27 and a PhD

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Losing and acquiring a new identity at school

Welcome to my blog!

Hello there, awesome reader. My name is Dr. 27. I'm older than that now, but I'm staying faithful to the origins of the blog.

This blog started 2 months before completing my PhD in a pretty southern university back in 2009. It was a way to practice my writing and take a break from all things thesis. My PhD is in a branch of structural biology where I studied some rather impressive stuff.

After completing the degree, I packed my life of 6 years in 3 days and moved to Canada to do a postdoc in a completely different field. Two years later, and after attending a lot of seminars, workshops and doing some much-needed soul-searching, I ended up getting out and looking for an alternative path to academia and industry.

The blog chronicles my mishaps, ideas, musings and tips on entering, staying and finishing grad school. It also talks about some (or a lot) of personal stuff. For a while, the blog became a place to talk about the frustrations of not knowing what to do after PhD. I wanted to explore alternatives to the traditional paths of research (academia, industry and goverment) whilst going back to my field of training (if at all possible). Eventually a job materialized. Follow my quest as I navigate the waters of being a staff scientist at a core facility.

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For 6 years I’ve had this email account at my (now) old school. The first thing I did in the morning was check my email. When I joined my lab I kept a window opened so that I could check for new messages from my (now) old boss, since she would email updates of papers, procedures, ideas for experiments, etc on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis.

Even though it’s been a little over a month since my defense I still check that email regularly. Even more regularly than my new email account. It seems as if my current boss does not send updates as regularly as the old one. I’ve only received 2 messages from him, both about BBQ’s or get togethers for the lab.

I started grad school right off of college, and I would only check my personal email while in college. But once I started grad school, my email account became my link to everything and everyone related to school/work. Now, it feels as if a part of my identity will be forever lost.

I know I sound like an idiot for saying this, but it feels as though a part of me is dying. I should see it more as a migration towards a brighter future, but somehow it hurts not to be part of the old community from that grad school.

I compare it (though on a much smaller scale) to when I was 13 and my grandma died. I would catch myself dialing her number after she died, and little by little I had to stop thinking about her number, or trying to dial it. I need to detach, to distance myself from the old place, to get a somewhat temporary new identity at this place where I’m doing my postdoc, and which I see as an even more temporary place than grad school.

I do need to share my new email with old contacts and collegues, for you never know where your future position will come from.

For now it’s an adaptation process I need to go through. I need to “divorce” from the old place, and plant myself in new soil. This is the beginning of a new me, and a new identity.

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