Nomadic Librarian

By Kelsey Ann Grushecky


“‘So, have you decided what you’re going to do about your living situation?’

And my husband are confused. So we say, ‘What do you mean?’

She says, “Oh, you know, after they tear down your house.'”

Observatory Hill Story

After having a nomadic lifestyle crisscrossing the world for years, Kelsey Grushecky decides to become a librarian.
Why did Kelsey Grushecky do that? What prompted her to this 180 degree turn decision?

And enjoy listening to some of her experiences living in a different culture!

Hi, everyone. My name is Kelsey. I’m 32 years old soon to be 33. To just to give you a quick idea of what kind of person I am, I’m just going to toss out a few fun fun facts about me. First, I love cooking. I love food. I love sharing food. If we go out to a restaurant and you can’t decide what you want, I will definitely co-order and share our dishes. I love animals, but dogs are my favorite pets. I really like scary movies, but I’m also huge chickens so they keep me up at night. I love traveling. And lately, I’ve been realizing how much I love stories. So, here is my story.

I spent most of my adult life somewhat nomadishly. I was born right down the road, down 51 in a small borough. And when I was 18, I went to school in Nebraska, about 1000 miles away. After that, I turned into a semi global adventurer when I began teaching English. I’ve lived in Prague in the Czech Republic, Hai Phong, Vietnam, and a place called Gifu, Japan. So I’m going to tell you a little bit about my time in Gifu.

I spent three blissful years living in Gifu, Japan, I was there with my husband, it had always been a dream to live in Japan, and living there really was a dream. To describe how quaint, peaceful and beautiful my life in Gifu was, I will guide you through a typical Saturday, if the weather’s nice. We wake up sometime in the morning, around eight or nine o’clock, no alarm. So maybe last night we watched a movie, we leave the house and walk to a Convenient which is a Japanese convenience store and it’s so much better than any other convenience store I’ve ever been to — I’m sorry, it’s true. We’ll get some fun drinks, maybe a potato salad Sando. And then we will go for a hike up the mountain. Every week we hike up the mountain there’s something new and beautiful to see. Maybe the peonies are in blossom. Maybe crows are roosting in the tree tops, or maybe there’s just some big old booty beetle boys who are hustling up some Kumasi slopes. You never know what you’re going to see on the mountain. Then we walk to a cafe. Maybe it’s Miwakis. I have no idea what the actual cafe is called. And the owner, Miwaki, doesn’t really speak English, but she was our O bāchan. And that’s Japanese for grandma. And every lunch, she would make something different. It really was just like walking into your grandma’s house and saying, “Hey, what are you eating today, grandma?” and she says, “Sit down have a plate.” And me and my husband were sitting to discuss the movie we watched. In the evening, maybe we play cards in our old Japanese home courtyard. Maybe we play Dungeons and Dragons with our friends. Or maybe we just order pizza and play video games. But the work life was stressful, but outside of work our lives were at peace incarnate. And, on another point Japanese public transportation. Wow! What a dream!

So, anyways, it’s 2020 — about two years into Japan time. And it’s right before COVID times are really scaring people into staying home. It’s a Saturday night, the end of our workweek, we decided to go out for some nice Japanese barbecue. And we’re unwinding, when suddenly the manager of the school turns to my husband and I and asks, “So, have you decided what you’re going to do about your living situation?” And my husband are confused. So we say, “What do you mean?” She says, “Oh, you know, after they tear down your house.” Okay. Not exactly the ideal scenario to finding out you have to move but as someone who’s been traveling for most of their life, this is the kind of thing that gets taken in stride. Over the next few weeks, my husband and I figured out a place for us to move. Something to consider too is that the current house we were living in had like six bedrooms, a courtyard. It was old school Japanese cool. And the apartment that we would be moving into would be about the same size as our kitchen. But we were willing to make the downgrade because we love Gifu.

COVID strikes! Classes get cancelled and eventually we moved to digital. It’s summer. Our contracts are up in September, and we were planning for re-signing for our fourth year. Again, we loved it. *Sigh* Then the next bomb gets dropped at a meeting with the head teacher very casually, “So have you figured out what you’re going to do about transport?” What do you mean? “Yeah, they’re gonna get rid of the company car. It’s too costly.” Okay, again, not really the ideal way of receiving bad news, but we consider this and decide, well, maybe renting a car won’t be too bad. So now we’re downgrading our house, losing the car benefit, but still we’re trying to cling on to that Gifu style lifestyle we’ve come to love so much. And then the next bomb got dropped casually in an email from our head teacher. Again, we’re discussing re-signing, my husband and I are already to sign the contracts. And we get this email. And in the email, it says that “Oh, sorry, because of COVID, we can only offer you, one of you, a full time position, and the other will have to go part time.” Okay, and honestly, I can’t even get into how insulting this was due to how much blood sweat and tears we poured into that school. And yet, we still thought at this point, we could figure it out. Maybe we could find somewhere else to work.

It was during this time that our actual world and dream came to an end. This next memory stands so clearly in my head that I can pull it up with the same ease that when one may pull up the Chrome browser on their computer. I’m awakened in the middle of the night. Ross is on the phone. He is absolutely bewildered. Ross is my husband by the way, asking “What? What? What?!” And then desperately? “No, no, no, no, no, no, no!” Just yelling, crying, sobbing, crumpling. And, I kind of knew what was happening. ‘Cuz. well, Ross’s brother, my brother in law had been suffering for many many years from schizophrenia. And recently, he had also been suffering from depression. Basically, what we found on the phone call was that he had lost his fight with depression. So we don’t know. At this point, the house didn’t matter. The car didn’t matter. The jobs didn’t matter. We were coming home.

We touched down on American soil on October 1, 2020. We moved in with my mother. My husband’s family had moved south to Florida. So we couldn’t really spend the proper time decompressing with them. It was cold. It was depressing. It was bleak. I knew my time was up as an English teacher. We’re no longer going to be nomad. My husband knew it too; we just didn’t have it in us to continue that lifestyle, but what can we do in America? I have a degree in biological sciences. But I spent the greater part of the last decade teaching English in other countries. What could I do and to stay in one place to grow roots? How could I do that when it felt as though my leaves and branches were literally withering in the cold COVID winter of 2020. But I knew I was trying to figure out what I was going to do for the rest of my life. And at this point, I’m just sort of bumming around my mom’s house thinking about life sort of wallowing. I knew I wanted to keep working with kids, but I didn’t want to teach at least not in the current system that’s in place in America. It’s a rough one, if you don’t know about it. So it’s not, it wasn’t an attractive prospect for me.

Back to bumming around, one day I’m skimming through Reddit, which is sort of like a forum for people to talk and I see this “Ask Reddit” thread titled: “To those of you who are happy at your job, what do you do?” I click on it. And one of the top answers is from person who says they work in a library. They say they get to help people. They say that even when they’re busy and tired and exhausted that it’s a satisfying kind of work. Now, again, I’m at a crossroads in my life, and I knew that whatever I was going to do with my life, like the rest of my life, I needed to figure it out right now. I was 31. I spent my 20s living it up abroad, at times a literal fantasy of life. And now a fantasy was over and it was time to figure out the real world. I felt like I was fumbling in the dark. And then that comment on Reddit. It was like a light in the distance just a pinprick at first but impossible to miss in the inky blackness. As I thought more about working in a library and how I could fit it into the world, the light became bigger. I can start to make out shapes in my future. I can start to make out the shape of myself. I began applying to schools. I applied to all three elite accredited schools in PA; then I started getting accepted letters.

After that, the light started getting brighter and brighter. And then one day I get a call, I had been awarded a scholarship. Now that light is fully on glowing hearts. I could see my future. I could see myself but fine is one thing. What about the program itself? Could I really do it?

I’m now in my second semester; the light that I found is not just glowing now; it’s shining, and it’s burning, and it’s overflowing my world. It’s not just my own future I can see anymore. It’s other people and their futures. I’m so excited, I get to work in a job where I can shine my light on others and help them however I can. At my core, I’ve always wanted to help people. And now through my journey as a librarian, I can — in a way it really feels like everything’s come full circle. A story inspired me to start this journey. And now I’m on the path to becoming someone who collects stories that will hopefully inspire others. My life is completely different from what it was before. There were times in the winter of 2020 that it felt like I was stuck in the depth of night, completely frozen in place with no guiding light or saving rope. Literally just wallowing in my own depression, mourning the loss of my Gifu community, mourning the loss of my nomadic lifestyle, and mourning the loss of my brother in law, Nelson. Like I said, my life is completely different from what it was before. Is it better? In some ways, Yes! In other ways, no! But it’s a good life. Thank you so much.

Transcribed by

Story Credits

Story Coaches: Pamela Monk & Kay Bey
Videography &
Web Producer: Will Halim

Disclaimer: the narrative expressed in the article is solely those of the author(s).
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