Taking the Year in a Life series in a slightly different direction, JoyEllen Freeman began sharing her experience in the Mosaic Program in October. You can read past posts here.
At this point in the year, we’re supposed to be thinking about cookie baking, last-minute holiday shopping and gift wrapping. However, as a graduate student, the only “wrapping” I’m thinking about is wrapping up the semester. It’s so hard to believe that I only have one more semester to go before I receive my master’s degree in archival studies from Clayton State University. The prospect of graduation is exciting because it signifies a new chapter in my life where I will establish my career as a professional archivist. After nearly four years of being a perpetual “intern” at various institutions, I’m ready to say goodbye to that title forever! On the other hand, the idea of graduation puts so many questions in my head about my future endeavors and the twists and turns my life journey will undoubtedly take. Will I be accepted into one of the PhD programs I applied to? Will I get a job offer instead? What if I get both…then what? Instead trying to guess, anticipate, or preempt these inevitable these life changes, at this point, I will simply make the choice to be mindful. There’s no better way to do that than to reflect on where I am right now, in this moment.
If we are going to be literal about this “right now, in this moment” concept, I am happy to say that I am typing this post while sitting in the staff lounge at the Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta University Center. Since August 2015, I’ve had the pleasure of interning at the Woodruff Library thanks to my 2015 – 2017 Association of Research Libraries/Society of American Archivists Mosaic Fellowship. I serve as an intern in the Woodruff Library’s Archives Research Center, and my main job is to process the Bernard W. Bell Collection. This internship has not only deepened my love for archives and special collections, but it has also changed the way I feel about myself as an emerging archivist. Each day I come to work, I learn something new about archives. For example, just a couple weeks ago I encountered onion skin paper and a mimeograph in my collection; I learned how to use an overhead scanner to create preservation copies of rare books; and I identified and properly restricted items containing FERPA violations—all in the span of one week. In addition, my internship has also shown me how much I’ve learned in graduate school. Whereas I used to be timid about sharing my “newbie” knowledge of archives with others in the field, I now find myself jumping into conversations about digital preservation and name dropping words like checksums, disk imaging, metadata, and digital repositories. When I catch these things coming out of my mouth, sometimes I have to ask, “Was that me? Did I just say that?” As an added benefit, I get to take this knowledge with me on the weekends and apply it at the Flat Rock Archives—the community archives where I volunteer. Each day I am gaining a new sense of confidence in my archival self, and the feeling of readiness I have for a career has never been higher.
Another part of being mindful is appreciating the uniqueness of the moment I’m in. For instance, my internship requires me to leave the house at 6 a.m. so I can make it to the train station by 6:30 a.m., scarf down breakfast in my car, catch the 7:10 a.m. train, arrive at another train station, and catch a bus to the library where I work. Mix that in with a 12:30/1:00 a.m. bedtime (#GradSchoolProblems), and I’d say got I’ve a very “unique” situation on my hands. After all, when else in my archival career am I going to experience such a crazy transportation schedule, engage in conversations with strangers on the train about my archival aspirations, and train myself to catch random bouts of REM sleep in between work and school? In the same way, when else in my archival career will I be a Mosaic Fellow, enjoy daily chats with my mentor during the workday, and have free reign to explore, learn, and engage in any and everything that interests me about archives? So, while my current situation may be a little out-of-the-ordinary, the uniqueness of it has tested me and taught me that if my dream is to become an archivist, I have to chase that dream and do whatever it takes to make it happen.
So, as I gift wrap this semester and tie up all the loose ends, I can say that in a matter of four months, I’ve developed academically, professionally, and personally in ways I never expected. Not only have I fostered new relationships with co-workers at my internship, other Mosaic Fellows, and brilliant archivists from all around the world, but I’ve also intensified my relationship with and passion for the archival profession. In a matter of four more months, my life will change dramatically. Until then, I am excited to experience life as it comes—including the upcoming ARL Leadership Symposium in January, another semester of my wonderful internship, and of course, the final semester of my master’s program.
Happy holidays, my friends! I’ll see you in 2016!