birthday cake with candles

5 Years of Surprises: Looking Back On My Thirties So Far

Well it’s here. My 35th birthday. *throws handful of confetti in the air*

I’m midway through my 30s and with each surpassing day, I’ll tip the balances to being slightly closer to 40 years old than 30.

Someone recently told me that I don’t seem like I am old enough to be 35. I made a joke that it was because I was so young at heart, but they were like, “yes, that’s exactly it!”

Anna and Elsa cardboard cutout

5 years ago, when I turned 30, I had a crazy-big Frozen-themed surprise birthday party. (It was awesome.) My parents even flew into town without telling me and showed up at the party.

My son Calvin was 6 months old at the time. I had quit my job of being a 6th grade reading teacher to stay home with him for one year. I knew I wouldn’t stay home forever, and had pretty much always intended to go back to work after taking a year off.

I figured I would get another teaching job, and life would continue on mostly the same as before (though now with the added challenge and privilege of being a mother.)

How wrong I was. So many unexpected and wonderful things have happened over the last 5 years that I could never have predicted. That surprise party was a foreshadowing of things to come.

For starters, I never got back into teaching. In fact, this very month, my teaching license actually expires (and I’m not renewing it!)

On a whim in 2017, I applied for a few library jobs because I thought that they sounded fun. I had always loved libraries and books and reading growing up, and I sometimes wondered if libraries would be a better fit for me than teaching. I also hated taking home so much work (aka. grading papers!) when I taught elementary and junior high kids. Teaching is not an easy profession!

I didn’t expect to get hired as a Research Librarian that year. I wasn’t qualified for the job and had zero experience working in libraries. I almost accepted another 6th grade teaching position instead, but that door got slammed in my face (and I’m so glad it did)!

I didn’t expect that I would go back to graduate school and get a Masters in Library Science.

graduation cap and gown (2019)

The surprises continued, not only in my professional life, but also my personal life:

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Sorry board game

“What’s the statute of limitations on apologies?”

Do you ever randomly find yourself wanting to apologize to people for things you did like 20 years ago?

HarryMetSally

There’s a scene from one of my favorite movies, When Harry Met Sally, where Harry asks the question, “what’s the statute of limitations on apologies?” He and Sally had met many years ago and had gotten off to a rocky start. Sally replies, “Ten years,” (the exact amount of time that had passed since they met). “I can just get it in under the wire,” says Harry, partly joking, but also partly serious.

Sometimes I’ll think back to elementary school or high school, and I’ll think about people I used to be friends with, but maybe I did something mean or stupid and we never talked again after that.

And now, looking back I’ll think, “why did I do that?” Sometimes it’s even more of an, “I can’t believe I did that!” kind of feeling.

I’ll admit, I’m occasionally tempted to find these people on social media and send them a message – but it just never seems right…

I recently rewatched The Office on Netflix for like the third time, and there’s an episode where Jim runs into a guy he hasn’t seen since the third grade. All during the episode Jim’s trying to avoid a conversation with this guy, and we eventually find out that Jim’s mom had told Jim he wasn’t allowed to be friends with this kid because he was in the “not-so-smart” kids’ reading group. Pam reassures Jim that he’s being ridiculous and that they are both grown-ups now so it doesn’t matter, and the scene eventually plays out where Jim is forced to confront his childhood friend.

Obviously, it doesn’t go well. Jim’s third grade friend is still mad that Jim considered him “too dumb” to be friends with. It’s overdone for dramatic effect, but I could totally see this happening in real life. There are certain people, who if I happened to run into them, their last memory of me might be from third grade. In their mind, I might still be that same person, instead of the person I am today – a person who has grown and matured to be more compassionate, empathetic, and socially aware – as probably almost all of us have since we were in third grade.

I tried to think of a person who, if I ran into them today, all I would remember when I saw them was something mean they did to me a long time ago. It wasn’t too hard to think of someone… there was this kid I knew when I was in 4th grade (he was in 5th), and we had an elective class together. His name was Patrick.

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Change: The Only Constant

Recently one of my textbook assignment readings was on the idea of change in the workplace, and how to manage people who were resistant to change. My textbook described a model of change using an analogy of a traffic light: 30% of people are ultra-resistant to change (red), about 50% of people are open to change but hesitant (yellow), and 20% of people are enthusiastic about change (green) (Porter-Reynolds, 2014, p. 13). (Thought I’d throw in a citation since I’m so used to doing it these days!)

I know myself well enough to know that no one would believe I fall in the “green light” category. I’d like to say I’m at least in the 50% “yellow light” category, but honestly I think I tend to fall into the “red light” category often. In a positive light (please enjoy the unintentional pun), “red” people are critical thinkers, looking for all potential pitfalls in new ideas before jumping on board. In a negative light, “red” people are stuck in their ways, never wanting to try anything new and always have discouraging things to say about new ideas.

While “green light” people probably seem to be the most preferable out of the three, the truth is we really need people of all three types. One type of person is not necessarily better than another, each person brings their own personality and experiences to the mix.

It does mean, however, that if I know I tend to be a “red light” person, that I am careful to not always discourage the “green lights” when they have new ideas. It means I must be sure to affirm others’ ideas even when I am critical of them.

(Side note: I think my husband might be a green light…)

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