Where in the hell am I?

December 30, 2013

My 2013 in review

Filed under: archaeology — Tags: , , , — John @ 2:42 pm

2013 has been a very big year for me professionally, and a challenging one personally.

I started the year, as I had since May 2004, at the Austin office of SWCA Environmental Consultants (I’m honestly not sure if I ever said exactly who I worked for!). I was writing up the results of a survey I had led in Laredo just before the holidays. It included a large, typical South Texas deflated campsite, with lots of diagnostic artifacts and stone tools but also eroded with no potential for significant buried deposits. The surface was a palimpsest of several thousand years worth of occupations. Neat, but no potential for significant new information.

After finishing that up, work shifted to east Texas and a Caddo site. I can’t say what the project was or where the site was located, but it was an unanticipated discovery. Sometimes, even though you’ve looked hard and done a thorough survey, you can miss something and be surprised. We excavated a few test units in a easy-to-dig fine sandy matrix, and determined the site was likely a small Caddo hamlet. After the first round of testing, we recommended further excavations, and I started on the artifact analysis and writeup.

I was struggling some with work. I had gotten severely burned out in 2012, and was questioning whether I wanted to continue in archaeology. In particular, long stretches in the field (I was gone for month-long stretches in July and September 2012) had nearly broken me. My supervisor was aware of this and tried to help me, and one thing he did was forward me job openings at state agencies, which would require less travel and keep me based in Austin.

March came and a new project appeared: construction monitoring in Galveston. I was chosen to spearhead the work and do at least the first couple of sessions. I drove to Galveston to meet with the client, pick up some schematics and figure out their schedule. Then, I took a week off to enjoy South by Southwest.

At the end of December, I had applied for a job at State Parks, but hadn’t heard anything back, and had given up hope. I assumed someone else had gotten in, since it had been months. But over South By I got a call asking if I was available to interview for the job the following Monday! I was excited and nervous, and after enjoying the Golden Boys at Side Bar on the last Sunday of SXSW, I went home to hydrate and rest for my interview.

I was so nervous, but I felt like I did a really good job on the interview. I had answers for all of their questions, and they seemed to like my attitudes towards report writing. After the interview, I went back to my office and prepared for Galveston, but I felt like maybe I had a chance. That Friday, I saw the people at the CTA meetings and again got a sense that I had done well.

Monday, one week after interviewing, I got a call offering me the job! I accepted, but there was one minor hitch: they wanted me to start the following Monday, rather than with 2 weeks notice, because they had a field session scheduled.

SWCA very kindly accepted, and on April 1 I started with the Archeology Survey team at Texas Parks and Wildlife, in a job that came as both a raise and a promotion. On April 2 I left with the other members of the team and the Archeology lab to spend a week in the Lower Pecos (I still can’t say exactly where or what). It was the 7 of us in the middle of a huge area, staying in a lodge and bunkhouse, an hour away from the nearest sizable town. I got to know my co-workers very well, very quickly!

Since then, I’ve done two sessions in the Lower Pecos, responded to a looting incident at McKinney Falls, helped with the archeology session at a Junior Ranger day camp at McKinney Falls (including a tour of some of the park’s sites and an atlatl demonstration), and surveyed part of a park near Beaumont. I’ve also been given my own project near Boerne, and we’ve done three sessions there so far. And, I’ve also started the report for a survey done at Bastrop State Park following the 2011 wildfires, including some stone tool analysis.

I’ve also tried to introduce new forms of outreach to my group. I wrote about my job for the Day of Archaeology, which was well-received by my bosses. Some of my photos have been used by the Parks and Wildlife Instagram page. As a result of this, plus stating my own interest in more opportunities, my bosses arranged for me to be involved with the TPWD social media team, something I’ll be more involved with in 2014!


Personally, there have been lots of ups-and-downs. A long-term relationship ended, and a hopeful summer romance ended in heartbreak. I can’t blame it all on archaeology, but I do know that it’s hard to date someone who is gone a lot, even if it is much less often with my new job. I recently started dating someone new, so we’ll see where that goes, especially with some longer field sessions upcoming (out of respect for the people involved, I won’t say more, as I know that some of them will likely read this).

On a lighter, more upbeat note, having less field time and a more predictable schedule allowed me to adopt two adorable kittens, Wendy and Ruby! I feel so bad when I’m gone from them, but they seem to take it in stride. They’re extremely social, so they follow and play with the folks who come by to check on them when I’m gone; this makes it a little better for me. But they sure do seem to grow a lot every time I’m gone!

I started a new blog devoted more to music, which is my real passion in life. Much like this blog, it is not updated as regularly as I had hoped.

I made a lot of new friends and only lost a couple to moves and none to death, thank goodness. I saw a lot of great bands, and finally am able to check both New Order and The Cure off of my concert bucket list. Finally, I didn’t miss nearly as many shows as I have in the past due to fieldwork.

Finally, I had let myself get out of shape and put on a bit of bad weight. With the start of the new fiscal year in September, I decided to make a change and get control of that. Since then, I’ve dropped 15 pounds and 4% body fat while also adding muscle. I had to buy new jeans. I’m still trying to add more muscle and tone, but I feel much better physically and mentally, and I’m pretty proud of myself.


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