A post from Hack Library School hit me today as I begin navigating the strange and awesome waters of library school. It was about first generation library students (#L1S). Like the author, not only do I have first-hand experience being the first librarian(-to-be) in my family, I was also the first to graduate from college.
At some point early on I got it into my head that the only way I was going to stand out from kids in school and not be a trouble maker like my bother and sisters was to be serious. About school. About chores. About life. I’ve been told this is a side-effect of middle-child syndrome. I had to be the best. The smartest. The golden child. Every hint of disappointment or frustration my parents had with my siblings was met with praise and compliment about how smart and focused I was. And I was addicted to compliments.
Learning is like an addiction for me. And college was my gateway into an entirely new way of thinking and seeing the world. From my small town conservative upbringing to my first days at a community college, I was challenged to take everything I thought I knew about the world and turn it on its head. I became a feminist. A radical. A wild, open, free being. After the first two years at school, I was virtually unrecognizable to my family or the kids back home who never thought much of the shy, quiet girl who spent her free time reading and listening to The Cure.
College was my awakening.
When I graduated I was immediately struck at how different I was from my siblings and my parents. I wouldn’t have to struggle to find work. I would always have options. Even in the height of the recession I was never without job offers. That’s when the guilt set it.
Professional guilt is heavy. Success made me feel like I had done something wrong by my siblings. Despite how proud they were of me it always felt like a sting when one of them would say “you were always the smart one.” Even now, years after finish my degree and at the start of the MLIS program, trying to convince myself that we were all given the same opportunities and options in life but chose different paths doesn’t help the fact that I will always be the “smart one.”
Graduate school, especially going for a library degree, makes no sense to my siblings. “Why would you need a master’s degree to work in a library? You’re smart enough already…”
I worked hard for my education. And I will continue to work hard in my library career. As the only college graduate, and now the first master’s student, I feel responsible for showing my nieces and nephews that there is nothing you can’t do if you try and work and fight. Despite what your siblings say. Despite what your parents did. Be proud of who you are. Be proud of where you’re from.