For the first six months that I was doing archaeology, I couldn’t say the words, “I’m an archaeologist” out loud.

When someone asked what I did, my answer was always, “I’m actually working in archaeology right now.”  Right now.  Not forever.  Because I had just spent 2 years of my life becoming a cultural anthropologist, studying, getting a master’s degree, constantly identifying myself as a member of the cultural anthro program and NOT the archaeology program.  Despite the fact that I mostly hung out with the archaeologists (they were more likely to go to the bar on Friday night *smile*).

But I eventually got used to saying, “I’m an archaeologist.”  And eventually the story I would tell would go something like, “I stumbled into archaeology, and I love it, it’s a perfect fit for me!”  And there were a lot of things about archaeology that I was good at.

(Did you catch that?  Were.  Was.)

I spent five years as an archaeologist, always insecure about my experience and my abilities.  I was great as a field tech — I can hike all day looking for sites, identify flakes and groundstone, tell you the age of a pile of rusty cans, dig square holes in 10-centimeter levels, pick every single artifact out of my screen, or clean and catalogue artifacts for weeks at a time.  I could write a damned good site record or final report, too — assuming you pointed me to the appropriate background research, and told me what conclusions should be written.  I could do what I was told to do, but for one reason or another — lack of academic background, lack of confidence, poor spatial skills, or an inability to grasp the larger archaeological picture — I was never any good at knowing what to do next, where to dig, how to approach a project, and certainly no good at telling anyone else what to do.  Any time I was put into a supervisory position, I was miserable.  Constantly anxious and worried that I was failing, constantly at a loss for what I should be doing.

I got a job here in Utah where I finally felt like my abilities and experience matched my job requirements.  Until this spring, where I could tell I was failing at taking on a leadership role on our historical excavation project.  But I have zero background in historical excavation, so how could I lead?  More anxiety, more worry.  And then I was laid off, and there was my answer about how well I was doing.

And now I have a new job teaching.  I’ve only been at it for 5 weeks.  It’s hard, and I don’t have enough hours because there aren’t enough classes I’m qualified to teach, and the students don’t listen, and sometimes classes run short, and sometimes they run long, and I make mistakes — but I’m not miserable.  I’m really enjoying myself.  And I just got a second job, with a local herpetology society, where I will be sorting through two collections of books, articles, art, knick-knacks, and odds and ends, to help get them organized and sold to profit the society.  They estimate it will take about 2 years to get through everything.  I’ll be doing all of the menial sorting and cataloguing and photographing that I was good at in archaeology, with none of the expectation that I should develop into a project manager someday.

Given my current committments and schedule, I don’t see a way back into archaeology.  And I don’t think I really want one.  But I have been scared to admit that to myself, or anyone else really.  My many archaeologist friends have sent me links to jobs and still refer to me as an archaeologist, and it makes me feel guilty to not be “out.”  Why is saying I’m not an archaeologist anymore so difficult to do?  When I first thought about taking my layoff this spring as a sign to look for another career, I found myself thinking that if I left archaeology, I would have wasted the last 5 years.  When I was so sure that archaeology was the perfect fit for me, despite my weaknesses.  When my identity revolved around my job.  I mean, I’m  Archiegrrl, right?

But then I realized that I “stumbled into” archaeology after grad school, when I couldn’t find another job.  And what job was I looking for?

A teaching job.

I don’t know how long it will take me to be able to say “I’m a teacher.”  I’m actually working as a teacher right now, though. *wink*

the first time I was a teacher -- in the Peace Corps

NOTE: The worst part of admitting that I may have left archaeology for good?  I am Archiegrrl, writing a blog titled Arch and Crafts.  What am I going to do about that?

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