pandemics or even people.

Earth and nature exist outside of what humanity can control. We see examples all the time, cyclones, floods, fire and drought. But also the change of the seasons, the shower of rain and new growth of trees. Nature endures beyond me, which is both joyful and deeply comforting.

In the before times, I often bemoaned that I never had enough time at home to enjoy it. And now I’ve barely seen anything other than these four walls for months. With the world outside making my head spin and my heart hurt, at least here, I can close the doors against the hardness of the world. The frogs call, the flowers bloom and they give me hope and constancy that whatever happens next will be ok.

Life interrupted – 11

I was going to start this by saying how long we have been in stage four lockdown but honestly I can’t remember, could be three weeks or three months. Time and dates seem to have no meaning anymore. Instead I count time by Dan Andrew’s presser and the cats miaowing for their dinner.

I’ve been crying a lot this week. I’m ok, well, as well as you can be during a global pandemic but sometimes the requirement to be alright and stoic through massive upheaval in our lives is too much.

The issues this week were around my work. Before the global pandemic hit, we started working on a project to replace our institutional repository. It’s one of those projects that is meant to be a highlight of your career. I expected it to be challenging and rewarding but I did not expect to be doing it at home in my trackies, anxious about the state of the world and away from my team and my friends.

I’m coping with the workload and loving the many paths it has taken us down. I have no doubt the project will be successful, my team are resilient and always just finds a way. But it feels like we climbing Mount Everest we should taking a gentle walk by a stream – that is to say, it feels like it’s too much of a challenge when we should just being less hard things right now.

Working remotely has its good points but your work becomes really siloed. Online meetings are exhausting. I find engaging for anything longer than 30 minutes difficult, my mind wanders and I’ve developed some bad habits, which you would not do if you were face-to-face. .

Impromptu conversations both within and across teams don’t happen. Everything has be organised into meetings or phone calls. You can’t just talk to colleagues to get their input . It feels like this key ingredient is missing and it worries me.

Mostly, I’m just massive disappointed that I’m doing something so brilliant and exciting under these circumstances. When I got this job nearly a year ago it was one of the things I was most looking forward too, now it just feels like it’s nothing special and we won’t be able to celebrate this achievement.

There been lots of information about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how our response to the pandemic is just to have our most basic needs met right now – that is food, water and the safety of a home. With normal life so disrupted, fear and uncertainty everywhere, doing these basic things is stressful, the emotional energy needed to do a large and complex project takes a toll.

And you think you are ok because you’re resilient and you have everything you need and are safe at home. So you turn up to work, contribute and do your absolute best. But then all your emotions come out doing something as normal as meeting with a colleague and it makes no sense.

Other friends too are reporting that they frequently find themselves in tears. They also  say it makes them feel better – not so much for me because I’m not even sure what I’m crying about. It feels selfish when I’ve got everything I need to be upset because I miss my friends or not getting to do the special project in the way I wanted.

When I started at MPOW I was pretty crushed by previous library experience. But my colleagues embraced me and made me feel like I mattered. They are my support network for work stuff but more importantly just a great group of people who want to make the world a better place. 

So I miss them, and it hurts my heart that we aren’t having Monday first home owners lunch, or one of them isn’t dropping by my desk for coffee, or we aren’t all sitting together in the sun on fake grass mountain or gathering around a table in the lunch room, or talking marxist theory while eating snacks from a vending machine.

Early on in the pandemic people were publishing lots of articles about grief and loss like this one. And yes I do feel a sense of loss of normality, not seeing my friends, family, or doing things I like. Going out is also really stressful – mask up, keep your distance; the disconcerting experience of seeing empty streets, where once they were bustling.

It’s tough. I’m both ok and not ok in equal measure. And yes, there are a whole bunch of people who are worse off than me. But that does not make this any less hard, just makes me ache more for the world I can’t fix.

Life Interrupted – 10

We are back in lockdown. Six weeks; four reasons to leave your homes and wearing masks is now mandatory. There’s a judicial enquiry into how we got back here but from the outside it seems to be a mix of human frailty and doing things on the run.

This is just my life now and its alright. I have the sweet boys for company and cuddles, the frog orchestra plays on, magpies chortle and the daffodils have started to burst into bloom.

The virus is now affecting the most vulnerable in the community – that is both aged care residents, and people who work casually. I find this devastating. These workers are often from migrant backgrounds, doing low paid, insecure work. They are in a position where they feel they have to go to work because they have no other choice.

I worked casually for long periods in the last ten years. To pay my mortgage, I went to work sick because you don’t have sick leave (or holiday leave) and if you don’t work you don’t get paid. With casual work if you say no to shifts, it’s likely you will get offered less in the future.

In yesterday’s press conference Daniel Andrews said that prevalence of insecure work in society was a public health issue – he is right. The people who have gone to work have done so because they have no other options. – they need to pay rent, feed their families and ensure they have work when this is over.

The state government have taken steps to address this, which is a good start. But the pandemic has brought this issue into sharp focus, and a bigger conversation needs to be had about how we got here and what we need to ensure all people have access to paid sick leave in the future.

As a lover of history, I take great comfort in knowing people have survived through plagues and pandemics before. The Great Plague of London in 1665-1666 killed 15% of the population of London – around 100,000 people. With almost no medical knowledge and people literally dropping dead on the streets, it must have been terrifying.

In the book A Journal of a Plague Year, Daniel Defoe writes that one of the drivers of the spread was rich people coming to poor areas of London to view the situation. They then took the disease back to their families and communities. It mentions that if people just stayed at home the disease would not have spread so far.

Does that sound familiar? It’s comforting that in four-hundred years people haven’t changed that much. There were people not doing the right thing then and public health officials trying to minimise the impact. More importantly, they got through it and survived – just as we will.

Going out is incredibly stressful and wearing a mask is not much fun, even if I do have pretty ones. So far it’s a toss up between hyperventilating and trying not to throw up because my body thinks I can’t breathe. I can breathe but I have to consciously tell myself that I’m ok.

It’s just something I have to get used to, as do all of us for as long as we are told too. And except for a few people with valid reasons and a few dropkicks with none, most people are doing their part and wearing them.

It’s challenging, you get so many cues from a person’s expression that you can’t get now and you have to listen harder because everyone is a bit muffled. But at this point most people will do anything to help flatten the curve a second time, so we will all just do it.

Right now my thoughts are with those in leadership in the state, the health officials and frontline workers who must be exhausted. It’s with the people in retail having to wear masks all day, for healthcare workers and families grieving the loss of loved ones they can’t visit.

I’ve been writing these since March, watching the seasons come and go via my lounge room windows. It’s almost August and the darkest coldest part of winter. We will still be as the season change again. But spring always follows winter and new life starts to bloom.