When you turn your town’s only library into a smoldering pile of ash, it’s easy to beat yourself up. You have high standards for yourself, and in this case, you just didn’t quite meet them. Especially if that library was the epicenter of learning in your rural, landlocked, poverty-stricken small town, it may take you hours, days, even weeks to move past the shame.
If this is sounding at all familiar, then you must be trapped in the crippling embarrassment that accompanies destroying your town’s beloved library. Nobody’s perfect! Mistakes are a simple fact of life, and stewing in guilt over burning down the only cultural hub in your small town is not only unproductive, but it can also be dangerous to your psyche. Before you exhaust yourself in futile attempts to make amends with all 436 of your fellow townspeople, instead try making amends with the one person who matters most: yourself. Here’s how to begin that process:
Don’t let this mistake define you.
The fact that you brought a hotplate to your town’s one and only library does not define you. The fact that you left it plugged in overnight in the YA section is not all there is to who you are. You are not simply a person who burned down a library (even though you are the person who burned down your town’s library). You are so much more, and by wearing your mistake as a badge of disgrace, you neglect all of the other beautiful qualities that make up your person.
Treat yourself like a friend.
The truth is we tend to be way harder on ourselves than we are on the people we love most. As you process your feelings, try treating yourself the way you would a dear friend. For example, imagine that one of your closest friends approached you and said, “Girl, yikes, I feel awful. I just burned down our only local library with my hotplate.” How would you respond? Would you cast judgment on her? Would you guilt her by saying, “What were you thinking?! That was our town’s only window into the outside world. Our one beacon of culture, and you carelessly burned it to the ground!” Certainly not. You probably wouldn’t even ask any follow up questions at all. Instead, you’d look her in the eyes, and with a hint of laughter, you’d reach your arm around her shoulder and say, “Hey, that’s okay. Who goes to libraries anymore, anyway?”
But seriously, who goes to libraries anymore? I mean, what is this, 1998? Your town may be small, but certainly everyone has access to Google. Well, actually maybe not since you destroyed the majority of the town’s recently donated computers. But hey, doesn’t Jerry, the hardware store owner, at least have an iPhone 3S? Pretty sure he does. So that being said, there are other, more modern means of obtaining the same kind of information that one might find in a library. Plus, now Jerry might just find himself a wife! Good for you, Jerry!
Realize the inevitability of the situation.
If you didn’t do it, someone else would have. Think about it: a library is just one giant room filled with shelves upon shelves of paper. It’s basically a massive tinderbox filled with information. Honestly, it’s surprising that your town’s library lasted as long as it did—almost 12 years, to be exact. You remember this because there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the day it opened and the mayor called it “the proudest day of his career.” But regardless, if it hadn’t been you, it would have been somebody else.
So let go of that guilt, friend. Also, you should probably move.