Escape to the library

About 40 cm of snow fell on Montreal in the past 48 hours. I didn’t leave the house at all yesterday – I’d planned to, for personal satisfaction and a sense of productivity – but when I saw how hard the wind was blowing and how ceaseless the snowstorm was – I gave up.

Today, though, I had to get out.

The first step was to shovel a path to walk through, since my front walk was completely covered to knee height in snow. I did my best to clear a narrow space and then gave up. My neck was starting to hurt.

I took myself down to a local library which has been something of a haven for me these past few weeks. I used to study a lot at cafes, but now that I don’t have a steady income I don’t feel comfortable spending $6-10 for the privilege of renting a space at Starbucks for a couple hours. Plus, I have finally accepted the fact that cafes are not the most comfortable and peaceful work environments for me. There is always someone making too much noise, regardless of my headphones. So, the library it is.

I’ve been working my way through the library’s sections on language. I have my eye on a few books on Yiddish and Canadian-isms, but I haven’t had the patience to read through what is essentially, though fun, a dictionary. My companion of choice over the past two visits has been The World’s Writing Systems, a compilation of works edited by Peter T. Daniels and William Bright. I looked through the short summaries describing each contributing writer for inspiration. Who among these academics has studied something related to what I have studied? Who might have written other works I’d be interested in? Whose career path might I look to as inspiration?

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The two entries I have read so far are the ones on Hebrew and Korean. Hebrew was the third language I learned, in regular classes throughout all thirteen years of my primary and secondary education, and I hope to revive that knowledge which have been more or less languishing in some storage compartment of my mind in the almost-decade since my last Hebrew class of high school. (I’ve taken the Hebrew Language container out and blown off the dust occasionally, for the occasional academic work such as a paper on spirantization in Hebrew I wrote for a morphology class while studying abroad in South Korea, and to read songs and prayers on Jewish holidays.)

I’ve been learning Korean, mainly through self-study, since 2013 when I first visited South Korea. I’ve been keeping up with it ever since, at varying degrees of focus and intensity, including the one semester of formal Korean language classes I took while studying at Sogang University in 2015. These days I attend the occasional language exchange meetup downtown, hosted by Mundo Lingo, hoping to practice the conversation/aural comprehension skills that I am unable to work on through self-study. Most of my attention has been to grammar and vocabulary. I also use a language exchange app called HelloTalk, and I’ve made a few friends there – I even met one of these friends while I was in Seoul in December!

Anyway, back to the library. I’m trying to find inspiration here. At the very least, I can read books and develop my knowledge and write about my thoughts. I still have no idea what to do with myself post-graduation. I did have a plan, which I intend to elaborate on in another post, but it was very painfully derailed a couple months ago and I am still trying to spring back from the financial and emotional consequences of that.

I went to an alumni event at my university last week. I attended panels on career development, job interviews, and grad school applications. Out of all the skills and tips that were discussed, the importance of networking was emphasized throughout both days of the event. Oh boy. And so, I logged into my LinkedIn profile which I’d done little to develop since first setting it up some time last year, and slowly began adding information to it.

It’s a strange thing, to simultaneously have qualifications as a university graduate and have no professional experience to speak of in any field except the part time cafe job I held down while I was a student. I became very good at being a student. And suddenly, upon graduation, that identity was taken from me and replaced with the shiny exciting new title of “university graduate.” I’d finally reached the goal of all students, barring those who move on to a graduate program (which I do intend to do, someday). So, now what?

Suddenly I no longer have a framework for progress. In school, life was divided up into semesters, classes, assignments. My work fit into clear linear progressions which all, inevitably, culminated in graduation.

I now have those qualifications that I worked for years to attain. But what, I keep wondering, am I supposed to do with them?  I spent years studying as a sociology and linguistics student because I loved learning about those topics. What work is there for me to do that I will love as much as I loved that?

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