Two paths in a wood: caring too much or caring too little?

I started using Twitter in 2009.  In the years since then, I have built relationships with lots of people on that platform, many of them librarians. Back in the day, many of us were “new professionals” (within the first 5 years or so of our careers after library school).

Perhaps it’s partly a cohort effect, that many of us are reaching early middle age (sorry), or at least the achieving some of the main milestones of adulthood at around the same time, but there’s a growing feeling that spending too much time checking in on the state of the world is all getting a bit much.

Just this evening, a friend has written of how Twitter has been her main adult company during her maternity leave this year, but the variety & depth of the world’s problems echoing in her head has caused her great anxiety and suffering. She says “I’m not going to forget, or give up.”  But cutting down on the frequency of checking in, and more time spent doing other things, will hopefully help to restore some perspective (alongside action where chosen). Note: this post has been published with her consent.

As we reach this time of our lives, in these times, it seems that our convictions, vocations, and politics are being sharply challenged. Maybe part of it is realising that we (probably) can’t save the world through libraries and education, and then deciding which battles to keep fighting.

Think global, act local.

I think the important thing is choosing to do something positive, no matter how small, rather than deciding it’s all too difficult and giving up altogether.

It is difficult to do good without unintended negative consequences. I took part in a discussion last weekend about the annual Christmas shoebox appeal, which I feel uncomfortable about because its religious evangelical dimension is often not made known. But as my friend pointed out, it’s an act of giving that many people can do, and do so generously. The recent safety pin débâcle, which started out as a call to wear a safety pin to show solidarity with persons experiencing a range of exclusions was swiftly appropriated by some who wished harm to these people, or denounced by others as being a shallow, meaningless gesture.

It’s hard to know where to begin. But please don’t stop thinking about it, and do what you can.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost


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