On the surface, I seem like a confident speaker. Usually, I can say things both prepared and improvised although two talks pushed my often submerged nerves to the surface. Both took place in front of the Library Technician students at the college, now divided into year 1 and two thanks to a new admission structure. (Previously, intakes like mine consisted of 30 students every two years, now it’s 15 every year. That’s another post.) Basically, blink and I turned into the veteran of the field. Who knew seven years from grad turns one into a seasoned professional although I will admit to always having a beginners mind. Highly useful for not turning into a cynic.
Talk one took place at the newly rebooted Library Technician Mixer. I was asked, along with a school library tech and one working at a public library in Steinbach, to speak about the job. The topics covered went from what our day to day looks like, the joys and challenges, and things not covered by our job descriptions. I spoke a little bit about comparison regarding the things outside our job description.
I said, “I wish someone said ‘don’t compare yourself.'” I remembered someone did, the instructor who taught me as people worried about getting jobs quickly compared to other people. In fact, this instructor bluntly told me to stop underestimating my skills. If ever a bell rung for a wake-up call, it came in the form of a Newfoundland transplant. Her influence continues to guide me even after she left teaching for a position in Health Science Library field. It took me a while to tie the two things together. What did I mean by that statement? I remembered her words and then remembered for as long as I remembered, I walked around feeling I didn’t measure up to something. It’s a combination of upbringing, bullying, and getting left back in first grade for not meeting some standard in English language proficiency. (English is not my mother tongue. I spoke Portuguese for the first five-six years of my life.)
Don’t compare yourself means if someone lands a job before you do, gets a steady pay cheque before you do, or seems to land on their feet beating yourself up will waste more time and steal your energy best towards something else. I should know as someone doing both at one point or another in my life. It’s keeping your chin up if the job you really, really, wanted goes to someone else. It’s revising your resume to get past software used by Human Resources departments. It’s living the words of the Serenity Prayer and figuring out what are those things you can change and those you can’t. And every journey will look different.
Talk 2, this time in the first years’ class last, involved a twenty-minute talk about creative writing for their communications class. The instructor considered me a published author. That is somewhat true, but I also mentioned someone local who has published through a publishing house and about this blog. My purpose was to show the process behind creative writing that applies to all sorts of writing. My emails do have a voice, and it’s mine. How I word things depend on who’s my audience. I have first drafts littered in my notebooks, my blog, and sometimes I will write things down and set it aside. If I rush a piece, work or creative, it will read clunky and unfocused. The finished book in someone’s hands from Stephen King to Jennifer Weiner to Chadwick Ginther evolved with every revision.
In my folders, I either went back to a draft or trashed it altogether if nothing feels salvageable. If I choose the former, it means writing paragraphs, erasing sections, and wonder if this has cohesion. Essayists often point to revisions as the only way to truly get to the heart of a topic. Most of the time it’s a germ, a term I like to use instead of ‘I have a vague idea and will write my way to finding out.’ Doesn’t sound glamorous, uh?
During this same second talk, I spoke about Sloan Kettering syndrome. Never hear of it? It’s a renowned cancer centre in the US. My brain confused it with the Dunning–Kruger effect or what Donald Trump has throughout this entire election. What is it? One half of Dunning-Kruger, David Dunning, puts it this way in an article for The Pacific Standard:
In 1999, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, my then graduate student Justin Kruger and I published a paper that documented how, in many areas of life, incompetent people do not recognize — scratch that, cannot recognize — just how incompetent they are, a phenomenon that has come to be known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.
The good news is I will never overblow my own writing abilities. The bad news is I do it too much, and people usually ignore those who undervalue their skills. If it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t it’s better just do it. If I fall flat on my face, I am learning the lessons as I get back up. Now that’s something I wish I said.