How I Found My Stride

By Mary Praetzellis, Associate Director Anthropological Studies Center

I remember my mother reading the five of us books about Egyptian archaeology. I never
had a career path. Unlike most youngsters, I never wanted to be an archaeologist. My
journey towards managing an archaeological research facility had more to do with the
Beatles and the Black Panthers, the urgencies of romance, and the complexities of
campus politics, than with the stories my mom read…or at least their content.
I had the perfect childhood—nurturing, secure, democratic, rich in spirit and love.
Everything I could want lay within the radius of our modest track home at the end of a
cul-de-sac. Family provided the tools, if not the desire, for success. I left as expected to
attend UC Berkeley after high school. Here devastating homesickness co-existed with an
intellectual and political awakening only fractionally drug induced.
All this was nothing compared to the catharsis at graduation time four years later. Then I
realized the purpose of an education was to secure a job. And I had failed miserably: a
BA in Anthropology, which trained one to do what exactly?; an arrest record for a
peaceful demonstration in Sproul Hall; a “vintage” wardrobe from thrift stores and free
boxes; and a job reference from ZZ’s Hot Dog.
I packed my bags and went to England to work on an archaeological excavation in
York—one of things I could almost do, but very badly. There I met Adrian, now my
husband. In order to make that relationship work I had to learn the archaeology craft—
hard manual labor, detailed recording, and mind-bending analyses. So I mastered the
tortuous wheelbarrow run and translated hundreds of pages of field notes into a one-page
matrix. I became an archaeologist, but a homesick one still, which is why Adrian and I
married and moved to Sonoma County.
Now I am a manager; I no longer get to dig. But I do get to write and to enable others to
learn the craft and earn a living applying it. This is more than enough for me.
My advice to anyone wanting to become an archaeologist or anything else would be:
Why? Be open to following the path that life provides you, making it yours along the way.
What is more important: Where you end up or how you get there?

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