#140 Post College Life

[I’m working on a side project and was looking through my old college notes for some information I thought I had. While doing that I came across the following little gem. My university had a final course for graduating seniors called “Senior Seminar”. It was a great course that was designed to put your life in perspective so you can evaluate where you have been and what you want to do. The following is from an exercise where we had to evaluate where we came from and what we wanted out of life after college. I didn’t quite hit the mark but I feel like I’m still somewhat on course. This was not edited and is presented in it’s original form. Enjoy.]

What do I want to do in my post-college life?  That is a good question.  I’ve already lived through my twenties and had the starts of a few good careers.  I’ve been in the Navy, and I’ve been an aircraft electronics technician.  I’ve been a quality assurance inspector and a supervisor at an international corporation.  Throughout all those jobs I always felt that there was something missing.  Passion.

I really enjoyed being in the Navy.  When I was in high school I never even applied to any colleges.  I was signed up for the Navy before my senior year even started.  At the time, my passion was going into the Navy.  It’s all I thought about and it’s all I wanted to do.  From day one I had planned on making a career out of the military.  I’m not sure why I felt this way.  It might be in part because I knew that I could never afford college.  Not that I would have known what to do in college had I gone.  My parents were broke all the time and no one ever told me about government student loans.  Gotta love those guidance counselors.

When I got to my squadron in the Navy I had responsibilities and shortly after arriving I had people under me.  I was hooked.  I didn’t really like working on planes but I loved being in charge.  I enjoyed that fact that everything that happened on that shift was my responsibility.  I loved having a task to do, delegating the people to do it, and coordinating the efforts to get the task done efficiently and timely.  I also really liked the chain of command in the Navy.  The only time I didn’t like it is when someone over me was doing a bad job or making bad decisions.  I had a hard time taking orders from people that didn’t know what they were doing or that I didn’t respect.  In the end, that’s ultimately why I got out.  I knew that it would never get better in that respect.  That’s when I went to flight school.

In flight school I discovered that I really liked to fly.  I also discovered that I didn’t like to fly on a rigid time schedule.  I didn’t figure that out until I moved to North Dakota and transferred to UND.  When I got to UND the flying atmosphere was so rigid and sterile that it put me off flying completely.  I still enjoy flying but I could never see myself flying for a commercial airline or even for a corporation.  It would ruin flying for me.  I wouldn’t mind flying tourists for sightseeing or flying smaller planes in Africa on safaris and other trips like that.

Luckily, I was taking anthropology classes at UND when my taste for flying started to go sour.  I have always had at least a casual interest in anthropology, especially human origins.  I have to admit that I’ve always been somewhat of a cultural anthropologist too in that I enjoy observing people and trying to figure out what makes them tick.  I do that to people I know too.  When I’m having a conversation and I hear something that doesn’t sound right, I’ll press them to cite their sources for the information and back-up everything that they have to say until they are blue in the face and get mad at me.  I’ve always enjoyed going to coffee shops, or even just to work, and sitting back and observing people.  Seeing how they handle the situation they are in or watching the little things they do with their hands or the way they shuffle their feet when they are uncomfortable or when they are lying are all things that I’ve done for as long as I can remember.

It’s this varied job history and my personal interests that lead me to believe that my passion is truly anthropology and scientific debate.  Every time I’m with people that enjoy talking about topics in anthropology, I just let the time slip away.  I don’t even notice it.  I love reading about history and texts on early human origins.  I can’t see myself doing anything else for the rest of my life.  I might not end up in a classroom but I’ll certainly be involved somehow in the search for our ancestors.

I’ve only recently made these decisions in my life.  Prior to the start of last semester I didn’t really know what I was going to do.  I had just started a job with FedEx and I was actually thinking that a career with them might not be so bad.  I’m not sure what triggered the change but something happened shortly after the school year started, a light bulb went off in my head, and a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.  I’d figured it out.  I would go to Arizona State, get my Ph.D. and work in the paleoanthropology field for the rest of my life.  I even have a back-up plan.  If ASU doesn’t accept me on the second try, I’m moving to Africa.  I’m not sure where yet but probably Kenya.  That doesn’t even scare me.  I’ve moved twice now to cities where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t even have a place to live or a job.  I know it’s possible if I put my mind to it.  I’d rather go to Africa with my doctorate because I know what kind of significance the scientific community puts on that sort of thing but to me personally, it’s just a check in the block; something that I have to do to get to where I want to go.

I’d like the career path that I have chosen to eventually take me to a nice university where I can have a big office and a big cherry wood desk with books everywhere.  I’ll be teaching classes, doing research and enjoying life.  It’s something that I really look forward to.  I picture the situation where the old professor walks everyday from his house to his office in the picturesque setting with leaves falling and students rushing off to class and think, that looks nice.  Maybe I’ve seen too many movies but I don’t care.  It’s my dream to have all that and if I even get a fraction of what I dream for, I’ll be happy.

Well that was fun. The writing isn’t too bad but I’ve seen better. As you can see I didn’t become a paleoanthropologist. Just didn’t have the grades for those schools. ASU wanted a 4.0 and I didn’t have it. Also, I didn’t know the world of CRM existed or that contract archaeology was even a possibility. I thought that academic archaeology or TV archaeology were the only ways people in that field made a living. Lessons learned, for sure.

I think I’m still on the path I set for myself. It’s nine years later and I’m still in archaeology, have a Master’s Degree, and I’m starting my own company. It’s not a cherry wood desk and an idilic, ivy-covered, college campus but I have no regrets. I still have passion, though, and that’s what counts.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!

#134 The Future of the Past

(Real quick...could you occasionally click on one of the ads? They're from Google and are safe. Just need to generate a little revenue for this site so I can keep it on Squarespace. Thanks!)

There’s an article out today from a professor at Western University in Ontario Canada named Elizabeth Greene. She is a Classical Studies professor in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. The article is entitled “The Future of the Past”.

Greene mentions that students always ask her whether everything has already been found. Of course she tells them that there are still many things to find and many questions to answer. The part of the article I want to talk about concerns the following:

Forty years ago, archaeologists weren’t too concerned to take a soil sample of every square meter (sic) of earth they removed the way we are today; or to consider microscopic data such as seeds and pollen analysis to discover new info about landscape and diet of people in the past; nor did they use isotope analysis of teeth to discover where an individual spent their childhood.

Pueblo BonitoA few years ago my wife and I went to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. The central feature of Chaco Canyon is Pueblo Bonito. It’s a massive, semi-circular, residential Native American complex (~850 AD to ~1100 AD). When the site was visited by explorers over 100 years ago they built fires next to some of the walls where fires had been prehistorically. Of course, they had no idea that the carbon being deposited on the walls would ruin the radiocarbon dating potential of the deposits that were already there. Radiocarbon dating was still at least 60-70 years off.

When I record sites here in the Great Basin they usually aren’t as glamorous as Pueblo Bonito or as full of data potential, however, there is still a lot that can be learned. At my last company there was a tendency to only record what was necessary to determine whether the site was eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) or not. There are people there now that will essentially guess at attributes and quantities for large can dumps and complex features. They feel that the site is not important enough to give a detailed recording effort to. I disagree (one of the reasons I was laid off, I’m sure).

Can Scatter, Nevada.When someone determines that a site is not eligible for listing on the NRHP they give the client the go ahead to destroy the site at will. That’s especially true here in the Great Basin where the site will likely be consumed by a massive open pit mine at some point. So, when I record a site, I record as many attributes about the artifacts and features that I can. My feeling is that even though I may not be able to get much out of an artifact right now there may be analytical methods or techniques in the future that will be able to benefit from my recording. Unlike Pueblo Bonito, you can’t go back to many of these sites and record additional information since it will likely have been destroyed.

This is one of the reasons why I want to reduce the cost of site record preparation and report writing time by utilizing digital recording methods. It will allow people to spend more time in the field and less time in the office without charging the client more for the same product. The client can be happy while the archaeologist is ethically satisfied that they did their scientific duty.

We aren’t going to get clients to pay more for our work. They already see us as an impediment to getting their permits and to completing their projects. So, it’s up to us to change the way we do our jobs with the use of technology so we can maintain high ethical and scientific standards while charging the client a fair price at the same time.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field.


Greene, Elizabeth M.

 2012 The Future of the Past. Western News 16 November: http://communications.uwo.ca/western_news/stories/2012/November/future_of_the_past.html. London, Ontario, Canada.