I am truly and sincerely excited about and looking forward to field school…and I don’t know why.
I am the sort of person who, before now, considered “camping” as staying in a hotel that had less than 3 stars. When my family had reunions at a campground, we rented a cabin with electricity and indoor plumbing. The last time I had done primitive camping was when I was in elementary school and, even then, that was just in tents, with real restrooms nearby. I hear people talking about being excited to go tent-camping with their families and I think it sounds more like torture to me. I don’t mean that judgmentally; that’s just my perspective. It doesn’t sound at all enjoyable, and I’m pretty sure I’d be bored silly within the first 24 hours. I don’t “do” nature. I like sitting in a climate-controlled house and looking at nature through the window.
So why is it that I’ve now committed myself to spending a month in a tent, with primitive showers and toilets, for an entire month? And, the bigger question is, how is it that I’m actually eager to do it? Who am I? It’s like I don’t know myself anymore.
The thing is, I am looking forward to it – all of it. I’m looking forward to getting my gear. Now, there have been times in the past when I’ve been excited about something and it turned out that mainly I was just excited about the preparation for it, about getting new stuff. That’s not what’s going on this time. In fact, I’m not necessarily anticipating buying all the things I’ll need. I’m thinking about it, but only in terms of making a list so I don’t forget anything. I’m really not excessively psyched to actually buy it; it’s more like something I have to get done in order to leave. I guess I’d have to say I’m looking forward to being ready to go more than the actual shopping experience. It’s not just that, though. I am finding the idea of being out there in the mountains quite appealing. Again, why? I have never wanted to spend excess amounts of time outside, and I’ve always been someone for whom the idea of being in remote locations was a bit frightening. I like to be in cities, where there are lots of people and lots of things going on. Heck, I didn’t even like the last house we lived in because it was too far from downtown, for my taste (maybe 3/4 of a mile) and we didn’t have many neighbors. Yet here I am in fond anticipation of spending 30 days doing the exact opposite of everything I’ve ever sworn I preferred.
All that is not to mention the fact that I’ll be separated from my kids for ten days at a time (something I NEVER would have considered, even two years ago), for at least ten of the days I’ll be hiking 2-3 miles a day at 8000 feet elevation (I? Hike? Absurd!)…and then there’s the fact that Miss Spoiled-and-Finicky here will be entirely removed from any and all comfort foods and will be relying on the camp food provided by our director to fill me up. Prior to this, the idea of having to eat to live, rather than live to eat, would’ve been abhorrent. Now, I don’t care. Don’t like the food? Good, that means I won’t be tempted to overindulge. Between that and the hiking, maybe it’ll turn out to be a good diet plan. No soda? Great. Excellent time to detox from the stuff.
I keep thinking that, surely, I am in denial and am just convincing myself I am looking forward to this. Or maybe it still seems so far away as to give it an air of unreality – something I’m talking about but won’t actually end up doing. The thing is…I don’t feel like it’s either of those. I do a lot of self-reflection and self-examination, and I honestly feel that I am sincerely thrilled, to my very core, at the prospect of this field school. In fact, there are some days I wish I could speed up time and have it arrive sooner. I don’t normally have that feeling with things I’m dreading. It just amazes me that there is anything that could cause such a 180-degree turnaround in my attitude. What it all boils down to is, this is my future career. It’s the only (academic) thing I’ve felt passionate about, ever. Archaeology is what has the power to make me step completely outside my comfort zone and be happy about it. I never thought I could be someone who could “rough it” for a week, let alone a month. Heck, it’s already making me do things I didn’t think I could do, like the Couch-t0-5k program. I’m running, for crying out loud. I, the person who always swore I’d rather become the 500-lb.-lady than ever take up running. The person who has never kept up an exercise regimen (when doing it on her own) for more than a week or two is now on week four of a program and has no real temptation to quit. Why? Because it’s for field school that I’m doing it. Archaeology is literally the only thing on Earth that has gotten me moving at a pace faster than a brisk walk. And you know all that stuff I said about tent camping? Yeah, I still feel the same way about it as a recreational pastime. You couldn’t pay me enough to take my family out and bugger aimlessly around the woods for days. I have no interest in it. But when you dangle the prospect of a dig over my head, suddenly it’s no big deal. Par for the course. I want to dig and find artifacts and learn to survey, and if it takes me sleeping in a tent and having no Internet access for a month, then that’s just what I’ll do, and I’ll be glad to do it.