Friday, February 08, 2008

Reflections on being a historian who isn't doing history...

Well, it's late winter and this is the time of the year that juniors and seniors in high school start getting ready for college, either visits or making their final selections. At least way back in 1996 I was doing this.

Back then I KNEW I wanted to be a history professor specializing in the Civil War era.
That was it, stone cold lock.

Well, twelve years later I've got one and 3/4 master's degrees and am working at a Contractor-run NASA Records Facility.

You may ask yourself, "What happened?"

Well, I'll tell ya: economics and overpopulation.

By 1999 I was applying for graduate schools after three happy years as an undergraduate history major and quiz bowl team member. Life was good. (Outside of my problem with Rheumatoid Arthritis, but I didn't know it was Rheumatoid Arthritis and that's a whole different saga but let me just say, I missed the last half of Spring 1999 because I was a sick puppy. But I got better and I found out that apparently I have a really high physical pain tolerance.)

Anyhoo...this is when overpopulation reared it's ugly head. There were simply too many people who wanted to get PhD's in 19th Century US History at UVA, PSU, and OSU. I was rejected by all three of my top choices, fortunately, my safety school, UMBC took me in and made me an offer of becoming a Teaching Assistant.

This bought me two years to figure out what to do while writing my thesis.

This is all well and good if you actually finish your thesis in two years...which I didn't do. That's when economics took over. I needed a job. Fortunately, two friends worked at T. Rowe Price and told me they were hiring so I worked there for two years and pecked away at my thesis. Then I decided that answering phones and processing mutual fund trades really isn't a good use of all of my education. So I applied for jobs with records management companies. Lo and behold, I got one!

So now I started commuting to Alexandria for two years and change and then got another job that had me commuting to Arlington for about a year and a half, all the time doing records management work for contractors to federal agencies.

Now I'm here, working as an Outreach Specialist at a NASA Scientific and Technical Library. Ironically, before my frustration with Calculus in high school (I'll get you for that Newton!), I wanted to work for NASA.

What a long strange trip it has been.

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