In my more dramatic moments, I tell people that the reason I quit the job in the prison was because I felt like the evil was seeping into me.
I had that idea – that the “evil was seeping in” -- a few different times while I worked there – and it sort of became an excuse in my mind for some of the ways I found to cope with the stress. Anyone who has worked in that sort of environment – high stress and dangerous – whether it is a prison, or the military, or juvenile detention, or law enforcement – there comes a point where you think the only people who understand are the people you work with. And the only way to cope with too much stress, too much danger, is to act too much in other ways – too much drinking, too much exercise (never my problem) too much anger, too much sleep.
I mentioned to one of my library officers about my fear, but she was offended by the idea. “If you feel this way after 3 years, what does that mean for me? I’ve been here 10.” And there were others who had been there for 20 or 30 years, had spent the majority of their lives in prison, on purpose, doing a job that no one appreciates and no one understands.
But, unlike me, they had lives outside of work, spouses and interests unrelated. In social situations, they were used to lying about their jobs -- claiming to be an electrician, or the accurate but vague “civil servant.” I could say, “I’m a librarian.” But I had the feeling that there was an unspoken just in there – I’m JUST a librarian. So, I always followed it with the qualifier, “at the prison” because it was novel, because it was interesting, and because I felt like I was owed some sort of recognition for working in such a miserable environment.
But what I didn’t mention was that it was my dream job. That because my supervisors didn’t have the same clearances that I did, they rarely came into the prison. That I was on my own, in charge by myself, isolated yes, but this was MY LIBRARY and to this day, the idea that I have been replaced grates on me. By the end, I was so ready to leave, so exhausted and used up and sick of it all. But even now, nearly 10 months later, I still have dreams about MY LIBRARY -- the way I did when I began working there.
A couple times in the past few weeks I have a thought – it’s the end of the financial year, I hope they remember to… don’t forget the… what are the stats like? Has attendence increased or decreased? Is it inappropriate to ask that them to send me a copy of the end of year report? I’m unemployed now, but despite the "evil," I did some good there – made quantifiable, justifiable progress. I want to know if it held up. I want to know how it’s going. And sometimes, even though I wake up in Arizona, with Milo curled into my back, I still have a moment while still half asleep and I’m planning the day – planning what needs to be done in MY LIBRARY .
*This post was originally published at The Daily Them on March 28, 2011