Andrew - Fieldwork is a mixed bag
Fieldwork for me is always a mixed bag of emotions. Part of me is excited to be out on the outcrops, poring over the geology and fossils. In my mind, the field is full of logic puzzles and brain teasers, things I’ve always enjoyed. What ancient animal did this little scrap of fossil belong to? Does this bit of geology here tell us a river used to run through what is now a desert? It’s also a whole lot of fun to be out of the office and completely immersed in a natural setting. There’s something therapeutic about not having to sit at a desk and stare at a computer screen all day. Without email and social media, the pace of life relaxes, and it’s always a stark reminder of the bare minimum one needs to survive and lead a content life.
On the other hand, after more than a month, one kind of goes crazy without the computer screen and its warm, inviting blue glow. Here, the computer is a metaphor for all the creature comforts that are a staple in the industrial world. Being in the field for more than a month, one starts to ask seemingly sensible questions such as, “When will I be able to have a decent shower and not be dirty anymore? When will I finally have a meal that actually satiates and tastes like food?” And of course, there’s always the issue of being away from family and friends for long stretches of time (and usually without email and phone contact).
The point here is that like all things in life, there are great things about fieldwork, and there are not-so-great things about fieldwork. When I’m at the workplace, stuck in a sardine-packed elevator moving at 2 mph with droning, corporate Muzak in the background, I wish I was back on the outcrops. And when I’m in the field trying to fall asleep in my tent but can’t because of the not-so-thin veneer of grime coating my skin combined with the ever-persistent supply of perspiration courtesy of 100+ degree heat, I wish I was in an air-conditioned elevator listening to some soothing, soft jazz. In other words, grass is always greener. Fieldwork has taught me you don’t get to choose the parameters of your day-to-day life, but there is always a silver lining and you can make the conscious effort to reinterpret your surroundings and enjoy that shiny lining. If that’s not an accurate metaphor for life, I don’t know what is.