5.14.2009

impending big life change, part two

Part one here.

There's a lot to freak out about. I'm not going to let my fear and anxiety stop me from doing what I want to do. But I need to acknowledge the feelings and talk about them before pushing past them.

  • Age. My friend told me I'm looking at four to five years of library school, assuming I go part-time, then another three to four years of working at various inconvenient locations until I land my dream library job. The first thing I thought was, I turn 48 next month. How old do I want to be when I start a new career path? Isn't mid-50s too old?

    Well, no. After living with those negative feelings for a while, I started to think of it this way. If I start now, by the time I'm, say, 55, I'll be (hopefully) earning more money and living a life closer to what I want. If I don't, where will I be? I'll be that age anyway, and I'll be doing the same thing I'm doing now - that much more sick of it, that much more frustrated, that much more unhappy. If I want to make a change, I can't worry about how old I'll be.

    My friend AWE, who started law school for a second career at age 37, told me she had many law-school classmates who were older than her. And that was in a full-time program. The part-time, evening law schools, she said, are full of people in their 50s. This really helped.

    AWE also pointed out that, given I'll need more education for any career change, library school is pretty low intensity - two years if you go full-time - and my BA in English applies perfectly. If I wanted to enter, for example, a health-care profession, I'd need more coursework on the undergraduate level, and in areas that are not my strengths. So I'm well positioned for this. Once I accepted and got accustomed to the fact that I will need more education for any career change, I saw this more clearly.

    In addition, the three to four years of imperfect jobs that my friend mentioned might not apply to me as much. He wanted a job at a specific Toronto library branch, and was waiting for that to open up. I'll have a wide range of acceptable locations, including Toronto, Mississauga and Oakville.

    I've also recently discovered it might not take four years to finish the program. More on that shortly.

    So the age factor is looking a bit better. And when it doesn't look good, I have to ignore it.

  • Energy. I'll have to keep my weekend job and go to school at the same time. Can I do it? I can go part-time and stretch it out for up to six years. I can go full-time and be overly burdened. Or I can try for a middle option. After meeting with the assistant dean yesterday, I've learned that there are several, such as going to school over the summer, and/or doing an independent study path for a large chunk of credits.

    In addition to school, I'll need to get a grunt-level job in one of the public library systems. My librarian friend strongly recommends working as a page, shelving books, 10 or 15 hours a week, to log time in the union, and therefore be eligible to apply for good jobs after finishing my degree.

    We all have finite amounts of time and energy, but my health issues make this a non-negotiable for me. I can't compromise on getting enough rest, or my life will fall apart.

    Can I do it?

  • Money. I've learned that we're not eligible for OSAP (Ontario student loans). So we're looking at education loans from our bank. And if I'm going to school during the week and working on weekends, I won't be writing or transcribing. Can we afford this? (But can we afford not to?)

  • Ohmygodthisisallhappeningsofast! Up until yesterday, I believed - based on what I had read on the iSchool's website - that the deadline to begin the program in September 2009 had passed, and I was looking at applying for September 2010. (There is only one intake a year, in September.) So I thought I had a long time to re-organize my life, tie up all the loose ends, before starting something new, which is my preferred method of attack.

    Yesterday the dean told me that if I want to apply for this year, I still can.

    Holy shit.

    This began a whole new set of freakoutedness. Can I get it together that quickly? What will this mean in terms of the war resisters Campaign? I'm determined to see it through to the end. If I start school in September, will I be able to stay active? (Could we have a goddamn election, please??)

    But if I'm concerned about how old I'll be when I finish this process, beginning this September would be one more year in my favour. And I know that just because I prefer to have everything neatly tied up with no loose ends showing doesn't mean life works that way. I've accelerated my life plans to take advantage of opportunities before. Maybe I have to again.

    Another campaign friend pointed out something important last night. She suggested I apply for the program right away, then if I decide to wait until 2010 to begin, I can defer admission. The dean says I could apply now, and they'd hold my application for a year if I wanted. She emphasized I might want to order my university transcripts and look into financing, to get the ball rolling, no matter which year I decide to start.

    But if I do want to apply for this September, I have to begin immediately.

    * * * *

    I'm sure there are a few more things to freak out about, but that's all I can think of right now.
  • 39 comments:

    M@ said...

    DO IT!!!

    You might have a lot more energy for this than you expect because it's putting you on a path forward, toward something you want, and toward something that is clearly defined and attainable.

    It doesn't sound like there's any downside to applying for September 2009, except the hassle of getting everything together all at once. Do it!

    Yeah, I too dreamed of working in a library one day when I was a kid. Then I actually got a part-time job in a library when I was in high school. Not quite the same thing, but I feel some library-worker solidarity here. There should be a secret handshake.

    Stephanie said...

    What a great plan!

    Unless deferring to 2010 opens the door to Scholarships (SSHRC? NSERC? not sure which and eligibility is still the question) I would say go for it the sooner the better...life will always intervene with the best laid plans.

    L-girl said...

    Thanks guys! :)

    Even right after I met with the assistant dean, with my head spinning and my stomach in knots, I kind of knew that I should try to go this year. I don't know if I can do it, but I should try. "The sooner, the better" definitely applies here. (An unintentional pun, as usual.)

    Lisa said...

    Laura,

    I really encourage you to go for it!! I work in a library, and one of the librarians started at FIS when she was 47. She's 60 now and has NO regrets.

    Also, umm, I'm going to library school at the Faculty of Information at U of T, part-time, so evening classes, starting in September! We would be classmates..

    And hey, Naomi Klein thinks being a librarian is a radical choice..

    http://dissidentvoice.org/Articles7/Klein_Librarian.htm

    L-girl said...

    Lisa, thank you for 3 VERY cool pieces of information!

    "I'm going to library school at the Faculty of Information at U of T, part-time, so evening classes, starting in September! We would be classmates."

    !!!!!

    Wait a sec, I think I saw this on Facebook. I thought, hey, I think that's what I'm thinking about... then promptly forgot about it. Wow!

    L-girl said...

    RIGHT NOW I am filling out the form to request my transcripts from Univ of Penn. Whoo-hoo!

    M@ said...

    RIGHT NOW I am filling out the form...Coming soon to a library near you: Laura! :)

    L-girl said...

    Something I didn't mention in the post...

    When I was in NYC last week, I learned that two close friends of mine are also both considering getting more education, each for a different reason. And they both already have graduate degrees. Somehow I found this very heartening.

    L-girl said...

    "Coming soon to a library near you: Laura! :)"

    This has me grinning. Thank you!

    Peregrinato said...

    Sorry I'm late into this discussion :)

    Before I entered the world of theology, I was a professional librarian. (MLS in 1992.) I don't regret the degree or the work at all, even though I'm in a different field right now. (And may end up in a theological library somewhere.)

    I went to school part-time--2 classes a semester. I finished in three academic years, no summer classes. It really is do-able.

    And librarianship is one of those careers that the more life experience you bring with you, the better a librarian you will be. You're not just working with information, but with people.

    You've got my addy. Email me if you want more information :)

    L-girl said...

    Peregrinato, my old blog-friend, how good to hear from you! And you are not at all late, I only wrote this in this very morning.

    Thanks for the info and encouragement. I may get in touch with more q's.

    PaulM said...

    Definitely do it.
    The part of your post that said it all was the part concerning your childhood yearnings to be a librarian. You'll be happy as a librarian and that's the main thing in life. Money doesn't matter if you're stuck in a job you hate. And it's never too late. I'm 64 and re-inventing myself for about the fifth time...

    hhw said...

    I would recommend setting up informational interviews with the human resources departments of your local public library systems, working librarians, and other people familiar with the job situation in the area. Especially folks who do NOT work for the iSchool. In my experience (as an academic librarian for 13 years), library schools downplay the tightness of the job market, and a popular city with a library school in the area (i.e. Toronto) may well have a glut of qualified people trying to find jobs. I don't mean to be a wet blanket -- I do enjoy my work a lot -- but I'm going back to grad school in another field in part because I can't find a librarian position in Portland, OR.

    L-girl said...

    "Money doesn't matter if you're stuck in a job you hate."

    The thing is, I've already got work I love that doesn't pay well. That's my writing. My other job has to pay well, or it's the wrong job. I don't hate my work now, and I'm reasonably certain I won't hate being a librarian - but the income is extremely important. That's my motivation for making the switch. The way I've been supporting my writing and activism for the last 20-odd years is no longer working.

    "In my experience (as an academic librarian for 13 years), library schools downplay the tightness of the job market, and a popular city with a library school in the area (i.e. Toronto) may well have a glut of qualified people trying to find jobs."

    So far all my information on the job market comes from people not in the iSchool. I haven't asked them about job availability at all. People in the Toronto and Mississauga systems tell me that a very large percentage of librarians are baby boomers, heading for retirement. There should be lots of positions opening up, especially for part-time.

    PaulM and hhw, thanks for the feedback, I'm glad to have your perspectives. Best of luck with your own reinventions.

    PaulM said...

    The thing is, I've already got work I love that doesn't pay well. That's my writing.

    Sigh. Tell me about it.

    http://www3.telus.net/Paul_Musgrove/PMnovels/

    (This is just for your amusement, not for the blog...)

    hhw said...

    Be wary of the retiring baby-boomer story; I have heard it since I was in library school but not seen much increase in open positions. The university where I work now has decided to save money by not replacing 2 librarians who are retiring this year. I hope you'll have a different experience. and maybe they finally will start retiring/hiring.

    OK, to balance my doom and gloom comments, here's something positive and a couple of links: I've heard very good reports of the Ontario Library Association's annual "super conference" held in February every year.
    http://www.accessola.com/ola/bins/content_page.asp?cid=5

    In case you haven't already found these links:
    http://www.libraryjobs.ca/page/find%20jobs/ezlist_posts.aspx

    http://www.accessola.com/ola/bins/index.asp

    hhw, doing that compulsive-info-sharing librarian thing

    David Cho said...

    You look so young though.

    You'd make a great librarian. Before my first semester back in school, I had this notion that google be my librarian that could meet all my research needs. Boy was I wrong. The librarians I worked with were excellent. Could not have done it without them.

    Amy said...

    Just reading this now, but let me add my "go for it" to the crowd of supporters here. I have counseled a number of adults thinking about law school in their 40s or older. I recall one who said, "But I will be 50 when I finish!" I said, "You will be 50 one way or the other. Would you rather be 50 and a lawyer or 50 and wishing you were a lawyer?"

    In my experience, adult learners are more fun to teach because they are motivated, have perspective, and value their education much more than those in their 20s.

    Also, being a librarian sounds perfect. I used to fantasize about owning a bookstore (I liked the idea of being surrounded by books and working for myself), but a library would be similar, without worrying about running a business and making money.

    L-girl said...

    "Be wary of the retiring baby-boomer story; I have heard it since I was in library school but not seen much increase in open positions. The university where I work now has decided to save money by not replacing 2 librarians who are retiring this year. I hope you'll have a different experience. and maybe they finally will start retiring/hiring."

    Well, what can I tell you, hhw. I can't go on the way I am now. It's untenable. This is something I would enjoy doing that pays well and appears to have opportunity. I'm not saying there'll be streets lined with gold, but it looks promising - and that's all I can go with.

    Thanks for the links.

    L-girl said...

    "You look so young though."

    Well thanks, but I am still the age I am!

    And I don't even think it's true anymore. I used to look very young, but I think my age has caught up with me these days.

    "You'd make a great librarian."

    Thanks!

    L-girl said...

    "I recall one who said, "But I will be 50 when I finish!" I said, "You will be 50 one way or the other. Would you rather be 50 and a lawyer or 50 and wishing you were a lawyer?""

    Exactly my thought process. I'll still have many years of working life ahead of me, and I don't want to be in the same position I am now. Thanks, Amy.

    impudent strumpet said...

    You HAVE to do it on the sole basis that the degree is called Master of Information. That is the most omnipotent-sounding university degree I have ever heard of!

    Seriously though, I'm adding my voice to the "Don't worry about the age factor" contingent. If we assume retirement at 65, you'll have nearly 15 years in this career. That is by any standard plenty long time and not something that should be written off.

    We have quite a few people starting in their 40s and 50s in my field, and they contribute hugely just by bringing in the experience of having spent some time in the real world (and some tend to find it easier/less stressful because of that too.) Apart from the gits who whine because university isn't exactly like it was when they last left is decades ago (and we know you're not one of those gits), they were all sought-after as group-work partners and note-taking buddies, and then went on to integrate effortlessly into the workplace (unlike us n00bs with our steep learning curve.)

    L-girl said...

    I wonder if there's a book lover who hasn't fantasized about owning a bookstore. I sure have!

    Amy said...

    My bookstore fantasy: I get to read all the new books, pick out what to stock, talk to people about books, and, while business is slow, I get to read.

    I bet the reality is much, much different!

    L-girl said...

    Thank you, Imp Strump. I know, what an awesome sounding degree!!

    I'm thinking I'd be damn lucky to retire at 65. If my health is good enough, I'm sure to work til at least 70. So yes, there's 15 or 20 years of career ahead of me when I get the degree. That's what made me think I should do something, and soon.

    L-girl said...

    "We have quite a few people starting in their 40s and 50s in my field,"

    These stories are encouraging.

    hhw said...

    my last comment on the topic -- I'm sorry if it seemed like I was trying to talk you out of this career; sounds to me like you have strong reasons to believe it would be a good match, on all counts. But since you said that money is a major factor in all this, it would suck to go through the program, go into debt, and then find out the job situation was not so great. I know people who've had that experience in this and other fields. Again, I truly hope you find you love it and have no trouble getting a great position; I know people who've had that experience too.

    Good luck! I look forward to reading about your experiences with library school on wmtc.

    ps: librarianship is full of folks who are starting second, third, fourth, etc careers as well as their fourth, fifth, sixth, etc decades in life. I definitely would not worry on that account.

    Sarah O. said...

    If this degree is anything like Dalhousie's library sciences/information management offerings, librarian isn't the only thing you'll be able to do with it (if the librarian market is slow when you finish). Municipalities and large organizations employ people with these degrees to do info management for paper and digital information. Many of the jobs are 9-5 type jobs, but I'm sure there's contractual work and flexi work, etc. out there as well.

    L-girl said...

    hhw, thank you, I'm sure your intentions are good and I appreciate the information. It's important to always have our eyes open and know the risks.

    It certainly *would* suck to do all this and end up unemployed or underemployed. And I know that's a risk - that there are no guarantees.

    There's no need to make it your last comment. And I hope your own job situation improves - soon.

    L-girl said...

    "My bookstore fantasy: I get to read all the new books, pick out what to stock, talk to people about books, and, while business is slow, I get to read.

    I bet the reality is much, much different!"

    Let's see, huge chains putting indie stores out of business, the internet making it possible to search for any book anywhere in the world... yes, I think the reality would be quite a bit different.

    L-girl said...

    Sarah O, the assistant dean I met with this week did her library degree at Dalhousie. :)

    The UofT program has tracks for museum work, archivists (which sounds very cool to me), and database work with governments and hospitals and such. I'll be on a library track, but I don't know how much crossover there is. It's a good thought, tho.

    There are also university libraries, and specialized libraries within that, such as libraries of performing arts, music, medicine.

    Jen said...

    How exciting! I'll be so jealous of you come Sept ('09 or '10 whichever) as you head back to school--it always feels like the the New Year to me much more than Jan 1st.

    I was going to say something about the baby boomer/retirement/job market thing similar to hhw based on what I've been seeing in health care during the recession (i.e.: still a shortage of nurses AND layoffs AND cut-backs). Then I realised: one of the strategies is to not replace a full-timer with the same but rather with a couple of .5s or two .2s and a casual or something. So, perhaps the attrition of the FTs will play into your plans for part-time, odd hour placements better than you think...

    Congratulations! Jen

    L-girl said...

    Jen, I had similar thoughts re part-time and odd-hours work. So far there have been no cutbacks or attrition to the library systems here (that I'm aware of), but obviously there could be if things get worse.

    It's unbelievable that in the middle of a huge nursing shortage, nurses are being laid off and staff reduced. Horrible!

    Thanks for your comments and for your support. :)

    ErinOrtlund said...

    How exciting! I have often thought I would enjoy being a librarian. I worked in a library PT in high school (shelving, etc) and loved the environment. Sounds like a great career path for you!

    L-girl said...

    Thank you Erin!

    deang said...

    Go, Laura! Go, Laura!

    Those saying your age will be an asset in that you'll be more motivated than most in their 20s are right. I didn't learn Spanish until age 38, when I took 3 semesters of it, and I think learning was actually easier for me than when I was 22 because I was better able to focus and had more awareness of my mental tendencies.

    I actually started a graduate library program in my early 20s (in the late 80s), but didn't continue past one semester because I was mentally unprepared for the overwhelming emphasis on electronic over print media, at a time when I almost literally had never even touched a computer and couldn't even fully understand what they were for (I've been told that's strange for the late 80s, but all I cared about was nature and art). Were I to go back today, I'd have 2 decades of computer experience behind me and would probably be less disoriented. And back then, too, most of the students in my day and evening courses were in their 30s and 40s. A classmate and I used to joke that we were the babies in the class at age 23.

    I have a friend who got a masters in chemistry in her 20s, taught high school chemistry for 15 years, then started to lose her hearing, and it's real hard to handle a class full of teenagers if you can't hear what's going on. When she realized she couldn't teach anymore, she was in her early 40s. When she asked herself what profession doesn't require hearing, she thought of plants and went back to grad school at age 43 for a masters in botany. She got through the program in 3 or 4 years and now has a high-profile job with the University of Texas Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center as a field botanist and seed lab coordinator. Now in her early 50s, she recently became a regional field representative for the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew's Millennium Seedbank Program. Despite all that, she still worries that her age isn't in her favor and worries that her position will be cut in favor of younger hires, but, like you, she realizes she can't think about that.

    L-girl said...

    Wow Dean, thanks so much.

    Your friend's experience is so impressive! And you were interested in library work, too! Any thoughts of picking that up again?

    deang said...

    I haven't seriously thought of going back to library school, but a few years ago I had a temporary job doing work that was essentially archiving. I liked it enough that I briefly looked into graduate archival programs, then lost focus. Haven't really thought about that in a couple of years. Maybe I should. Hmmm ...

    L-girl said...

    Yes, maybe you should. :)

    The program I am applying to has archiving as part of the core curriculum, too. I am looking forward to that.