For those that know me personally, my life has been falling apart for the last few weeks. If I didn’t know I lived a charmed life, I’d think my life sucked. But, I know all obstacles are challenges and I haven’t been dealt a hand that I can’t win the game with.
There have been a bunch of good things that happened during that time as well. My children are bright and happy. My wife just got new, better job with a raise. My sister just started college and has a 4.0 so far. The first installment of the River Street Digital History Project has been completed (Special thanks to Cannon Daughtrey and Rita Sulkosky). I’m in my second to the last semester of classes in my PhD and I’ve still found a way to keep blogging about cultural resource management archaeology and historic preservation.
Last week, I was honored by receiving a new book in the mail and have been asked to write a review. It is called “The Happiness of Pursuit” by one of my personal role models Chris Guillebeau. For those of you that don’t know, Guillebeau is a young author, entrepreneur, and world traveler that recently completed his quest to visit every single country in the world before he turned 35 years old. I’m 35 and love travel as well. I also believe in starting your own business and following the unconventional path, so his writing resonates with me on personal and professional levels. He’s also businessman that has written several books that have influenced my approach to business including The Art of Nonconformity and The $100 Startup. Guillebeau’s books are frequent Christmas gifts within my family.
The Happiness of Pursuit is about finishing quests. Guillebeau discusses the completion of his quests, but also highlights the quests completed by dozens of other people around the world. He writes about the youngest person to sail the world alone, a woman that lived in a eucalyptus tree for a year in order to prevent illegal logging in Tasmania, a man that completed the 4-year MIT computer science curriculum in one year, a person that moved to Japan in order to become a ninja, and many other people.
I haven’t finished the book yet, but I realize that this book’s topic of questing should be very familiar to other archaeologists. The quest to become an archaeologist is long, expensive, and arduous. We do this job because it’s something we love. Archaeologists are dream-seekers— the kind of people that go after their goals and do the job they’ve always wanted to do regardless of what anyone else tells us. For everyone that has ever become a professional archaeologist, happiness is definitely found through pursuit.
One thing immediately struck me after only finishing the first 25 pages. Guillebeau describes the parameters of a quest in the first chapter (Awakening). He explains that a true quest has a specific end point, is challenging, requires sacrifice, requires completing a series of small incremental goals, and is driven by a calling or sense of mission. Basically, a quest is just like the process of becoming a professional archaeologist or completing a big archaeology project.
The first chapter of The Happiness of Pursuit reminded me of the past decade I’ve spent as a project archaeologist. All the projects. All the deadlines. The clients. The co-workers and bosses. The roach motels I inhabited in the middle of nowhere Arizona and the 2-room suites we scored in Mesquite, Nevada. The centimeter after centimeter after centimeter of sediment excavated and screened; the mile after mile after mile of land walked on survey. I’ve done these things because I wanted to be a professional archaeologist AND because I accomplished my life’s goal of becoming an archaeologist.
I’m not alone. There are thousands of other archaeos working across the United States and around the world who have had similar experiences. Other people that have completed projects under extraordinary circumstances: raced to complete excavation units before the tide swept the artifacts away, carefully removed a graveyard under the blazing desert sun, documented shipwrecks off the coast of Texas, and recorded wooden ships beneath 30 feet of Mississippi River flood deposits. We have survived hail storms, lightning, rain, floods, desiccating heat waves, ticks, bears, drug cartel gangsters, swarms of bees, snakes, mudslides, pretty much everything nature can throw at us. We’ve even carved our way through miles of red tape, university corporatocracies, and know-nothing bureaucrats all in the process of being an archaeologist.
All of us can tell stories about our job that other people couldn’t even dream up.
The Happiness of Pursuit is the best book I’ve read this month and I highly recommend it to any archaeologist, cultural resource manager, historic preservation professional, and heritage conservation specialist. This book will inspire you to complete your goal of becoming the best CRMer you can be and preserving our human treasures for future generations.
Is archaeology your life’s quest? Does this job qualify as a quest?
If so, write a comment below or send me an email.
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