It Gets Better (in the archives) (a reprise)

Maybe you’ve been wondering where I’ve been the past few months. I’ve been here.


Photo credits:

Panel 1: Nationaal Archief

Panel 2: U.S. National Archives

Panel 3: Anne G

Panel 4: Taber Andrew Bain

Panel 5: State Library of New South Wales

Panel 7: U.S. National Archives

(Click through for the transcription)

I will never forget the first time
you told me, “I’m disappointed in you.”
How I cried, and protested,
“But I worked so HARD!”
How you remained unmoved.

How neatly those words fit into
a growing narrative of shame and self-doubt
playing and replaying inside my head
I preserved all your criticisms this way
letting time and the weaknesses of memory
distort them almost beyond recognition

I hid among the boxes
threw myself into my work
even as I told myself
it wouldn’t matter in the end
The harder I worked,
The worse I felt
Nothing I did
would ever
be good enough

This is what I learned in the archives:
that no individual can understand you out of context
that a single item will define you if you let it
that sometimes, we need to be someplace else
to turn a jumble of experiences
into lessons to be learned from, some never repeated
that we cannot fully appreciate how important our lives are
without stepping away from our work

I wish I could tell you
That it gets better when you leave
But sometimes, the worst bullies
are the ones inside your own head

This is why we keep records:
To remind
To document
To prove
To show
To hold accountable
For others
For ourselves

There are days
when I don’t remember
What it feels like
To be happy
To be productive
To be competent
To be okay
I have only the records
to tell me

It gets better
(but I’m still waiting)

Tags: ,

5 Responses to “It Gets Better (in the archives) (a reprise)”

  1. Jesse the K Says:

    Thank you /weeps quietly.

  2. “It will show that we are human” | NixoNARA Says:

    […] Better (In the Archives.”  I don’t know all the details of the archival journey she is describing in the post she put up on Friday, but you can really feel the intensity of the reactions in the text […]

  3. janet carleton (@jcarletonoh) Says:

    Thank you.

  4. MM Says:

    I thought I was the only one who felt this way. Thank you!

  5. Together yet alone | NixoNARA Says:

    […] of trouble in archives land.   I could tell something was wrong.  Until December 30, 2011, when she wrote “I preserved all your criticisms this way letting time and the weaknesses of memory distort […]

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