This Strange (But, Maybe Slightly Magical) Life
(I apologize in advance: this is a long one. It’s also a really great exercise for me, in articulating and refining where I see things going, and where I hope to see myself in 10 years. So, maybe this post is less for YOU and more for ME).
As you might already know, life is weird. Especially adulthood. It’s full of strange, confusing moments, where sometimes one feels like maybe they’ve figured it all out, and other moments where it all seems like pure chaos, a string of random occurrences and events, good and bad.
For me, my post-22-years-old-life as been full of passions, interests and frustrations in terms of my “career.” As a thinking, cognizant being, I have lots of interests. I love history, science, nature, research, writing (oh, and video games, and fantasy novels). At times, I’ve felt confused by the seemingly consistent career interests of my peers: how does anyone decide what they want to be at 22, at 18, and then just DO THAT? My life path has been slightly different, but I think no less thrilling and fulfilling. I’ve studied archaeology, I worked for people who did amazing work in climate science, I did two years of research in psychology/neuroscience at Columbia University when I was thinking about a Ph.D in the field, and most recently, I’ve spent the last 3 years in the archives/museum world, working in some of the most unique and priceless collections around.
While I spend a lot of time feeling frustrated, and generally bad about my inability to stick to “just one thing” (mostly because sticking to one thing generally seem to lead to better paychecks in the long run), I can also look back on the last 10 years and feel proud about all the stuff I’ve accomplished. I finished a masters degree in Library Information Science, I designed and programed a study looking at the neural basis of cognitive dissonance, and have contributed to the preservation of history in a real and meaningful way. My interests have evolved and changed as I’ve gotten older and as I’ve changed as an individual.
Here’s the thing though: despite the positive side of my intellectual wanderings, turning the ripe age of 32 next month has reminded me of my very-real need to settle on SOMETHING. I’m ready to put myself in the position where I can look back in 10 or 20 years, and feel like I’ve really dug into a subject and gained the wisdom of experience in my chosen profession that only comes through persistence.
To be honest, I thought archival and museum work would be this THING. However, as I’ve aged, I’ve also fortunately gained more insight into my own personality, interests, and needs. What I’ve discovered, UNfortunately, is that I struggle with full-time office work, where much of my day is spent entering data on computers, or sitting at the same table performing repetitive work. As I’ve said a few times on my blog, I’ve spent years assuming that if ONLY I could find the right field, I’d settle nicely into a full-time office routine. However, this hasn’t happened, and as a result, I’ve found myself doing some deep soul searching over the last few months. What do I want? What do I want my days to look like from here on out?
I want to be outside sometimes.
I want to be mentally stimulated. I want to write sometimes. I want varied work when possible. I’d like to work with history, and incorporate all those solid research skills I’ve acquired along the way.
While I think the job of a “writer” sounds wonderful, I’ve also determined that it might not be a good full time career option for me (don’t get me wrong, it seems to work perfect for some people, but I know myself). I’m 100% going to be writing, whether that be about my adventures, or about those deep, intellectual topics I love so well. But, maybe I want that writing to be for fun, and for me, and not be my job.
In light of all this, I’ve come to a shocking, and frankly exciting (yet frustrating) conclusion: I think I was right at the age of 13, when I absolutely decided that I WAS going to be an archaeologist. There was no hesitation about this, because archaeology included everything that freshmen high-schooler Lindsey loved in life: history, lots of outdoor time, science, walking around random places in the landscape and thinking about people who had once lived there. A little background information: Now a defunct tradition, my high-school offered a program every spring called “winterum,” where each student would sign up for a week of something, whether that be backpacking, a habit for humanity project, planting native plant species, fishing, or painting. While the program still exists, during the late 90’s, oversea trips were still one option: students went to Peru to spend time with indigenous groups, to visit ancient ruins in Greece, or in my case, visit a remote place in New Mexico called Chaco Canyon, requiring a very long drive over washboard dirt roads, through an amazing landscape of distant mesas, in a camper with a small group of other students. To make a long story short, I was profoundly affected by my trip to New Mexico, and from that moment started reading academic books about ancient southwestern archaeology, taught myself to read Egyptian hieroglyphics, and declared an anthropology major my freshmen year of college. In large part, I picked Colorado College for undergrad because of its proximity to southwestern archaeology. I spent four years going to Chaco Canyon for various classes, walking around random mesas in New Mexico and Colorado, mapping rock shelters, and generally being insanely excited about it.
So, what happened? Why am I not an archaeologist now? A lot of things happened at the end of college for me. I started to really feel the affects of my impending depression while my younger brother simultaneously entered what would later become an intense struggle through bipolar disorder. I dealt with that in unhealthy ways, and generally went through a period of feeling lost while riding out the waves of my moods. Coming out on the other side of all this, things were different. However, to this day, I still adore archaeology, and I’ve consistently found myself regretting this derailment, while also feeling like it was too late to go back.
Well, flash forward to 32, and I think I’m ready to try again. I still love the outdoors, I still love history, inquiry, primary source records, science AND varied work. And, finally, I REALLY loved working with archaeologists in the Chaco Archives last summer.
So, in light of this, I’m adding a few extra things to my summer (in addition to a random part-time job to get the bills paid AND hiking the JMT): field school (since I didn’t get around to doing one) and maybe a class or two focusing on the prehistory/history of the pacific northwest.
We’ll see where this goes, but right now, it feels pretty neat to (sort of) be that 13 year old girl again.