Alternatives, part 1

If you asked my wife, she would tell you that I like to dwell on things until they drive both of us nearly insane. I really don’t try to do this, but once an idea lodges itself in my mind, I find it very difficult to think about anything else. Up to this point in the semester I have been fanatical about my schoolwork (see previous post about 70 hour weeks), and this has continued out of necessity. But in the downtime I do have (and in some times that probably should be devoted to schoolwork), I have been mulling over some alternatives. In my last post I talked about motivations for obtaining the PhD degree. In this series of posts I want to explore a few alternatives that have been rattling around in my head for a few days. Maybe this way I’ll be able to put them to rest so I can get some work done.

I like organizing things. I inherited a massive stamp collection from my grandfather a few years ago. I will occasionally take one of the less-tidy pieces out, spread it on the coffee table, and spend a few hours organizing. I find this very rewarding. Organization is among my most special talents – sometimes even to a fault. Once christened the “Spreadsheet King,” my Google Docs collection is enormous, but all carefully tagged and organized. Planning trips, paying bills, doing my taxes – all of these things are among the things I look forward to doing, at least on most occasions. 

I also like old things. The aforementioned stamp collection fills that need to a certain degree. I have a few old books that smell nice and creak when I open them. Several of my fountain pens are approaching a hundred years old, and still write better than many made during this century. I have a family bible from the 1800s with the genealogical record of my family recorded in it.

But how to leverage these things into a career? My thought: an archivist. With the history training I am receiving, along with a program specifically designed for archival conservation, I think I would make a superp archivist. I recently toured the archives of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and really liked what I saw. They showed us a few boxes of the “raw” material, so to speak – random letters and fragments of paper in a disorderly mess – and I found that exciting. They then pulled out a box that had been archived, with its neat file folders and topical introductions, and I nearly got the chills. Going from one of these to the other, interacting physically with remnants of the past, and discovering some sensible organizational scheme (or imposing one) sounds like it would be right up my alley. I know it sounds tedious (and from all accounts, it is), but it also sounds incredibly rewarding.

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One thought on “Alternatives, part 1

  1. This is the first post you have written that reflects a certain amount of joy in accomplishing a task directly related to a history degree.You have an amazing ability to make sense of a jumble of information. The final product not only gives you a satisfying thrill, it provides a service to others, therefore validating the work itself, which in turn validates the skills you possess to complete the work. If the task doesn’t benefit someone other than yourself, is it worth doing?

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