The narrative of past civilizations is written by the generations who follow. Every person's individual narrative, however, is owned in the present; it is crafted by way of the decisions we make and the connections we cultivate.
The narrative that 1st Lt. Andrea M. Nevistic has written for herself has taken her from the coastal seaport city of Seattle, Wash., to the cradle of civilization in the ancient Near East as an archaeologist, and from Fort Bragg, N.C., to Afghanistan, and back as an officer in the Army.
Nevistic has traveled down many roads just to see where they end. In half a year's time the intelligence analyst, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, is set to embark on yet another journey: authorship.
"I don't want to live my life regretting not taking an opportunity or a chance," Nevistic said.
When Nevistic isn't helping to paint the intelligence picture of the battlefield for her commander or delving into the Tar Heel state's rich Civil War archaeological sites, she is actively engaging with her publisher to complete a manuscript and select imagery that will appear in a book she's penned. The publication will chronicle the discoveries she made while working as an Egyptologist and cultural anthropologist in the four years leading up to the time she was commissioned in the Army.
The story of how the book has come to fruition is rooted in the fierce determination Nevistic has demonstrated--and continues to manifest--to make her life's narrative her own.
Following the successful completion of a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Washington in her hometown, Nevistic found herself working part time in a hospital. In the course of her duties, she met a teacher who suggested she travel Europe by herself.
Nevistic accepted the challenge and traveled solo across 14 countries. When she returned, Nevistic said it was time to make a decision about her future.
"I want to do what I want to do with my life--it's mine," Nevistic said of her inner-dialogue at the time. "I love archaeology and I love history, so I decided that I would go for it: become what I wanted and actually take the chance.
"If it didn't work out, then at least I'd know that I'd tried that avenue," she continued.
Nevistic said to choose the archaeological avenue she would pursue she placed her finger on a spinning globe. Her finger landed on Egypt, so she packed up and moved to the Middle East.
When she arrived in Egypt Nevistic said she walked into the appropriate government office and immediately sought out Zahi Hawass--famed archaeologist, Egyptologist and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs in Egypt--to sell her case.
"I said look, you'll regret the day that I don't work for you," Nevistic recounts from her initial conversation with Hawass.
Nevistic said Hawass agreed to train her if she agreed to do the archaeological grunt work in the field. Both kept up their side of the bargain, and when she outgrew Hawass' training, she approached Mark Lehner--an American archaeologist with 30 years of experience excavating in Egypt who has produced the only known scale maps of the Giza Sphinx--with the same determination.
Nevistic worked for Hawass and Lehner for a period of four years, and pursued cultural anthropology courses at The American University in Cairo in her spare time. Her newfound interest in understanding the cultural, political, religious and social context of how ancient remains are perceived today juxtaposed with the reality that ancient remains across Egypt are being actively destroyed, became the focal point of her book.
"The preservation of ancient remains is a very western concept," Nevistic said. "Egypt is one example of many cultures that are struggling with this battle, where internationally people are labeling certain items as very important and valuable to the human history across the globe, but that doesn't mean locally that it translates."
Nevistic said the original manuscript of her book was to be her master's thesis for her graduate-level degree. Her work died on the vine while she was in Egypt, however, because she said she was not allowed to talk about the destruction of ancient remains, and it was illegal to say anything contrary about the Egyptian government.
The archaeologist left Egypt on Dec. 31, 2010, due to the changing political climate in the country. After returning to the U.S. Nevistic decided to try her hand at working as a military intelligence officer. She said her experience in analyzing culture would pair well with the needs of the military intelligence mission.
"We all bring something to the table when we join," Nevistic said. "I felt like this was an environment where I didn't have to necessarily give up who I was before, I just enhance it."
Nevistic commissioned on June 21, 2012. Once she completed training and returned to Fort Bragg, N.C., from a deployment to Afghanistan, Nevistic said she picked up on the manuscript right where she left off. She said even though she's not currently working in archaeology, it doesn't mean her passion for the field has died. And, she said, she wants her message to get out.
"The great thing is that in the U.S. you do have freedom of speech and you can discuss these things," Nevistic said. "These [ancient remains] are being destroyed; that kind of dialogue needs to take place otherwise these ancient remains will slowly dissolve or be gone."
Now only months away from being a published author, Nevistic said she's excited for the next chapter of her life to begin. Whether that chapter involves staying in the Army or charting a new course halfway around the globe, the sky is the limit; it's her narrative, and she's ready to write it.