Identities

… and four weeks to go until I have been here a whole year. It’s really flown by!

This is just a little post to keep my promise to myself about regular posting. I’m also starting to think about online identity more, about where to draw the line between myself and my work-self. The radical feminist in me wants to insist that if everything is ‘political’ then there isn’t a dividing line. I don’t do my research in a personality-less vacuum. Years of post-processual theory have me absolutely convinced that my archaeology is as much about me as it is the past…. but I also worry about jobs, about image. I want to be taken seriously.

We had a big meeting yesterday about how the various projects in Italy plan our communications (outside of finished theses and peer-reviewed papers)- do we have any plans to involve local schools? Do we want a web presence? If so, what do we want it to be? Who are we talking to? What are we trying to communicate to them?

I enthused about twitter and blogging (in particular) as ways to engage with people, rather than just broadcast pictures and text. I talked about the great people I’ve never met in person, but who help me out with tech advice, suggest projects, papers or conferences to me, or cheer me up when I am lonely. @tomgoskar said to me the other night that at times twitter can be like a village. It’s a good thing that @lornarichardson and I have talked about both serious academic research and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the past week. It’s good to be human, and I think the best twitter accounts run by larger organisations are the human ones: I think @metoffice do a great job- it’s a corporate account but the different people running it on a shift always introduce themselves, and though they’re professional, they aren’t policied to death- they chat, they engage.

If we’re going to have a social web presence (as well as or instead of a static web page) then we need to come up with some guidelines and aims. That’s what I am going to spend the weekend thinking about…

So, I think I’ve talked myself into keeping the tone of what I do here and on twitter the same…right? I’ve never ‘marketed’ this blog as anything other than my ramblings, and when I do post about my research it is usually more like ‘zomg Italy is so pretty lookit!’ than prejudicing anything I might want to later put in a journal.

The meeting just made me stop and think in depth about identity and presentation and so forth, and has left me a bit discombobulated.

Also, I love having pink hair, but I suspect that might not help with the job-getting and the ‘serious’ image… But I also once swore that a career that didn’t let me be me was never going to work. I just though I’d left all of this identity-negotiation crap behind me as a teenager (some 10+ years ago), you know?

 

Your's truly, in a stolen fedora on NYE 2011

 

Perhaps the Buffy watching isn’t helping with this regression/late ’90s vibe… but I don’t care. I’m off to vicariously re-live my misspent youth some more. Tomorrow I’m heading to see my little brother in Amsterdam before he heads back to Georgia (the country, not the state). We’re gonna eat apple pie, drink Belgian beer and probably tease each other an awful lot. I can’t wait!

Sticking to it

This is just a quick little note so that I don’t totally fail at my plan to blog at least once a week (OK, I’m only getting by on a technicality at the moment; it’s been about 14 days since my last post, so that’s 2 in 2 weeks, but that’s hardly the spirit of what I wrote!).

So, what’s new? I’m back in Groningen, and for once the journey back was reasonably nerves-free. I think I am finally getting ‘better’ at flying (i.e. less of the screaming heebie-jeebies) which can only be a good thing. I did have to walk pretty much the length of the airport (and it’s huge) to get my luggage but all was well in the end.

Work has been OK; as usual after a long period away there are lots of meetings and conversations that have been waiting until I was here. For that reason it’s been a very ‘bitty’ week and I am hoping to get stuck into things a bit more next week. Today was cool; we’re developing a new unit for MA students that want to use GIS in their thesis/dissertation and I’m helping out. It is really interesting to be involved (in however small a fashion) in the design of a unit; setting goals and outcomes and deciding on practice examples and so forth. I’m learning a lot about what you can reasonably expect to cover in a set space of time, and about teaching to differing levels of experience. Other than that, we’ve been meeting to discuss our research strategy for the next year and what our fieldwork aims are for the spring expedition. I’ve got some reporting and writing to finish off from last year, and I really need to get it done; it’s become a bit of an albatross and it would be good to have a couple of months where I can step back and think about the big picture and the methodological work I want to do. I’m also hoping to go to Mainz to do things with soil samples, which would be good. I enjoy doing lab work!

At the same time, I’ve agreed to give a research seminar at the GIA about my PhD research. It won’t be a lot of work to splice together some presentations, but I want to be well prepared, and I need to do some things for the round table I am running at CAA2012 in Southampton in March (which incidentally when I next plan to be in the UK), and of course, Martijn and I need to work on the paper we’ve had accepted…. and then there are the two papers I’ve started and then stalled on about my PhD results.

Tonight though, I am switching off. My desk isn’t very well set up at work and I’ve got a sore neck and head, not helped by the fact that I spent a lot of time in meetings today. I think I am going to have a potter about the containertje and tidy up a bit, and then head to bed early and watch or read some sci-fi or detective stories with a cup of tea!

In no particular order…

The title says it all.

Yesterday I talked about last year, and that ‘keeping trying’ was going to be the theme of 2012, but that I wanted to put some specifics down. This is a list of things, not in any special order or priority, that I want to do, keep doing, or do better this year.

Running has been really good. I have asthma and this year has been a bad one for colds & associated breathing rubbishness, so I’ve not yet hit my 30 minutes / 5 km goal. It’s fair to say I never imagined I’d be the sort of person that tried to talk other people into starting running, but I’m loving it; the endorphin buzz really exists and the difference it has made to my fitness is immense.

Scotland. Not exactly a resolution, but a lot of my goals are tied to a trip we have planned to Ardnamurchan and Morvern in June. We visited every year when I was little, just like my Mum and her brother and sisters when they were small. We’re going to say a proper goodbye to Granddad Tom in some of his very favourite places; places that are very important to our family. What is extra special is that Matt will come, and my brother and his partner, Suzanne. I am so excited to be sharing such a special part of the world with them for the first time. As part of it, we’re going to climb a mountain I first climbed when I was 7! I need to be fit and healthy and have my asthma under control for that. Bein Resipol is by no means a monster peak, but I want to feel good and enjoy it; not fight with my body the whole day. This gives me an extra push when I’m out running, as does the knowledge that fieldwork this year could well be in the mountainous part of our study region.

Image of Castle Tioram by Iain Simpson on Flickr (creative commons license)

I had a lot of fun blogging the first part of my year in Groningen, and then I got caught in a bit of an emotional downspiral. I’ve talked before about not writing when I’m down. I think that instead of not writing if I get blue, I’m going to try writing anyway, just not about the blue bits, if that makes sense? Writing can be an effective distraction for me and if I commit to writing a post (even if it’s a ‘Hey, I ate bitterballen and they were good‘ type post) a week then that’s an easy goal to stick to and something to tick off and say; yes, I did do that, I can do the other stuff. I need to resurrect the 365 project a bit though… which was also fun, but tough not to make very boring. I guess if I try to live more in Groningen, then there will be more to take pictures of.

Living in two places. I need to try harder to actually live in Groningen. I think that’ll get a bit easier when I move closer to the city centre in March and into a much bigger flat; it will be easier for people to come over for dinner, or pop in for a cup of tea. But I also need to be more proactive. So, a listlet on this theme: Say YES to more invitations to do things. Organise more things to do (galleries, museums, bike rides, picnics…) Get better at Dutch. Join a local RPG group or boardgames group. Perhaps join an Am Dram group. Get some structure and routine in my life instead of work, and being at home feeling homesick or guilty that I’m not working! I’m hoping more people can get out to visit (or least make it to Amsterdam like Andy & Kirsty) too, now that I will have a spare room!

… I’d also like to make it back to the UK a bit more this year. So far, I’ve managed one long weekend and then two extended trips and there have been a couple of very long Matt-free periods, which sucked. This means getting organised in advance about time & money, and being willing to be a bit selfish about what I do & who I see when I do come back. If I’m only going to be here for 72 hours there is a limit, and sorry but seeing Matt is top of the list folks… Obviously, that also means on the flipside, when I do make it back for longer, I need to be more organised about seeing people, especially those not in Southampton. After everything with my Granddad, I really want to do a trip ‘up North’ to see family, my dad’s parents in Middlesbrough, and my cousins in Newcastle that I’ve not seen since they were teeny (and one of them is now at uni!).

I’m already failing at one thing I promised myself, and that’s due to a second ‘resolution’ also going a bit wonky. I have my usual gorgeous moleskine diary from Matt. I did a better job in 2011 than I did in 2010 of writing every day, but still only managed about 10 weeks continuous entries. I’ve not written anything yet this year as I got clobbered by a horrible cold on New Years day that has resulted in coughing, sneezing, insomnia and serious body temperature issues. I’d sort of resolved to be less ill this year, but I’m not totally sure how to make that happen. More fruit and veg, more running and less beer and bitterballen seems like a good start, but it sucks being kicked in the teeth by my immune system this early on. I’m off to the Island tomorrow to spend some time with my folks. Ventnor is an inspiring, beautiful place even in bleak and windy January, so I’m committed to not only getting my diary caught up on but also trying to do some writing. I’ll need to take some work over too… which gets me to the last bit.

Work. The keeping trying thing. Yup. Ugh. I’m not going to get caught up in the details but here is a listlet: step back often and see the bigger picture. Think often about why you love this subject. Make decisions based on enthusiasm not fear. Try harder. If it goes wrong, start again. Plan, carefully and stick to your plans. Minimise distractions. Use what you have learned. Write every day, even if it’s a blog post, a vignette in a notebook, a rough idea for a paper or a project. Keep your skills honed.

I guess that’s it! I’m off to pack for my trip to Ventnor (still think of it as going ‘home’… I sometimes wonder how many places it’s possible for me to feel like that about, I have at least 5 ‘homes’!) and Matt is off to play boardgames so I need to get him to pack as well! Be excellent to each other.

Reflecting

I’ve been hiding from this. From sitting down and thinking about the last year as whole, from trying to articulate how I feel about all the water under my bridges in the last twelve months. It hasn’t exactly been ‘uneventful’.

Last year, I made one resolution: “This year it is simple. I am going to try.” When I wrote that, only Matt (my partner), my best friend and my parents knew that I had been invited for an interview for a job in the Netherlands; that I might be leaving for at least 3 years. It was all too big to think about; I didn’t want to broadcast about it until I knew for sure if I was going or not. Dealing with the ‘maybe’ was hard enough.

I did it, I got the job. I really hadn’t expected to and was immediately overcome with fears: not about me and Matt (we are pretty rock solid, thank-you-very-much), but about the job itself; would I be ‘good enough’? The turn around was insane. I had about 5 weeks from finding out to starting, and that had to include passing my driving test. Time flew by and before I knew it, it was the end of February, and I had gone. My brother left the Netherlands for Georgia about a month before I arrived. We were both nervous about being even further away from home as our Dad had had a heart-scare just before Christmas. Our parents, as ever, bent over backwards to help us live our lives in ways that were meaningful to us, and told us to go, helped with money, helped with hand holding.

In March I got settled at work and hit the ground running for fieldwork in April, (and I fell in love with Italy all over again) which also saw my 30th birthday and Matt coming out to visit. May and June saw trips to Germany, for fun and for work. I got to know Berlin better. Mum came to stay, which was wonderful, and I made it back to the Uk for all of four days, which was confusing and hectic. I promised myself that if I could only come back for a short time, I’d be selfish about it next time. July was fieldwork, which was amazing. I went in a cave, drove for the first time since my test, and got to teach students, which I love. I took up running (!). August was crazy– My Granddad died, and I couldn’t make it home for the funeral, but Matt made it over for a long weekend. I wanted to be there for my Mum, but I knew dad was taking care of her. She’s been pretty poorly ever since (more on this later). Emma M was particularly awesome at this time; she’s been doing the ‘long distance life’ thing since she went away to uni at 17, and knows exactly how to remind me how much love and support I have around me. I’m never going to live up to her ability to dash about and somehow see everyone and be there when it matters, but I am trying!

I also had a horrible time with serious gastric pain and eventually was diagnosed with gallstones. It was Not Good ™, being in so much pain (and more than a bit scared), in a different country and somewhat on my own, but my friends & colleagues took good care of me, and people at home supported me by email and skype. I’m doing good and managing it by managing my diet;- so far, no attacks since November! This dragged on into September and I almost had to miss going to ISAP in Turkey, which was fascinating (the country) and stimulating (the conference). I came home in October for Matt’s birthday and the UKM weekender, so I missed the final fieldwork campaign. The last 6 weeks before coming back to the UK for an extended trip were filled with trying (and failing) to get reports and papers finished, and then speaking at two conferences about the work we’ve done since March (which went well).

December was all about being home. Matt and Cat threw a great ‘welcome home’ weekend for me and I’ve spent my time alternating between lurking at home getting as much Matt-time as possible, and trying to see all the people I haven’t yet. I know I’ll have missed people out. Mum seemed to have mostly gotten over the nasty stomach problems she’d been having since the summer, and then she got a serious infection in her bloodstream and ended up in hospital on Boxing Day. She is recovering slowly at home, but for the first time in a long time I didn’t see her on her birthday (New Years Eve) as she didn’t feel up to it. I went out in Southampton with the usual suspects; fun, but I’d much rather she’d been well enough. I’m heading over this weekend instead, and I am really hoping this horrid cold is gone and I don’t make her more poorly.

 

Me and Matt by the river in Groningen

 

So. Quite a year. I had a lot of adventures and got to do the job that I have been training for for more than 10 years, in two countries I adore. My new friends and colleagues are wonderful people and Groningen is an amazing city to live in. It’s also pushed me to the absolute limits of my social and intellectual anxieties. A combination of homesickness, anxiety and a creeping sort of paralysis have made as much of an impact on my recollection as all the good bits. I think I’m doing better; I’m ‘coping’ left right and centre, using every trick in the book. I think that all counts as ‘trying’. I could have just said ‘no thanks’ and taken the other job on offer; stayed in Southampton, safe and comfortable. I am glad I didn’t, but sometimes I hated myself for what I was doing to Matt especially. Other people I care about have not had a very good year; there have been break-ups, break-downs; a lot of people I love have been all kinds of broken. One good friend was almost deported because some idiot pen-pusher totally screwed up her visa application, twice. She had to appeal and it was heart-breaking to watch my country do that to someone. It was so hard not to physically be there for my Mum this summer.

Good things happened too- people graduated, got engaged, had babies and fell in love. I guess that’s the key isn’t it; life happens. You just have to keep trying.

I’ll post again tomorrow with some specific ideas and goals for 2012 but I think keeping trying sums it up.