The problem of finding your place in the world of heritage and archaeology. Or why I should never take time off.

I had some holiday pay to use up at my part time job, so I thought I’d take a week off before lectures started again and have some relaxation time.

Oh, I have never been more misguided. Will I never learn that time off means time to think. And thinking time inevitably leads to my usual identity crisis, which reads something like:

1. Oh my god what am I going to do when I finish this degree? I need to pay back all that debt I’ve got myself into.

2. Oh no, the only jobs in the sector that I am studying so hard to enter are so ridiculously competitive that there’s no chance I’ll get any of them with my lack of experience.

3. Because I’ve studied the thing I love, I am unqualified to do any of the other decently paid jobs.

4. I’ve got it! I’ll apply to continue my studies and just become ridiculously specialised and elite.

5. Bugger, missed the application deadlines. Oh and there’s the slight issue of having a coherent research proposal, which I am nowhere near having anyway.

6. Hurrah, I’m going to be stuck in retail forever.

I’m sure that these woes are familiar to ALL other archaeologists/heritage workers, if not all other people everywhere, today, and I know what it is that I need to do; volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! But there’s the issue of having to pay the ridiculously high rent of York, and having to study for the masters that I’m currently attempting to complete.

I know that most success stories belong to hard working, determined individuals, and as enthusiastic as I can often appear, at times I just don’t feel like I’ve got that extra spark that so many of my competitors have.

It’s when I am having these really rather immature identity crises that I think of something my dad has always said of a career in music:

It’s got to be the only option. It’s got to be music or nothing. If you can see yourself doing anything else, do that instead.

I think that applies to archaeology as well. You’ve got to do it out of passion. One might even say obsession, because the competition is ridiculous and the pay is by no means generous.

I suppose that the only way I’ll find out if it really is archaeology or nothing is by graduating and finding out where life takes me.


(c) Prof. Niall Sharples. An image that appeared on a lecture slide concerning Iron Age society, but that I feel rather aptly sums up my feelings in this post.