My Weakness

What’s your greatest weakness? 

It’s a classic interview question, but difficult to answer. Should I be honest and say I’m a neat freak and that some days you’ll find me filling the position of the custodian? Do I tell them that I take my colleague’s poor performance as a personal affront to my own work ethic? 

Ego aside, my greatest weakness is that I wear my emotions on my sleeve, and sometimes my emotions aren’t very welcoming. 

Recently a customer at the public computer terminal snapped at me. She needed help on the computer. My gut reaction was to say, “Uh uh,” but I talked myself down as I made my way to her and I said with kindness, “We typically don’t care for being snapped at,” to which she sincerely apologized and we moved on to her technology needs. I wasn’t in a particularly great mood thanks to four straight sleepless night (thanks, Child), and I spent nearly all day working on my calm breathing. 
But I am certainly at my worst when I see teenagers – or any human, really – being stereotyped, judged, or hissed at for no other reason than merely existing. 

In 2018 I was part of a panel of speakers at a local library’s staff development day. I spoke alongside adults who serve teens in community spaces, libraries, and after-school programs. I mostly remember the question; something along the lines of “but what do I do when my manager refuses to support teen services?” 

I was already a little amped. I’d more than sufficiently caffeinated myself that morning, the stage was hot, I could see my own face on the TV monitors, and I was talking about my favorite thing: teens in libraries. 
So the question turned me red hot. It was as if I was speaking to the errant manager him/herself. I said that teenagers are the most criticized and ostracized demographic in libraries, nay, public spaces. They are followed by store clerks and librarians who are certain they’ve already done something wrong. I ranted about the grocery store one county over that has a sign that reads “No more than two unaccompanied minors can shop together at one time,” thereby telling youth they aren’t allowed to buy snacks with their friends, or dinner with their siblings. 

I told the librarian who asked the question, “Your manager is blatantly refusing to serve an entire demographic of their community and they don’t deserve to be a manager or a librarian.” 

I believe there was clapping. I know there were raised eyebrows. My emotions were right there on my sleeve. I should have taken deep breaths before replying to the question. I should have considered the stress put on the library manager to run an entire branch, an entire staff, to fulfill the needs and wants of their community. But I didn’t. Why? Because I’m not “A Manager’s Advocate”. I am “A Teen Advocate”. There are plenty of books written for managers on the myriad topics they’ll encounter in a given work week. But there are few books written in defense of our youth. So until more books are written and teenagers are universally accepted in society, I’ll keep answering and advocating from the heart on my sleeve.


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