Hey, everyone! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?
OK! It’s probably been something like 4 years since I last wrote?! Oof. I’m genuinely sorry. The past few years have certainly been a lot. There were some ups and downs (and it certainly felt like more “downs” than “ups”). Amidst all of that, I really didn’t have the motivation or the inspiration to write. I promise, I genuinely tried (there’s at least 3 drafts out there that never got published), but the “oomph” really wasn’t there. Thankfully, though, life has changed pretty dramatically since I last wrote and I’m in a place where it makes sense and feels right to start blogging again! It’s probably best to give a recap since my last writing and work our way to the present and to what’s ahead for The Starving Archaeologist! (Fair warning: this post won’t be very much about archaeology and will feature some honest testimony about my mental health).
Where I’ve Been
Since I wrote last about my unofficial early Spring Break trip to visit a dear friend and what felt like my second home in Rome, I had been living in Baltimore, Maryland. After that trip to Rome, I had an opportunity to visit another friend in Halifax, Nova Scotia and then return to work with the Apolline Project at Aeclanum (Spring and Summer of 2018 for those keeping track).
Unfortunately, things did not stay rosy and fun once I went to Italy that
summer. In short, I had spread myself too thin by juggling my responsibilities as a field supervisor with working remotely as a senior manager for a company that did door-to-door collections for a consumer telecom company. (For legal reasons I probably shouldn’t explicitly name them, but it suffices to say that it rhymes with the phrase “Bomb Blast,” which, ironically, pretty well encapsulates what that job did to my life.) Lie clockwork, a major shakeup happened with the whole operation at work. The fallout for me was stress and frustration, which made me less-than-pleasant to be around on-site. A couple mishaps later and the directors at the Apolline project – out of concern for my health and state of mind – thought it best I cut my season short. Ouch.
At some point, I had written some gobbledygook about arranging one’s life to afford travel financially and time-wise. Let’s just say I’m going to pull that one down after writing here, since in reality, that didn’t quite work out for me! I’d clearly forgotten the immortal words of the great Ron Swanson: “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing”
Being asked to go home early from doing the thing I cared about most really hurt. In reality, though, the job I had was toxic and it bled into the part of my life that I actually cared about. I continued to work in that role; I had to keep long, unusual hours and drive all up and down the Northeastern US to manage the company’s operations…until the Covid-19 pandemic.
Weirdly, the pandemic was a huge opportunity for me to pause, reflect, and reorient. I had the opportunity to get back on track with what means the most to me at this stage in life: developing my archaeology career. I hardly feel any shame in saying that because of enhanced unemployment benefits (for which I was incredibly privileged to avoid the bureaucratic nightmare that others experienced), I was able to afford the pause that my mind and body needed in order to meaningfully take the necessary next steps for my career.
During “lockdown” and the subsequent not-so-locked-down summer and
fall of 2020 (I won’t start on our society’s failure to actually beat
Covid-19 when it mattered most), two big things happened: 1. I had the
opportunity to take some part time coursework with the University of Maryland in Latin and Ancient Greek with the gracious and supportive Prof. Bucher; 2. I applied to graduate school in the Fall of 2020 – and I got in!
Thanks to the pandemic’s “Zoom Revolution”, the part-time coursework was all remote, allowing me to skip the hassle of getting to a classroom in College Park. The faculty at UMD’s Classics Department were very understanding about why I needed these courses (I’m sure I’ve touched on my awkward inversion between archaeological and classical language experience and what was expected from PhD programs admissions). By taking these courses, I’d start to close that gap and make myself a better applicant, and more generally I was dipping my toe in the water of academia again (it had been 5 years since I had earned my Master’s!).
I also found the motivation to start applying to graduate programs again – the result of which was actually gaining admission! I have to express how grateful I am to know and interact with a wide network of people in academia and archaeology including dig mates, former students, former professors and field supervisors/directors. Of course, there’s also my family and friends, among whom are my biggest and loudest cheerleaders.
There are a couple of people especially who I need to thank for making this a reality. First is Dr. Pamela Gaber, a former professor of mine and a close mentor to me. In 2017, she encouraged me to come to Cyprus and sparked a whole new avenue of research interests and ways of thinking about the ancient world! I took those aspirations and shared them with another very special and important person, Prof. Tyler Jo Smith (who is now my advisor) and she said “yup, we can make this happen!”
I was accepted with full funding into the University of Virginia’s Mediterranean Art and Archaeology PhD program in the University’s Department of Art beginning Fall 2021! In contrast to other places where I might have studied classical archaeology, this program’s home is the Art History graduate program and adjacent to the university’s Interdisciplinary Archaeology Program. Here, I can lean on my archaeology experience and research interests focused on material evidence, maintaining my professional identity as an archaeologist. (In another post, I can unpack this whole dynamic and dive into the distinctions that define archaeology as a discipline and how it relates to other fields.)
Of course, since I’m writing this in Summer of 2022, I’ve already survived a whole year with this great program and re-adjusted to life in academia. In the next part and in posts to come, I’ll write more about what the past year at UVA has been like and ultimately what I’m working on research-wise. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading and I can’t wait to keep sharing my travels and research and all the excitement that archaeology has to bring. In the meantime, please feel free to follow me on Twitter (@starvingarchaeo) and Instagram (@StarvingArchaeologist)