You can learn everything you ever desired to know about the world without leaving your cozy armchair. I remembered this yesterday when I visited my local library. Home from school on spring break, I was downtown anyway and thought, “Why not stop in?” There’s something so peaceful about my library with its Corinthian columns, lush landscape paintings, quiet nook by a hundred-year-old fireplace, and ample natural sunlight.
There’s even a preserved section of the building with creaky wood floors atop which sit glass cases holding historical artifacts tracking the town’s baseball, textile, and political story. There are busts of important people who lived long ago and floor-to-ceiling glass doors leading to the offices of those who work for the library today.
While there, I strolled through the fiction and young adult fiction zones, through the biography, language, and religion sections. And at first I felt overwhelmed by all there was to see and explore. It would take years to soak up all the knowledge kept in this place. For one moment, I wished to skip ahead to retirement, so I could come and sit here whenever I wanted and read whatever struck my fancy.
I saw the College Board guide books to higher education and could not believe so much time had passed since I thumbed through those heavy tomes in my high school’s library. I recalled the feeling of rich anticipation of what was to come. I remember sitting behind my high school’s library desk one afternoon in 2007 – I was a library assistant – and a girl in my year coming in to ask me questions for the yearbook. She said, “What will you study in college?” I replied, “I think I’m most interested in history and international relations.” I wound up declaring English and gender studies as my fields of interest two years later.
They all made me hungry for more knowledge and more time. I want to learn Spanish fluently and sew and cook better. I’d love to write a book if only I had a viable idea. But time seems shorter and more precious with each passing month. I don’t know what happened to that young 17-year-old who thought maybe she’d become a diplomat while reading Jane Austen on the plane rides over to France. Or perhaps she would wind up a psychologist and counsel couples in a well-designed sitting room or work behind the scenes at a natural history museum. No, the appeal of literacy initiatives would come on too strong, and she would spend her days helping children read and building awareness for some nonprofit or other supporting literacy. Then more children would flock to the library in the years to come and share her love for the plastic-crinkly book wraps and exhilarating feeling of possibility and imagination.
I’m none of those things right now. I’m a student, studying strategic communication in the hopes of finding a career that lets me blend my creative and investigative loves for a cause worth believing in. But that library always centers me. It brings me home. It allows me to remember my earnest self who was intent on pursuing every possible dream she could and finding a deep sense of peace within herself. I hope to spend more time there this summer while I work at an internship nearer to home. Who knows what I have yet to discover about the world . . . and about myself.