Igitur non dormiamus sicut ceteri.

How Borders Taught Me To Move Forward

I’ve been working since I was sixteen and thus I am no stranger to job hunting. This practice has made me usually optimistic when changing career paths and I always manage to find a way to make myself an invaluable employee, no matter how many of my resumes will be rejected. Now, as you’ve no doubt read before, my reader, I am in a precarious situation shared by millions where my past successes aren’t exactly indicative of future greatness. Looking back on my previous jobs, perhaps stability was not always my calling.

Harper Library, via Justin Kern / The Golden Sieve

When I first entered the working world it was largely in restaurants, working among the salt-of-the earth that is the back kitchen, an experience I wouldn’t trade. Of course, my affection for books eventually led me to believe that a bookstore was an ideal place for employment–proof that going to grad school wasn’t my first decision led by my heart. I was initially turned down over and over again but my persistence finally led me to landing a job in a Presbyterian-run Christian book shop and even doing data entry for a great intellectual bookstore. When the Presbyterian store went out of buisness, I found a job with Waldenbooks and finally Borders. As usual, I was always praised for my interaction with customers and my odd cherriness when working the graveyard stocking shift.

At Borders I was sometimes arriving at 4am to start shelving the books and the dreaded Hobby/Games section. That upbeat attitude I talked about was my reaction to having a job I really enjoyed and my general unfamiliarity with the early morning hours. However, it was really helping people with book recommendations that I loved in each book shop I worked in. Every book was a chance to change someone’s life or at least see to it that they had a great time with a book. My crowning achievement was helping a young girl who was looking into religion and being able to send her home with Augustine, Chesterton and Anthony Flew. It was also at these stores that more and more philosophy and religion titles claimed a spot on my bookshelf.

However, Borders soon let me go due to one of Oregon’s many economic lulls and I worked part time at Waldenbooks in conjunction with several other positions until I decided to go back to college. Now, with them out of business, I am trying to understand how a giant in the industry is gone and one of several buildings I worked in is soon to be empty. This marks several of my former employers who are no longer operating, three of them bookstores. Along with so much that is unknown in my life, employment shouldn’t be such a new one.

The economy is the prime example of instability, as is perception of a college education and even our political model. Today I am reading emails and facebook status updates of my friends who are enduring Hurricane Irene. As I found out in graduating from a liberal arts school, even a bastion of stability like a university or a liberal arts college can change locations or curriculum in what seems to be a split second. Perhaps there was never that much stability in my life anyways, but being able to only find temp jobs that pay worse than Borders sure makes the unknown that is the future that much scarier.

As I said in my last overly-personal post, the freedom that many gradate school quitters desire comes with that price of uncertainty. For the first time in over six years, I don’t know what I’m doing this Labour Day and I have nobody dictating what I will have to do for the next nine months. At once this is a feeling of liberation and oppression: I’m free to choose my road in life now, but I’m having to daily fight the paralysing fear that sometimes comes with that choice. I could find the job of my dreams and really start paying off my debts so I can truly explore the religious life or I could be working temp jobs for another few months. Heck, I could just randomly decide to move to Boston tomorrow and rejoin my friends and live in a city I have come to adore; but nothing is certain and that can make me stop altogether.

I should end this rambling missive, my reader, but there is one thing I have to say to all the googlers who find my website and might be deciding which path to choose. That one thing is that staying in what seems to be a stable life purely out of fear was a much worse feeling than any kind of anxiety I experience now. While in graduate school I was having to see counsellor once a week and I was, by the end of my time, on four different types of medicine that were aimed at alleviating my stressed-out mind. Where I am now is not where I want to be but I am finally able to be open to change or a new calling and I can read what I wish when I wish to. If your vocation is in the academy, then I commend you, but don’t stay or go to the ivory tower purely because of uncertainty. Being lost is about the best thing you can do with your twenties before the joyful responsibilities of family and real life come into play. Have a good time with it!

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2 responses

  1. Great post! Life seems to be continuously paradoxical, doesn’t it?

    15 September, 2011 at 11:15 am

    • M. Jordan Lichens

      Thanks, Stohn! And, yes, life does have a series of strange paradoxes and I’m quickly learning that it can be oh so random.

      15 September, 2011 at 7:18 pm

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