Story #2
How I got into the library
For the first time
The big printer's press as I will learn sometime later - the Hamilton, stands on the right, and on the left - there is a brown globe and tassels, and other mysterious things: yellow sheets of paper, squats with ploughy liquids, but let's look straight ahead (not around) — I have an interview at the city library.
I've been living in Philadelphia for months already and every day I check who employers are looking for — no, not me. My only recommendation in English is from the gallery where I interned and I do not have other experience here in the US. So people are looking for data entry specialists, hey, I remember how I typed someone research paper in the eighth grade. There is market for barista as well, but they wouldn't hire me - I can only make a Turkish coffee.

Meanwhile, the city and career opportunities are striking: a bunch of museums, art venues, people doing their business. On Fridays, you can have a coffee with a museum keeper or a curator; in South Philadelphia, there's an art school built in what used to be temple, and then there is Magic Gardens, something like an art commune.

Everyone is transforming the city with their work.

Oh, and the websites? All these online collections where you can see fragments of paints or ink Franklin's handwriting - I stroll through them regularly and use at my own leisure. Someone's making them.
People do things for a living that I've only read about.
So how am I supposed to apply my law school, experience with archives and hard earned ability to work with basically any type of the camera? Where my attention to details and what other may call - being a slow poke - can be used?

Sometimes our desires seem strange or we start to follow them at a very unexpected moment. That's what happened to me. At the moment when I was desperately doubting myself, I wanted to get back to the sense of demand, of being needed, and to get the job that provokes sparkles in my eyes, not tears.

The problem is, whatever your achievements are or used to be, when you start over, at first, it feels like you have nothing behind. In a way becoming an expat is like putting yourself under into the crash and exploring everything left under the magnifying glass.

It's like I'm signing my personal insolvency and throwing my previous life into the trash.

Look, there's a basket with a photographer diplomas and a box with grandfather's lenses, purchased years ago in Estonia. There is sharp (I'd like to think that way) mind, balanced with the slow-motion of hands – even peeling of a potato takes a while. Yeah, I'm a recruiter's dream!

So I applied to the some sort of administrative position in library out of despair. I barely remember what was it called.

My mind went "Irina, you have to grab every opportunity! No time for picking" but the possibility of administrative responsibilities was a source of fear.

I wanted something different, something meaningful, but there are no offers or calls.

(And why would they call?)

The woman who interviews (hi, Tara) is asking me all sorts of things, how long is commute and how are my the people skills. While she talks her injured leg is resting on the support.

I look at her cast and I wonder if I can get on my feet here. Ever.

- What do you like to do? What are you reading?

- I love photography, I studied itat Kyiv. I like deciphering old digitized papers. I save a ton on books with public domain and libraries. That really makes me exciting. You know, like the digital collections of the New York library?

She looked at me, I swear I saw a sparkle.

- I'd say I know. Let me show you something.

She puts her leg on a three-wheeled bicycle (still can't get used to all the cool things here) and rolls along the hallway, I'm running after her. One door, another door, and we're in the lab for digitization. There are gray walls in here, no windows, I blink to make my eyes adjusted to the lighting and there I see it - a big camera on the rake.

On the command of the operator, the camera attached to the metal counter, goes up and down, depending on the proper focus distance. The lens manufactured in German is looking at the spread of a thick book with yellowish pages. And with this lens, you can create images where you can see the dust, the particles.

I blinked again.

I swallowed.

I opened my mouth and said:

- Do you happen to have any positions in here?

There, right after words flew out of my mouth I learned that I am not constantly slow (I put elevator pitch in forty seconds). I also realize that I may have mastered in the art of of persuasion. Or maybe I posses the charm of Soviet actress named Faina Ranevska, go ahead and read about her.
During all years that I am here, in the US, nothing more important has ever happened to me.
I didn't really ask the future boss wether I will fit. I rather asked myself if I could get out of the big world and deal with the big challenge. Thousands of miles away from the cityI grew up in, I suddenly found the right path to my inner self, a road to homecoming.

So if you ask what what I've done here or what I've learned I won't talk about my assignments at Ivy League, nor about the case of blowing dust off of Edgar Poe daguerreotype. I will skip the story on Eakins painting as well.


I'll tell you about this - when you can't rely on anyone, lean on yourself.