Tuesday, April 29, 2008

5 and 10: where has the time gone?

10 years ago in 1998, I was just about to leave Alaska in order to follow my desire (goal?) to get back into the mining exploration industry after a hiatus of many years. The hiatus was due to an unfortunate event that I won't go into right here, right now; it's something I've had to let go of (detach from?). I decided in the late fall of 1997 to get back into the industry, and set about doing so by going to meetings and renewing old contacts. The price of gold had just plummeted to $250/oz or so, and the industry was going into the frenzy (tailspin?) that followed on the heels of the Bre-X scandal/scam, which made it even more difficult for companies to raise money to conduct exploration. So my timing was - well, not the best? Anyway, I had not been able to find a job in Alaska, possibly from starting to look a little too late in the year (who was to know they would be hired-up for a June field season by February?), and probably from not really having any contacts there. I did have three or four job offers from outfits in Reno, at least two of which sounded firm, so I decided to move back to the area I had been centered in for more than two decades. Short story: by the time I had driven down the Alcan and gotten an apartment in Reno, all the job offers had turned to dust.

So, I started beating the bush, pounding the pavement, knocking on doors, making calls. I had several more interviews; money was tight. At some point, a job was passed around through channels: sitting a drill rig - in Nicaragua, in the rainy season, for a pretty low daily rate. I thought about it, could kind of visualize it, didn't like what I saw, and didn't apply for the job.

Being kind of impatient at times, I didn't feel like I could just sit around waiting, calling and waiting - even though I figured I could find something agreeable by fall. I couldn't wait that long. I needed something to occupy my mind and self, so I started volunteering at a local kindergarten. It was one of the best things I had done for myself (and others) for a long time, besides moving to Alaska for two years. By fall, I was considering getting an education degree so I could teach Earth Science in high school; by the end of the year, I had enrolled in a program to do so. I would never have imagined myself doing something like this even 5 years prior, and certainly couldn't have imagined it when I was an undergrad or grad geology student - and wouldn't have even considered it as a possibility.

For various reasons, I found I probably wouldn't like teaching in high school (I really have never liked high school students very much, even when I was there - and that is something I've been having to let go of, also, now that two nieces and one nephew are in high school, and one niece just graduated a couple years ago), so I re-oriented myself toward teaching in elementary school. I didn't make it - did not make it through student teaching after trying with two sets of teachers. I was still fairly sure I could do it, on a third try I was planning for the following fall - when opportunities changed. MOH and I moved to "the lake" to follow jobs in home construction and to move to an area we had become interested in (I had been working at that with him that one summer; by then it was the summer of 2001). I had set two goals - consulting and teaching - and those hadn't panned out! I had met MOH in the process of all that, and that has worked out!

5 years ago in 2003, with the above story having shifted gears but still continuing - I was just about to lose a job in construction, as a carpenter's helper, a job I'd had for a short time (in the meantime, I'd done a lot of artwork, had sold some things, was too impatient to stay at it, at least to make a money-making career (ha!) out of it). And I was just about to quit a second job in construction after less than a week, working for a very strange person who ultimately gave me the creeps. I had also, not long before that, taken some classes in soil science, and was just about to get a short-term job sitting around outside watching leach tests for septic tanks, working for - ?? - $50 per test - which amounted to less than $10/hour. That didn't ultimately appeal to me very much, and it was barely geological (although I could do art part of the day) - so, late in 2003, coming back with MOH from a trip to "our" hot springs in central Nevada, I looked up at some ash-flow tuffs lying there just off the side of the road, and suddenly - it came to me: I can do that! I can still do that - I can still map and do geology! What a revelation.

I set about, once again, getting back into the business of exploration geology. The price of gold was up, and companies were coming out of the woodwork. It took 3 to 4 months, but I got a job (sitting a drill rig) - my first job ever as a consulting geologist. (Maybe I was less impatient this time?)

I had thought, when I got out of the business for personal reasons, that if I didn't get back into the business in 5 years, that I would never do it, that it wouldn't even be possible, that I'd be out-of-date and no one would want me. My first attempt, in 1997-1998, had already been 2 years past my "due date" - doing it in 2003-2004 was more than ten years down the line. It worked, nevertheless, meaning that my idea of what was possible, and my long-term planning ideas, really were out of touch with ultimate reality. But then, my mom and dad (M+D), had always told me when I was growing up - you can do/be anything you want. (Obviously, though, I'm not really cut out to be a major league basketball player.)

Goals? I'm not really great with goals or long-term planning, and have found that some of my best ideas have been almost spur of the moment things, ideas that have ultimately taken me to places I never would have imagined - like being a field geologist. I never thought I was cut out for that, but circumstances and choices I made showed me that I was wrong about that.

I've had three major goals in my life: 1) move back west after moving east, 2) don't become a secretary, and 3) go to grad school. The first goal I developed at the age of 10 prior to moving east from the west coast to follow M+D when my dad got a job back east. I knew I would come back here (The West); I knew I would do it as soon as possible (at the time, I was thinking 5 years max, but by then I was in high school, and it wasn't quite the right time for me to move on my own!). The second goal I accomplished by not taking typing in high school (I took it later for my own use when it was clear I wouldn't somehow get sucked into the secretarial direction). The third goal, grad school, came to me in a matter of minutes during a personal crisis, in which a sig-oth was telling me that - I would quit undergrad school, I would move into this really awful old, falling down farm house, and I would become a - what? - housewife? Or he would leave me! Yikes! (BTW, don't ever, please, give me an ultimatum!) While crying, I told him that those things absolutely weren't possible, and at that second, I knew I was going to grad school to get my M.S. in geology.

Quite frankly, I never imagined myself as a field geologist, not until I became one, and I never really planned on being a consulting geologist, either. (I didn't really plan on getting any gray hair, but - oh, well). And I think that's "deep enough," as they say in the mining industry.

A Brief Update: BTW, I have the deepest respect for women who have chosen to be what was known then as a housewife - my mom, for one, and my exceptional bright and talented sisters, for two and three. It just wasn't the right thing for me at the time.

scientiae carnival


ReBecca said...

What is up with sig others and ultimatums? I was once told to choose between paleo and him. He didn't like the answer and started trying to pad the option. It was ridiculous!

You have made it at least! You are doing what you wanted to do. Sometimes it seems we do not always take the interstate, but get off on the state road and enjoy the twist turns and scenery.

ScienceWoman said...

Wow. What a story. It's great to hear that you were able to get back into the career you wanted, even after a long break. I think too many women think that if we take time "off" (for whatever) reason that there is no way to get back into the game.

Kim said...

Inspiring story. (And I'm glad the industry came back, finally, and you were able to get back into it.)

I've got one of those sig other stories, too: a guy who said "I don't want to marry a geologist. I want to marry Kim." It was clear that he didn't know Kim. I dumped him.

Silver Fox said...

Thanks for all the comments - as for the SigOth thing, for me I think it had something to do with how young I was, and how I hadn't been in the right place/space to begin with. Although that story has it's positive sides, the least of which are getting me to grad school, renewing my vow to move back to the West, and getting the opportunity to go to field camp in Arizona (another story) - but also, it somehow cured me of some cynicism that I had been developing.

EcoGeoFemme said...

It's really nice to hear that some senior level people haven't always had it all figured out. Hearing that you stepped off the path for a while or weren't sure that you always wanted to do this science makes me feel better about my own uncertainties. Thanks!

Silver Fox said...

You're welcome! I've probably always been a geologist at heart, thanks to my dad who took me to roadcuts at an early age. When I went to college, I was afraid of physics and chemistry - though I did alright in both.