Today I walked around the city of Santa Monica and relished the feeling of being up and out of bed before 1 P.M. for the first time in a couple weeks. The official reason was to do that money-juggling aerobics thing that one does when there is just barely enough money to pay rent, but really I just wanted to be outside, to hopefully let the sun bleach away the vestiges of my mental and emotional burnout.
What that meant for my partner and I was a trip to the bank and to the Public Library. I had gone in expecting something sub-par: one of my friends had described the place as being “grungy” and “musty” – having been in my fair share of libraries that fell into those categories – I was emotionally prepared for what might be a disappointing experience.
I’m not sure why I expected that though. The closer one gets to Santa Monica Pier, the more aesthetically and productively satisfying the surrounding businesses seemed to be (thanks routine gentrification).
Santa Monica Public Library was no exception.
Well stocked with all manner of books – from obscure Hispano-Arabic poetry to books on the secret life of lab rats – there was clearly something on the bookshelves for everyone. While my partner looked at a book detailing simple recipes for the chronic backpacker, I was perusing the topographic maps and plotting the first phase of my self-education process.
The free study rooms, the sunny balcony, the reserve-able multi-purpose rooms and open-to-the-public events – even the café that sits in the small courtyard in the center of the library, all offer the exact kind of atmosphere I find myself looking for in those times when my mind feels in shambles, and I am unable to concentrate on anything but the worsening political climate and the thrilling adventure that sudden, self-imposed unemployment threw me into.
Rooting my self-education in the literature – fiction and non-fiction alike – that is readily available to the local public, sounds like a plan to me. It became clear as I walked through the rather neutral-smelling halls of the library that to achieve my goal: to find a way to make education (real, versatile, connection- and experience-based education) accessible, needed to start here.
So I filled out the application for a library card, picked it up at the front desk (a process that took all of thirty seconds, I’m pretty sure), and walked out smiling like I had just received a Christmas present. Memories of checking out books to alleviate my depression years before spilled into my brain and I felt excitement, for the first time since I made the decision to drop from my doctoral program, to feel the end of this current bout of depression coming.
Oh, the wonders that opening new doors can bring. 🙂