here in the real world

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky?
Didn’t have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standin’ by.
But “happily ever after” fails,
And we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales.
The lawyers dwell on small details
Since daddy had to fly
[Don Henley, The End of the Innocence]

Don Henley seems pretty wise on a day in which I spent a lot of time dealing with a complicated issue of policy versus idealism, expectations versus reality, and authority versus interest. My fairy tale ideals of how libraries and colleges Ought To Be are taking a beating lately, through no fault of anything but the fact that fairy tales are poison. Reality is a whole lot messier, and has more lawyers (and faculty members, and winters without end, and tasteless lunches) in it. I expect Cinderella and her prince didn’t live quite happily ever after (no matter what Drew Barrymore would have us believe), and that the prince who was once a frog sometimes ate flies for nostalgia’s sake (as Fables will tell us). What did I expect? Towers of books and gigantic budgets and cheerful users and endless argument-free collaborations? A giant beanstalk is equally likely.

Accepting the realities of reality, though, it’s still worth it. We do good work in service of young people seeking an education, and that work is worth it, no matter how many times my fairy tale dissolves in a spray of contention and sleet. I can pick myself back up, reorient myself, and keep moving forward. Because we do good work, here in the real world.

Listening to: Don Henley – The Last Worthless Evening


  1. I can hang on with the best of them. 🙂 But it’s not pessimism, really — just an acknowledgment that sometimes my work is hard work, and sometimes my dream visions aren’t going to be reality. That doesn’t devalue the work, or depress me, it’s just a good reminder to keep my feet on the ground and my eyes open. Heads in the clouds (or the sand) just mean you bump into stuff you should have seen.


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