I’f you weren’t an archaeologist/grad student/philosopher/pokemaniac, what would you be?
Oh, I don’t know… a bum? A village idiot? The dark apostle of Y’shqllath’gokgh the World-Ender? All valid and empowering career choices.
I wanted, when I was a kid, to be a palaeontologist, which I recognise is an abnormally specific and nerdy career aspiration for a 10-year-old. That seemed like sort of a mad fantasy job that I wouldn’t ever really be able to do, but now that I’m actually an academic and an archaeologist, I do kind of think I probably could have pulled it off, if I’d studied more geology and biology. I don’t think I’d have the patience for arguing taxonomy, though. In taxonomy there are “lumpers,” people who tend to prefer to say that roughly similar organisms or fossils are basically the same and should be labelled as one species or taxon, and “splitters,” people who tend to prefer to make fine distinctions on the basis of minor differences in behaviour or morphology. I would have been an arch-lumper, randomly declaring wildly disparate species to be “close enough” or “probably just a birth defect” or “the same thing, from a certain point of view,” or “all equal before the merciless gaze of the World-Ender,” just so I didn’t have to think about it in any more detail.
Then again, this is ultimately the same basic deficit of thought that makes me terrible at archaeology, and no-one’s managed to catch me out there yet.
After that I wanted to be a novelist. Maybe I still will be, one day. I thought doing a classics PhD would give me better job prospects, which… lol. I’m not sure I actually want to be an academic forever, but it’s either that or find a “real job,” like some sort of peasant. Y’know, or get way better at promoting my Patreon page. If nothing else, I certainly think doing a PhD and learning so much more about history, archaeology and culture has given me some much better ideas for stories I might write, if I had the time. I’d love to create a fantasy world inspired by everything I’ve seen and studied, and tell some grand tale about living with the past, understanding people who are different, and trying to be good in a bad world. Maybe in a few years, if my life ever momentarily makes sense.
I mean, ideally my job would involve sitting in a large, comfortable chair being fed chocolates by scantily clad, muscular young men and occasionally saying something incredibly profound about life, culture or morality. Maybe there could be a crowd of listeners who write down things I say while nodding sagely and whispering “he’s right, you know” to each other. Unfortunately, all the most similar positions I’ve looked at seem to come with a small but irreducible risk of revolution and guillotining. Still, not a bad way to go, I suppose… all things considered…