I have a confession. I have an overdue library book.
Had I known my library books were overdue, I would have attempted to renew them online, which was what I did yesterday. Key word: attempted. An online renewal required the barcode on the back of my library card (which required my card, which required me to remember exactly which jacket was I wearing the last time, which...) and for me to reset my password, which was a minor miracle of browser tab juggling. Eventually, I got in. However, the website never planned to let me renew that book. In fact, the Chapel Hill Public Library website told me that I "failed" to renew the book I had checked out, The Family Trade by Charles Stross. Now, we can talk about personal failures and my reading preferences another time, but "failed" felt harsh. I did not fail to renew the book. I was simply unable to renew the book, as there was a hold on said book.
I clearly got defensive. Words mean something and I just wanted to finish my book.
Then I took time to breathe and allowed myself perspective on what the hold could mean. In short, a hold on the book I was reading meant there was someone out there who shared my interest in the same British sci-fi author (gasp), enough to go through the process of placing a book on reserve (double gasp). When I pushed past the minor annoyance of needing to return a book I would not be able to finish and let this new perspective sink in, I actually started to feel a kinship with the other reader. I was excited to return the book so they wouldn't have to wait another day.
In a world where we all just want to belong so many of us look for community and meaning in public facing likes and hearts and retweets — my "failure" to renew has been refreshing. An anonymous hold made me feel more connected to my community. I challenge everyone to look for opportunity and perspective everyday, to practice gratitude and always choose positivity. Also, read more books and support your public library.
** Chapel Hill has an incredible public library with an unbelievable staff and amazing views. In fact, you could vote for it if you wanted to.