I shared in my last post my general feelings about the state of my career. As I sat in therapy this past weekend, I had a realization, which one often does in that space: I never addressed my career crisis.
What was the moment?
I spent my entire grad school career striving for a particular goal: working for the National Archives. I made that ambition known early. In 2010, I interned at the Seattle branch to fulfill my MLIS requirement. I loved the work.
My first job out of grad school was a strategic choice. I took a one-year archives processing position at Death Valley National Park in Death Valley, CA, some 3,000 miles away from home, because it was federal government-adjacent and, I believed, would demonstrate substantive archival work. By month four, I had begun to circulate my resume to park employees to get their feedback. What was I doing wrong with my resume? Why was I not advancing to an interview. I took their recommendations and tweaked my resume. By month nine, I was actively applying. AND, I was getting interviews.
My contract ended. I moved back to the East Coast. In August 2012, I got THE interview: an archives technician position at the National Archives at Philadelphia.
A week later, when I heard the words “we would like to offer you the position” I was in shock but also experiencing the unmitigated joy of a plan for my life coming together.
I *thoroughly* loved my time in Philadelphia, for professional and personal reasons. In spite of the 2013 federal government shutdown, I was still all in. But, in 2014-2015, government bureaucracy reared its head and my idealistic view of NARA became muddied.
In time, it came crashing down.
Rather than address the end of an idealistic dream, I ran. Running looked like applying for other jobs. I didn’t know what I wanted to do anymore as I had wrapped my whole identity in working for NARA.
I was NARA. NARA was me.
Without it, who was I?
Now that the fog of a two year depression has lifted, I see the toxicity built in wrapping up my identity, let alone my professional identity, in a place. In something external to me.
My heart, in spite of the hurt, still cares deeply for NARA, especially the people. I am still invested in its success even if that means being at odds with its leadership. For example, at SAA 2018, I took the time to address its leadership during their August 17 session regarding NARA’s “digital future” and its strategic plan. I even talked afterward with Micah Cheatham, the Chief Management and Administration, much to the chagrin of some of leaderships most ardent supporters. I have reservations and many of them grave. Why? Because I love NARA. I want the best for it. I want it to do right by the American public and its hardworking employees.
The question now is what can I do in archives? How do I channel the things I love, the causes that are important to me, and who I am now (and who I have always been) to reimagine a career that enables me to create something exciting and helps others?
So here I am, four years in the making, ready to face it.