27 and a PhD

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Monthly Archives: July 2011

What’s happening?

Phewww, it’s been quite sometime since I last updated this blog. Fear not, I haven’t gone away or started a new blog. It’s incredible how busy life is now that I’m back to my original field of research. It’s been crazy but good. I’ve had to adapt to a couple of new things, like having users and collaborators email or call and ask for certain services and things. I work in this big core lab that serves a ton of people, but luckily we’re in the middle of summer, so it’s been a good time to start and get used to fulfilling many roles and tasks. I’ve been purchasing things for the group I work with, from supplies to tools, everything except furniture and big ticket times. On my first day I got to use one of the machines I used  when I was in grad school. I felt both thankful and fearful of breaking it, as I hadn’t used it in almost 3 years.

I’ve gotten my little desk/office space, an extension with voice mail, an email account and accounts on different types of equipment, computers and servers. I’ve been taking notes like a freshmen biology student and getting out of my comfort zone, chasing people, users and services.

I’ve had to adapt to having staff meetings (which are longer than lab meetings).

So far I like it. I have a 401K, dental, health and prescription coverage. Weekends are off limits, but it may change when the semester starts. I’ve met some of the idols in my field which are currently working in the city. And the city is … well … the City.

I’m adapting well to new and different means of transportation … but I do miss driving, especially since I lived so very close to work in Canada. I’ve got a smarphone (yay), so I can try to stay connected. But with the sheer volume of work it’s sometimes impossible. I live close to work, so I walk here every day, but it’s a temporary arrangement, while I find a more permanent place. I may have lost a pound or two, and sometimes my feet hurt a bit less than when I was in Canada. The food here is amazing … it is true, especially Chinese-take out, nom nom nom. I’ve met quite a few wonderful tweeps and there are regularly scheduled tweetups where I hope to make some new contacts and friends. I’ve been trying to get out, go to little festivals and small events … kinda like getting out of my shell. For some people this would be hard to imagine, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve become shy and introverted.

Even with the sheer volume of people in this city I’ve managed to see 3 people I know from 3 completely separate times of my life. There’s a grade-school friend I saw one night. Then there was a former student from my PhD department, who’s on his way to become a prof. And finally, one of my college professors. It’s both exciting and different to describe to them what it is that I’m doing now that I’m no longer a postdoc. It’s also interesting not to be a postdoc anymore.

I think good things are brewing, and I’m approaching everything with both caution and optimism. One especially wonderful thing is that honey’s been visiting for the last few days. He’s visited work, the apartment, he’s done my morning and afternoon routes to it. We’ve visited museums and stores and we’re starting to enjoy some of the food in the city (hon’s had an upset stomach since before he got here). Thankfully we have a couple of more days together … but then he has to head back, and that sucks. I miss him SO much. He’s not only my best friend and confidant, but he’s also the one who helps me get out of my shell, meet people, discover new places. It’s hard to be long-distance again, especially when one of us gets sick, or something stressful happens. We’re each others’ rock and support, and it sucks to be separated by so many miles.

I’m still having issues with my family. Without going into too many details, my dad got into some financial trouble that’s dragging some family members down, including me. I’ve been trying to help in any way I can, but sadly, I haven’t been too successful. My dad is also in denial, and his only choice (bankruptcy) is something he’s still is not in the right mindset to do. We’ll see. Things would be a lot easier if this situation, and the pain, anger and problems it brings along, was sorted out … life is never easy, and it sucks to get trapped in the middle of all this.

OK, gotta run, there are experiments and issues waiting to be addressed. I hope to write some more soon!

I’m employed, the process and the wait (Act 2)

This is Act 2, recounting how I got my new job. Act uno is here.

So, I swallowed (some of) my pride, emailed the guy from the ad and, in a couple of sentences, talked about my training and some details about my previous (and current) scientific life. I asked if the search committee would even consider someone like me (because I was/am still new(ish) research wise), and waited, and waited and waited. The guy wrote back, asked for a full application packet, but couldn’t make any promises. That was enough for me to get a glimmer of hope, maybe all was not lost. One of my 2011 resolutions was to get out of my postdoc lab, with or without a job. I didn’t want to go back to the lab after new year’s, I wanted out.

While waiting for signs of life from the search committee, I probably filled more than 50 applications to all sorts of jobs in North America and parts of Europe. After one particularly discouraging bout, I was ready to give up. I hadn’t been updated from any of the jobs I’d applied which were in areas compatible with my training and I didn’t know what was going on. Then out of the blue, I got a call from the ad guy. He wanted to see if I’d be up for a phone interview. I did, of course and we spent almost an hour talking about my previous research experience and accomplishments … but it felt as though all I’d done was babble on and on (brings to mind an entry from Dr. (now Prof) Becca). I was out of breath for the first 10 minutes, and my hands were shaking uncontrollably, I thought I’d hang up accidentally or something worse. Of course I didn’t hear from the guy for sometime, again. Eventually I got an email from a place in the south …. and on that same day I also got an email from the ad guy at new job city … somehow I’d convinced people at new job city that I was worth the invitation. After a few weeks of non-stop interviews, and considering the possibility of moving to Rainbow Lake, Alberta, I went for my interview at new job city. I’ll spare most of the details, but basically I had a full day of one-on-one interviews, a job talk and dinner (please be gracious and accept any sort of EtOH they provide, it will help calm your nerves, trust me).

I got back to Canada, and waited, and waited, and waited. Hon kept saying that I should email the people at new job city. I’d gotten a very generic email from my (now) new boss thanking me for my visit, and he mentioning that the committee still had other candidates to interview. With every day that passed a little bit more of hope kept fading. By this time I’d learned that I wouldn’t be moving to Rainbow Lake, or anywhere else for that matter … all my offers had fallen through. I was very sad and angry. I also made my mind, I wasn’t asking my boss for an extension. I was ready to go, with or without a job offer.

I emailed a guy at school, asking him if he was looking for someone. He was, but the guy was very busy, so we never got to talk about anything concrete job-wise. A part of me wanted to stay close to honey, be at the same school, just for a wee bit of extra time. I had some pretty good ideas for experiments and approaches I could try if I joined this lab … but a part of me really didn’t want to go back to protein biochemistry. It was as if my love for computer-controlled everything won over biology and biochemistry (apparently this is more common that I originally thought … especially if all you do is purify protein, after protein, and set up trial, after trial). I really couldn’t see myself holding yet another flask full of 2XYT, making another buffer, or running 6 gels at once.

I’d also given up hope from ever hearing back from new job city. I decided against writing a desperate email or something similar. All I wanted from them was to write back with the negative, I needed an answer to put this all behind me. 

The kindness of total strangers

Strangers have shaped my view of new job city ... a bit of a guiding light

It’s been a week since I moved to new job city. I can hardly believe it. Two Saturdays ago I was still in Canada, still with honey, planning to go to a small fringe festival. I still had his sweet smell, smile, touch, next to me, at my fingertips. I had kitty, a real big bed, cable and our recliner. I was still pinching myself every time I thought of moving to new job city. But I was/am scared of the enormity of the city, and how I would cope with that.

Since then I’ve moved, started work, lived in 2 places in 10 days. It hasn’t been easy. I don’t think I’ve fully processed things yet. During the week I go to work, talk to my labmates, run experiments, do some administrative/managerial/technical things, at the end of the day I feel tired, but accomplished. During the weekends I go to look at apartments, or stay in and watch TV. I know, boring. Those of you who know new job city know that this sucks on my part. I’m a wee scared of the city, of venturing out alone, of accidentally bumping on nasty EX-family member or something. I have an unlimited transit pass, and unlimited resources food and entertainment-wise. But instead I stay in.

One thing that has made the move a LOT easier … well, two things … scratch that, 3 are Google Maps, Skype and the random acts of kindness of total strangers. Oh, and a fourth one, YOU my tweeps. I’ve been lucky enough to have internet access in the 2 places I’ve stayed. I get to talk to honey from his vacation spot every day, even if it’s for a few short minutes. That is one of my lifelines. I’d love for him to text me at all sorts of hours of the day, like before … but I’ll take Skype for now, that is sufficient to keep my heart content.

Google Maps, and the street view feature have been a lifesaver. They’ve helped me orient in this new place. Every time I go somewhere new (which is everywhere, except for work) I check it out. I’ve made it to all the spots I’ve needed to, on my own … which is kind of a miracle, seeing as honey is really gifted in figuring out maps and routes and his sense of direction is better than mine. I also see reviews of the places I go to, check  the surroundings, and of course, the public transport options, routes and ways to access them. It’s been a God-send.

The third: random acts of kindness. Well they’ve been amazing, and have made the whole moving thing a lot easier …. or at least less stressful. The very first day I got to new job city I had people opening the door, helping me out with my massive luggage, showing a nice side of this city that I’d never experienced. The people at the front desk/reception of where I stayed the first few days greeted me with a smile. The breakfast guys near my first temporary place always knew what I wanted and prepared it with gusto. When I got to my place of work, people warmed up to me quickly. My taxi driver yesterday, even though he was clueless of where he was going (I was just as clueless but somehow we teamed up and managed to get me to my second temp place), was gracious, attentive and extremely helpful. People at the deli where I get lunch, the public transport ticket place(s) … amazing and helpful. I’d always found them rude when I came as a tourist … but something’s happened … or maybe it’s the universe giving me a break and making my life a little easier during this whole period. It was the guy holding the door for me yesterday, a total stranger, asking me if I needed help with my bags yet again, the guy who makes space for me on the bus to sit and take a break on my way home. The guy who gives me a free cookie, just because I smiled, said thank you and devoured the food he’d just prepared.

Finally, but no less meaningful, my tweeps. Ever since I started getting in touch with people working/studying at new job city, asking them tips and bits, I’ve never gotten a rude response, or a you’ll figure it out kinda answer. I’ve gotten email after email, forwarding me info on places to stay, places to avoid, places to eat, etc. Aside from my true family (hon included), my Twitter friends and acquaintances have been instrumental in this whole thing. Our convos by DM, or gchat, making lunch, dinner or drink dates arrangements. I cannot believe it. When some “family” members failed, you guys were/are there to pick up the pieces and help me stay on track.

Thank you, thank you all. I’m very humbled by your kindness. I hope I can somehow repay you, or at the very least, pay it forward. You’ve made the move and adapting to a new environment less stressful. Thank you, thank you, thank you.