I’m catching up on my blogs and was pointed to this leadership blog by one of my co-workers: Attempting Elegance. The writer is a funny, blunt, and thoughtful academic library director – someone I can appreciate certainly. Going through, I saw this blog written just after ALA in which Jenica describes her lack of interest in ALA and her poor feedback from LLAMA committee members. Since I just finished working all year with LLAMA, I’m going to leave that one alone and instead focus on what I found most interesting.
Jenica was blacklisted from speaking on any LLAMA panels because of her bluntess and language (i.e. don’t be an asshole and know what you suck at). In the comments section (always the most interesting part of any good article, blog, or post these days it seems), someone suggested, that for the sake of participation and ALA maybe she could cut back on the language. Ultimately, Jenica replied no way. That’s who she is and if they’d done more research, they wouldn’t have been shocked.
So this got me thinking about my professional self and my regular self. I try very hard to maintain a positive professional image and a positive online personal image. Unless you’re my personal friend, you can’t see very much on FB like pictures and status updates and such. I try to google myself every so often to see whats been posted. I try to eliminate anything questionable. Not that I do anything crazy in my personal life, but you never know. One major difference, though, between Lessa Librarian and Lessa Nani Pelayo-Lozada is my mouth.
As a children’s librarian, it probably isn’t a good idea for me to curse. Parents don’t usually appreciate dropping f-, s-, and whatever else bombs in front of their parroting children. So, I clean up my mouth. When I go to conferences, when I interview, when I talk to ANYONE who might potentially give me a job, I clean up my mouth. Whenever I meet someone for the first time, I clean up my mouth. I am never the first person to cuss, but once you let me know that its okay to cuss in front of you – holy crap, watch out. There is a Dashboard Confessional lyric that goes “She cusses like a sailor but she looks like a saint”. That’s me.
After knowing me for about a year (usually socially, I try to keep language out of professional stuff even if others are cussing), most people are shocked. You were so quiet. You sounded like such a good girl. I would have never guessed. Apparently, cussing means I go out and kick puppies or something. Not so. I (try to) use it only when in a good mood. Not when arguing. And just to color up an otherwise boring conversation. Once i dropped an f-bomb at the American Airlines counter, but if you had been there, you would’ve been surprised I only dropped one AND I apologized for it AND the woman was still alive when I left.
So, for the sake of not rambling, what does this mean for me professionally and personally? Do I sell myself out because I clean up my language? Do I sell myself out because maybe I’m not as assertive in my professional life as I am in my personal life? In my personal life I’ll take a lot less crap from people then in my professional life. I don’t think so. Straddling the line of professionalism comes in my facets. It comes in appearance, personality, communication skills, the list goes on. If I had my way, I would be wearing hooded sweatshirts and jeans to work everyday. Instead, I concede to wear my chucks until I am explicitly told not to. I think its the cost of doing business and, just like the one time I tried to cuss in front of my tutu I got yelled at, I would expect the same from anyone else who’s paying me money to represent them. My personality and point still shine through – whether I’m in an uncomfortable suit jacket or chucks. Whether I’m describing something as f-d up or very VERY disappointing, I’m still me, and I’m doing what I love best – working with children and adults who love them.
Let me say though that I agree with Jenica – anyone who reads her blog knows what she sounds like, just like anyone who reads my blog knows what I sound like professionally – sometimes I’ll drop a curse word here or there for impact, but, before I type it, I carefully weigh it out. Is this okay for a children’s librarian to say? If someone is going to hire me, will this one word reflect negatively upon me? Maybe because I am not in a position of power I make more concessions. Jenica is a director and has already proven herself professional and a value. I am still in the process of doing that.
Although, I somehow doubt that in 20 years, when I’m managing someone’s Youth Services Department that I will be dropping any colorful language at work still. And somehow, I’m okay with that.
I’m pretty sure I’ll still be wearing chucks though. Maybe by then they’ll be making orthopedic chucks.