Lessons in learning your limits

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Elizabeth Newman
Elizabeth Newman

Take two friends and toss them at the American Library Association conference and you have a lot of running up to each other speaking in all exclamation points, as well as a solid lesson in how a smart, experienced reader can go awry.

I've written before about how great the ALA conference is for not only librarians, but also for writers and book lovers. This year was the first time I went for two solid days, shortly after I landed from the AADNS conference Friday. Even better is that this year I was going with Michelle, in town for the conference, with whom I've been friends with for 25 years.

The best way to describe the difference between us pertains to the ALA conference app, which Michelle had downloaded and used for research. Weeks beforehand, she would send me text messages such as “Guess who is signing at noon Saturday?!” Once we arrived at 8:30 a.m. Saturday after a fortifying, protein-laden breakfast, Michelle had carefully planned out how and where she wanted to go.

I, on the other hand, spent the next two days running around flailing as I grabbed every single book that I thought looked interesting. I'd head to the restrooms and become distracted by getting to meet Muzzy. (He's the one in green)

Guess which one of us is an Order Muppet and which one a Chaos Muppet? Guess which one has a carefully curated pile of books for her elementary students and who now has 30+ books on her nightstand that she is DYING to read? Guess which one of us still has sore arms?

(To be fair, the last point isn't really fair because Michelle lives in Denver, CO, a place where I'm pretty confident you have to have the level of fitness of a Ninja Warrior and the zen of a Buddhist monk. She also would like it noted that she is a far more fun person than is being portrayed here, which is 100% accurate.)

What we learned from this weekend is not, as the kids say, that I have No Chill. It's that I am so genuinely enthusiastic about so much, I end up saying yes to everything. This is how a person explores new and fun opportunities. And it's also how she ends up with four cats.

It's not that I don't plan — I am zealous about my calendar, and it makes me crazy when people are loosey-goosey around plans. But there's a difference between being organized and learning to say “no.” In long-term care, I've seen administrators shy from taking on professionally enriching experiences because they're scared, or believe they will never find the time. But I've also seen those who burn out because they are not only taking on those new experiences, but doing other people's jobs for them. Or they become so immersed in the nitty-gritty, answering a flood of email, that they fail to allocate time for strategy and reflection.

Being in this field will always require a mythical balance, not just in terms of working and one's professional life, but between the minutiae and the bigger picture. Taking on too much is how you make mistakes, become sleep deprived and constantly look at your “to-do” list with a sigh.

To a certain extent, we are who we are. I will always spend weekends writing, reading and overcommiting. But I can say that I'm taking next Monday off so Michelle and I can have a Day of Fun. Relaxing — productive — fun.

Follow Elizabeth Newman @TigerELN. Email her at elizabeth.newman@mcknights.com.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.