Losing Myself

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

When I tell people I work at the library, they often respond with open jaws and comments ranging from, “Oh my gosh—dream job!” to, “That must be boring, huh?” While the tasks are routine, each shift jostles my curiosity awake.

To be clear, I am not a librarian; I’ve never lowered my glasses and glared at someone, croaking, “Use an inside voice!” My job is to dump returned books onto a cart, organize them alphabetically, and restore them to their appropriate spots in the library. It’s a relatively mindless job; keeping the cart’s squeakiness to a minimum is the most serious challenge I’ve faced thus far. But mindlessness is useful: it provokes boredom, and from boredom comes thinking. I think about the productive things I could be doing if I weren’t pushing this cart. I think about the future and current events. I think about what each page contains. Most of them mean nothing to me—cookbooks, SAT study guides, and James Patterson’s endless array of novels. But every once in awhile I stumble upon something that intrigues me.And so it went last night. As I sifted through adult fiction, I noticed that the spine of one book felt fresh compared to the others, without crease, indicating no previous use. I grabbed it from the cart and flipped through its new, sticky pages. The cover, green with the image of one open eye and a red honeycomb, revealed the title: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.

Growing up, adults incessantly told me not to judge a book by its cover. But this one charmed me. I set it aside, shelved the remaining books, and retreated to the corner of the library to begin reading. Upon opening it, my mindset switched from robotic shelver to focused reader. I was instantly engrossed by the peculiarity of the story.

The Metamorphosis is bizarre. The first words jumped off the page and clung to me: “One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin.” My head became flooded with questions, forcing me to flip from page to page to page until my boss found me and pulled me back down to Earth. Strangely, reading the library’s material is “against the employee code of conduct.” She asked how long I thought I was gone, but I had no idea. “Twenty-five minutes,” she said. Despite my embarrassment, I looked on the bright side—instead of being consumed by Twitter in the break room, I was hunched over in the back of the building, reading a book that made me lose track of time.

Why an employee of a library can’t read books, I may never know. But I found that the most meaningful lessons may not be taught in classrooms, inspiring me to exploit my surroundings in order to learn effectively. Being a librarian’s assistant isn’t always engrossing. It has shown me, though, that knowledge is everywhere, even on a squeaky cart. College will provide substantial opportunities for intellectual growth—bigger libraries, after all—and as I push my cart toward it, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for books like Metamorphosis. They’re out there—I just have to be curious enough to find them.

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