Friday, July 28, 2006

Image of an Archivist

Portrait of an Archivist in Middle Adulthood

Next week I'll be at the big professional conference that archivists go to every year. I find myself agonizing over my wardrobe, something that would have been unimaginable to me just a few years ago. Before working at The Job That Ate My Life, I looked professional and never cared what other people thought of my dress. But TJTAML came with a supervisor who scrutinized my image, and I've been self-conscious ever since. It's been a year since I left, a year since I've been in academia, home of the happily rumpled and casually shod. But still I find myself worried over dress.

I have always envied the UGA archivists. A few of them have dyed hair, or unconventional glasses, or have worn chunky boots to meetings. They are comfortable with themselves, and with their professional positions. I used to be that way; I had navy blue hair when I got a perfect 5 rating for my job at Harvard. I want to get back to that place of comfort with myself. Not necessarily the hair (although I do miss having blue hair, it was a pain to keep up) but the level of self-comfort and self expression. I've told the husband I want to finally get the tattoo I've always wanted for my birthday. I've never been able to afford ink before, and now that I can indulge in the luxury of body modification, I plan to wear some art.

I look forward to going under the artist's needle with great glee. I've learned so much about myself these past few years, and I have become settled enough to commit to permanent ink.

Friends have helped me learn a lot lately. I had one of those big reveals in the past few weeks about friendships. Most of the best friendships I have are often distant, with visits at most once a month, and sometimes only once a year or so. In the past couple of years I was concerned about this pattern of visitation, but now I have found great joy in distance.

Who are my friends? What does that word mean to me, now that I'm getting on 30, and have a baby?

My friends are those with whom I get along because we give each other the space to grow and learn and change. When I was in college, friendship was all about getting as close as possible with someone. Now that I have grown into the next stage of my life, friendship is about accepting the time and space between people. It's about having lived enough to recognize the stages of life and the room we all need to move from one way of thinking and seeing without friction.

The people whose friendships I value most understand that right now, sometimes it's enough to just be around each other only every once in a while. Deep discussion is wonderful and needed from time to time, but right now we need to be off on our own learning. Discussion of things we learned/texts we enjoyed to follow.

That's what friends are; the people who will hold hands with you (but understand that this can be done at a distance) as everything, including yourselves, change. I used to think that my lack of constant socialization these past few years was lamentable; now I realize it's just a sign of maturity.

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