I’ve been thinking on this theme of motivation for a while. I’ve been wanting to write on it and I thought of a story earlier this morning. It reminds me that I can be very motivated when I, amusingly enough, want to be and when I have that firm spark of will, I do well in fanning the flames.
Two summers ago I had the chance to go to Washington, DC for a job funded trip to take a class at the National Archives. I don’t think I actually blogged much about the trip (even though I did stumble upon the handwritten notes that I took during that time) because…somehow I wasn’t doing much blogging then. [I just opened up my flickr set of the trip if you’re curious. Few pictures are of me because the ones I did take where I wasn’t on a Segway left me looking like a wilted flower. I am very unused to this thing called humidity.]
The National Archives, the main building down the street from Congress, lends itself much natural grandeur, with tan marble floors and eight foot wooden doors. During my two weeks there, we used the back entrance, the researcher’s entrance, that had us taking our bags through metal detectors guarded by surly workers. We’d march past the office of the Archivist of the United States; those in the biz being properly awed.One of the highlights and honors expressed to us from day one was a special viewing of the rotunda where they kept the key founding documents of the United States – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Our class of about thirty was to be allowed in the hall by ourselves in a morning before they opened the rotunda to the public. Much oohhhing and awwwing came from all in attendance.
After the first couple of days, becoming jaded quicker than I usually do, I sadly noted how much more I could be learning if we were not trapped in a room being lectured to for eight hours. The best parts of the trip was when history became something active, something that had a hands-on component, and touring both conservation labs at the Library of Congress and Archives II, the newer complex out in College Park, was the most captivating to me. In hindsight, this was a concrete gain in learning about myself, but, I’d have to say that this didn’t get sorted out at the time and is now more of a common theme for me.
Digression aside, at the end of week one we were told that we weren’t able to have our tour because the contraption that held the documents needed to be fixed. [It’s a pretty nifty deal they have. For security and conservation purposes, they lower the documents into the floor every night.] With an air of smugness, the director told us that we could use our lunch times to go see the rotunda with everyone else. Great, and take the hour to stand in the line that snaked out of the building, I thought. I lamented this to my seatmate, a jovial and Southern-snark-equipped woman who was creating a library/archives for a small Christian sect in Oklahoma. She urged me to wait what would happen the next week.
Week two led me to being a bit of an archivist rebel, touching things I shouldn’t, wandering away from the group to get my free Library of Congress researcher card, and leading a small band of hungry mini-archivists into a gated cafeteria.The store had been open the previous week, but as we wandered down in week two, we found a gate lowered and the cashier sitting not ten feet away.
“Hello,” I called to her a few times as the rest of the group muttered to themselves. “Can we come in?”
She barely glanced in my direction, “Do you work here?”
I gave an exasperated sigh as this is the same cashier we’d all seen the previous week, our group routinely coming in much earlier and before hours the building was open to the public. I called out defiantly, “Not yet!”
Now, sometimes librarians get a bad rap about being meek critters, and sometimes the stereotype actually has real-life origins, and sometimes I fit in nicely, but, I don’t when I have a key card to try out. “You shouldn’t be doing that,” hissed a librarian from a Catholic library as I strode over the a nearby set of double doors with a key scanner. I threw a look at her and the rest of the bunch who looked at me blandly. I swiped. Green light and a click.
Did you know that there was a yoga room in the National Archives? No? You’re welcome. The cashier said nothing as I paid for my hot chocolate and the rest of group mulled around in the snacks and giggled behind me.
Friday of the last week, we were told that there was just no time in our schedule to go to the rotunda. I gave a small mental gasp and as the speaker started on…and that’s just it, I can’t even remember what most of these people spoke on because it was all so very blandly done.
The couple hours of presentation I remember: the records manager who glowed and screeched her principles, frightening the bun-wearing librarians in the first row, but infecting me strangely, with “YEEE, Records Management for the WIN”; the audiophile who came to talk about how audio could be cleaned and repaired and who spoke with such a calm manner that our class actually lived up and asked sincere questions; and, the worker who made snide remarks about himself, the system of archival work in DC, the system of the government in general and how he decided to make it clear that he understood that cubicle work had damaged him for social human consumption. But this was more droning and I leaned my head onto the table and waited.At a quarter to 10, when the first couple of groups are led into the rotunda, I got up from the room and walked out. My seatmate stage whispered to bring her some hot chocolate. I walked down the empty passages, past the exhibits, and into the door that connects into the rotunda from the back offices. I then slid into the second tour group about fifteen people down as they walked in. It must have been some sort of special group, but I had my own pass for class and didn’t stand out. I waited with the group of families and students for the first group to clear and they let about twenty of us in to the rotunda. I spent another fifteen minutes happily looking at the documents and then walked back exactly the way I came. As I plopped back down into my seat, my seatmate gave me a wide-eyed look.
“Where have you been?” she whispered.
“Looking at the Declaration of Independence.”
I shifted triumphantly in my seat and then continued on as she chuckled,”Oh, and I’m sorry, but I forgot about the hot chocolate.”