Many would say it’s unfair of me to call my mind “untrained.” After all, I’ve successfully completed both a B.A. and an M.A. and am on the verge of completing a PhD in history. It would seem, for all intents and purposes, that my mind is quite trained. But the reality of education, of academia as a whole, is that there is never an “end” and that the mind is in a perpetual state of being trained. Once I finish the PhD, there will be the matter of turning my dissertation from a lump of grad student musings and theory to a polished manuscript worthy of publishing. After that will come the second book project in the middle of constructing journal articles. There will be ever more lectures, seminars, and conferences to attend. And you know what? I. Can’t. Wait.
For me, the purpose of this blog will serve as a way for me to discuss the frustrations, struggles, and breakthroughs of the PhD student. I’ll often discuss interesting documents I come across or seek advice about arguments I’m having difficulties with. I’m fortunate to have this opportunity to work with British Naval History, with Sam and Justin, and the many scholars who contribute to this page. I encourage you to seek me out on Twitter, my personal page, or email!
I suppose that I should tell you all a little bit more about myself and how I came to the historical profession (in a rather roundabout way). I began my love affair with history as soon as I could read. My mother had this collection of Time Life books about ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt and I devoured them. I had this childhood dream of being the next great Egyptologist and that I would spend the rest of my life unearthing great treasures and contributing to our knowledge about ancient life. Think the Agatha Christie stories Murder in Mesopotamia or Appointment with Death (which David Suchet brought to life so beautifully). Looking back, it was probably the most unrealistic dream I’ve ever had. Throughout high school, I pretty much gave up on that dream and decided that I would be a doctor (although that career path went from being a doctor to being a trauma surgeon to being a medical examiner). But on the day of my high school graduation, when people asked me what I was going to do at Appalachian State University, I thought “I have no idea.” I honestly, for the first time in my life, had no idea what I wanted to do.
It was then that fate intervened. I took an Introduction to Archaeology course my first semester in college and decided then and there that, although I wouldn’t be an Egyptologist, that I could still be an archaeologist. I was so excited about this new found passion that I signed up for the required archaeology field school for that summer (which most students take in their last year). I managed to herniate three disks in my back, confront my fear of spiders (hello, Black Widow!) and snakes (what’s up, Water Moccasins?), and sweat out my “freshman fifteen.” It was both the most incredible and most excruciating 4 weeks of my life. As I returned to college that Fall, I was a little concerned about becoming an archaeologist. Would I need back surgery in 10 years? But I remained focused and determined to at least finish the B.A. in my chosen field.
In my last year of college, I took a couple of museum courses and something just clicked. I could work with archaeology materials, with these grand historical collections, as a museum curator and/or archivist. I loved the physical and creative aspect of putting displays together, the joy of creating museum content for children, and the sense of permanency I got while learning how to preserve documents and objects for future generations. My professor, Dr. Charles Watkins, encouraged me to put in applications for a Master’s program with a focus on Museum Studies. Given that there aren’t many Public History programs left in the country, my options were fairly limited. I had the option of either staying at my beloved Appalachian State and studying under the guidance of Dr. Watkins or spreading my wings and trying the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. It just felt right to stay at App State, so that’s what I did. I made lifelong friends and colleagues and they are the reason that I decided to go further and apply for a PhD program (because of the love I developed teaching undergraduate courses).
And so, here I am, a PhD candidate in her 4th year of study. This time next year, *fingerscrossed*, I will be preparing to defend my dissertation. In my next blog post, I’ll discuss the path I took to my current dissertation topic, how I fell in love with early modern Atlantic/maritime history and pirates, and what I plan to do post-PhD. I just want to thank Justin and Sam again for giving me this opportunity. And thank YOU for taking the time to look at my blog!