I am beyond tired. Tuesday and Wednesday were research field days of 11 to 12 hours each. On Thursday, I’m home and completely done in. Friday was a serious struggle against continuing exhaustion. How did I do this when I was in consulting archaeology?
But that is the point: I didn’t. Or, not really.
Ten to fifteen years on, I am no longer the person I was when I did consulting archaeology. And, you know what? I’m thankful for that. That Yvonne was too eager to please and grovel for work; she didn’t know she had options; she didn’t know her value.
Back then, I also had the resiliency and health of youth, pre-burn-out and pre-adrenal fatigue. I’m not sure anyone can truly recover from burn-out: like any trauma, you may heal but you don’t return to pre-trauma conditions.
Maybe I should be thankful that I look to fieldwork now with trepidation. Working 12 hour-days, even on things that bring us joy and fulfillment, is still a LONG time and is ultimately unsustainable. And working 12 hour-days in extreme conditions (heat, bugs, intense concentration) is a whole other layer of unsustainability.
Should I be thankful that my limits are now vivid and loud? Probably. I’m less likely to careen past them.
But this also has me pondering my future. We all plan for the future based on the here and now. Our predictive models are based on our previous experiences of our health, finances, and opportunities. If we have only ever experienced vitality, good health, and opportunity, how are we to plan for a future where we may not have these? For those of us who work best with tangible experience, we may be hooped. We’ll have to live it before we can learn from it. However, for those who can learn from others and extrapolate to our own lives, hope is better.
Sometimes, when I’m out in +30 degree Celsius weather, sunburned and verging on heat stroke, dripping in sweat as mosquitos bite atop other mosquito bites, and I realize I’m covered in mud and blood, I wonder why this is suddenly so hard. I used to be able to do this no problem. WTF is going on? I know it’s not age. I’m a relative spring chicken at 49. Yet, as Indiana Jones said, “It’s not the age, it’s the mileage.” I look at my own mileage and think, “Shit, I’ve got a bit racked up.” No wonder I’m not up to walking 7 miles/day any more, or as able to haul a 250 lb pig out of a truck, or able to consistently remember all the notes I need to take to have the data I need to get the results I want.
‘Cause it ain’t the age. It is the mileage. It’s the quality of the life we lead, rather than the quantity.
Were the lessons learned from consulting archaeology worth the mileage? It’s taken me a number of years to see past the trauma and understand those lessons. They are valuable lessons. Was the lesson worth the price? Unknown. Ask me again in a few years.
Is what I’m doing now worth the mileage and effort? Ask me after I’ve crunched my data. Ask me after people have gained benefit from the results of this research. Ask me after these relationships have encouraged more communication and cooperation between units, organizations, and with scientists.
Because right now, I’m just too damned tired.
To find out more about consulting archaeology:
- listen to the latest Scattered podcast episode in which I talk to my friend and former consulting colleague, Sarah Woodman, about the humanity in archaeology
- read my novel, Memoirs of a Reluctant Archaeologist, available in print and ebook
Maybe it isn’t the age or the mileage – it is whether we still enjoy what we are doing. I’m in my early 70’s and I have to work harder at keeping fit enough to do the gardening and plant care tasks on 4 acres. But I love the land and what I’ve created and hope I can keep it up for another 10 or 20 years!
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