The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Friday, December 4, 2009

Clinging to the Cliff

As my friend Liberty would say - No shit, there I was, clinging to the rocky side of the mountain, looking for a passable route across a sheer rocky cliff, all the while knowing that the ground below my feet was so badly eroded due to post-fire devegetation that to try to continue forward would result in me sliding to the rock exposure below, and then falling several hundred feet. I was coated in soot, scraped up from the plants and sharp rocks that I had been encountering, and seriously in need of a cold caffeinated drink. I was safe at the moment, but I needed to get to the other side of the cliff, and going backward seemed unlikely to help in this goal.

It was this afternoon, about five hours before I wrote this post.

While I was in this odd position, a thought cam into my mind, no surprise as it is the same thought that has been coming into my mind for some time now: Well, my life sure has changed in the past eight years.

Eight years ago, in December of 2001, I was working in the marketing department of a large, multi-national computer hardware company. I had a few different functions, mostly dealing with databases and preventing pompous salesmen from mis-using company funds to bribe clients into buying more product.

I was bored, and from the boredom came depression. With the depression, I let myself become a lousy employee (and while my feeling about these types of large companies is far from pleasant, I do feel guilty about my lack of quality work because A) I was being paid, after all, and should have worked harder, and B) my boss was, and still is, a good friend, and I let her down). But, when your work leaves you depressed, it's time to go, and so I prepared to go, applying to graduate schools and finally getting accepted. Oh, and my company helped by laying me off, which is fair enough (see above point about me being a lousy employee). Being laid off rather than fired allowed me to collect my severance package and use it to help fund grad school.

After two years of classwork, I began to hit the workforce, and spent a rather larger amount of time outdoors than I had previously been used to. Don't get me wrong, I was never a pasty-faced shut-in, I have gone for daily walks and routine hikes in the area surrounding my home since I was a teenager, and bicycling has long been a favorite form of transportation. But, there's outdoors, and then there's outdoors - hauling equipment, doing field analysis, and generally spending 8-10 hours continuously outdoors regardless of weather, and then following this up with afternoon/evening time spent outside either doing other work or engaging in recreation.

And then I finished my degree, and began working as a field supervisor, and eventually as a project manager. All of which led to me clinging to the rock on the edges of a cliff, looking for a way across.

In the end, I took the safe way out, I climbed down the slope to a safe bench of land and walked for a quarter mile, to a place where I could climb up to the other side of the cliff (sorry Bat-fans, I left my whip at home and therefore couldn't use it to latch onto protruding rocks and branches and swing across).

There are times when my job frustrates me, but what keeps me coming back is the fact that I find myself in strange situations. It makes for good stories, and some exciting days.

But, had someone told the depressed, bored, marketer me that one day I would be getting paid to cling to the side of a mountain, considering whether or not to do something reckless, well, I would have thought that the person telling me this was nuts. The possibility of having a job in which things that most people have to seek out get plopped in my lap, well, that was a wild dream. My life has changed considerably in the last eight years, and it has changed for the better.


Jairus Durnett said...

This is better encouragement than a shelf of motivational books and CDs! Thanks!

Kaylia said...

I am glad that you took the safe way back... and also glad that you have these moments of realizing how far you have come... and that it has been for good.