Obviously I haven’t been posting much here lately. There’s a reason for that; I’ve been very busy the past few weeks, and my life has been changing rather dramatically. These changes are mostly for the better, but they have been complicating things quite a lot.
After I graduated in May with my masters in planning from Rutgers, I stayed in New Jersey and continued to apply for jobs. That was a difficult and frustrating endeavor. Everyone knows that the job market is terrible right now, but I don’t think anyone who isn’t currently looking for a job really realizes the severity of the problem. Basically, unless you’re in a specialized field that happens to be in demand right now, if you graduate with either a bachelor’s or a master’s you cannot expect to get a job. At all. (This is why a lot of young people these days are moving back in with their parents after graduating.) Even applying for jobs for which you’re overqualified doesn’t work, because the job market is so bad that employers can reject people for being overqualified. The only ways to maybe get a job in most fields are either to network like crazy and rely on your connections, or to persevere for months and months applying to hundreds of positions hoping that eventually you’ll luck out. I’m terrible at networking, so although I tried to do it a little I mostly relied on the second method. My lease in New Jersey ended at the end of July, so I decided to stay there until then and move back to New Mexico in August if I hadn’t found anything yet.
Over the course of the summer getting a real job became such an uphill battle that I decided to look into other options, including doing another Student Conservation Association internship. Doing one of those was how I started at Chaco, and that turned out pretty well. I didn’t really want to do another visitor services or interpretation internship (although I had been applying for the few permanent jobs like that that I could find), but in a worst-case scenario I figured I probably could get one. SCA does also have occasional positions more in line with my graduate degree and my planning interests, so if I managed to find one of those I figured I would have a good shot at it and it would be almost as good as a real job. As it happened, one such position, with the National Park Service’s Alaska Regional Office in Anchorage, was posted in early July, so I applied for it. I also applied for various other positions, some more attractive to me than others, as well as continuing to apply for the handful of real jobs that would be posted on various planning job boards from time to time.
In late July I went down to South Beach for a few days with my mom and my sister, which was a welcome vacation and change of pace for me. I had become pretty frustrated with the job search by then, so it was nice to have a break. It was also interesting to see South Beach, since while I was in school I had worked on a project about its revitalization (which is a really fascinating story).
Once I got back to New Jersey from Florida, July was drawing to a close, and without a job or any reasonable prospects on the horizon it became obvious that I needed to start actually planning on moving back to New Mexico and staying with my mom indefinitely. I decided that since it didn’t really matter when I got to Albuquerque I would take a leisurely road trip and see a lot of stuff along the way. This was something I had always wanted to do but had never really been able to do because whenever I had taken road trips before (and I had taken several) there had been a definite deadline for when I needed to arrive, which really limited how much time I could take for sightseeing. This time, however, I could take as long as I wanted, and I made the most of it. I saw several cities that I had never been to before, including Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Louisville, but the main focus of the trip was on seeing as many archaeological sites as I could. In the Midwest and South, of course, the main archaeological sites that are open to the public are mounds, so hitting as many mound sites as possible became my priority.
I didn’t manage to see absolutely all of them, but I saw a lot. In Ohio I saw the Newark Earthworks and the many Hopewell sites around Chillicothe, as well as the Serpent Mound, probably the most famous of the many Ohio mounds. In Indiana I saw Angel Mounds in Evansville. I saw Cahokia, of course, which was stunning. I had known it was the most important archaeological site in the country, but I hadn’t really appreciated the scale of it until I saw it in person. Heading down the Mississippi Valley from there, I saw Wickliffe and Kincaid, near the confluence of the Mississippi and the Ohio, then headed southeast into Tennessee and saw Pinson and Shiloh. Turning west onto I-40, I saw Chucalissa, Parkin, Toltec, and, last but definitely not least, Spiro. It was a fantastic experience that gave me a much more detailed understanding of the archaeology and prehistory of other parts of the country, and I’m sure I will have some posts here in the future on some of these sites and the cultures behind them.
I took about ten days to get to Albuquerque, so once I arrived it was well into August. My mom had several projects for me to do around the house, which kept me busy, and she also suggested I might want to take some classes in the planning school at UNM, both to increase my marketability for jobs and to give me some connections in the area. That seemed like a good idea, so I applied for non-degree status and prepared to register for a class.
Around this time, however, I suddenly got an e-mail from the NPS people in Alaska, asking if I was still interested in the SCA position and available to interview! I was, of course, and within a few days I did the interview, they offered me the job, and I took it. It’ll take a while to get all the paperwork through the system, so we settled on a start date in mid-September.
Suddenly, after so many months of uncertainty and frustration, I had some clarity about what my life would be like for the next year. It’s a one-year internship in the planning department of the regional office, which is exactly the kind of work I want to do, and since it’s through SCA I’ll get a living stipend plus free housing and health insurance, all of which is fantastic and basically perfect for my situation right now. I decided that since I’ll mainly be in Anchorage it would be best to have a car, so I’m going to be driving up rather than flying. I’m going to be taking the ferry part of the way, which is expensive but will make it a whole lot easier than driving the whole way up and should also be fun in its own right. The current plan is that I’ll leave Albuquerque (where I still am) about September 13, drive up to Bellingham, Washington, take the ferry from there to Haines, Alaska, then drive up through Canada to the Alaska Highway and take it back down to Anchorage.
I had to be fingerprinted for my background check, so today I went over to Petroglyph National Monument, which is the nearest NPS unit, and the law enforcement rangers there fingerprinted me and helped me fill out the forms. Although I grew up mostly in Albuquerque, I had actually never been to Petroglyph before, so after the fingerprinting was done I decided to go and see the actual petroglyphs in Boca Negra and Rinconada Canyons. They’re quite impressive; very similar in style and content to the ones at Three Rivers, although fewer in number and much more damaged by graffiti and other impacts from being so close to a big city. Seeing them is something that I always intend to do when I’m in Albuquerque, but I never seem to get around to it. They’re in a part of town that I never really go to, so it would generally have to be a special trip to see them and so far I hadn’t managed to get around to it. This fingerprinting thing gave me the perfect opportunity, and I’m glad I took advantage of it.
So that’s what’s going on with me, and why I haven’t been posting here for the past few weeks. I’m unsure what effect all these changes will have on this blog, but rest assured that I will keep it going. I haven’t had much time lately to devote to Southwestern archaeology, but I’m sure I’ll be back to it at some point, and in the meantime I have been studying up on the prehistory of the Midwest, the South, and (most recently) Alaska. I’ll probably do some blogging about that stuff soon. Meanwhile, if you really want to see some interesting blogging about the Southwest, Steve Lekson has a blog now, which he’s using to develop his ideas in preparation for his next book. Like his last book, it’s very interesting, and I highly recommend it. I don’t have anything in particular to say about his posts so far, but I’m sure I’ll be linking to and discussing some of his posts in the future.
Anyway, thanks to my remaining readers for bearing with me during this period of uncertainty, and things should resolve into a more predictable pattern soon.