Wednesday, 22 June 2016

A Safe Space

It's been an emotional evening. It's the eve of the EU Referendum, which has unleashed forces of misogyny and xenophobia that have ended in murder. I fully support giving the people the right to decide, but turning over this particular stone has had consequences I (naively) didn't predict. There have also been some particularly awful news stories that have had an impact on me - the murder of children in Syria and right here in the UK. Tonight I've been reading the experiences of women having the most terrible experiences which made me so full of anger and sadness (and confirmed all my feelings about being 100% pro-choice).

And all this sturm und drang has coincided with the beginning of digging season: my social media feeds are flooded with friends returning to the most beautiful Tuscan village where, although bad things certainly happened when I was there, my memory provides a warped vision of golden summers filled with friends and the joy of science and discovery. My friend Theresa just wrote the most lovely piece on the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) caused by not being there.

I wonder if the real reason I grieve for not spending 8 weeks digging in Italy this summer is not the high of excavation, or the high jinks of celebrations/commisserations. I don't think it's the food, wine or views that I'm really missing. I think it's the entirely false impression that in that enchanted place, in this safe space, there are no problems that our wonderful excavation director can't work out, and that can't be forgotten with a little grappa, a hug and a late night conversation with a good friend.

I think that's a testament to the site and its running, and I'm sure that experience was not universal: I certainly saw people battle with homesickness, personal issues, relationships and grief. Nostalgia is a false friend. But those summers were before I really saw Etruscan archaeology with the gloves off at a hostile, sexist conference, before I lost a pregnancy and came damn near losing another one, back when I had a funded PhD position and an engagement ring and was sure that the world would be a feast of opportunities and joys.

Those experiences are the reason it doesn't feel the same when I go back, the reason the FOMO bites me personally so hard.

As with everything in archaeology, the major issue is I can't go back in time.