27 and a PhD

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No need for pity/ I’m thankful

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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This is a rather personal account. You don’t need to read if you don’t want to. And I’m not looking for pity. This is just one of the many challenges I’ve been facing lately. It goes to show that everyone, even scientists, have problems, the same problems that “regular people” have. We have needs, and we have problems, like the rest of the world does. You’ve been warned. Proceed with caution.

Even thought it’s not Christmas day yet, I still made a few calls this morning to hon and my family. I realize they may be busy later today and tomorrow, so I wanted to talk to them before the celebrations begin.

While talking to honey, he mentioned that he’s really sad I have to say in the City (me too, but I really couldn’t go home). He asked me to please, please, please, get out and do something fun. Go to the City, see places, maybe call up a friend, just do something and get out of the apartment. I told him that while I would totes to that any day he’s here, I really didn’t feel like going out (including, tourists, long lines, waiting for a long time for a subway or bus ride, sick people, annoying people … heck, people, I know, I can never be a secular humanist).I mentioned that I really do not dread staying in, I enjoy it, as I spend usually 10-12 hours away, most days of the week, and that whenever I get a chance I stay in, and veg-out. Once he saw that I’m not terribly frustrated by staying in, he felt a bit better (though he would still like me to do something fun).

The reason I’m staying in the City is money. I have very little of it after taking care of family debts. I got a nasty email from a family member a week before I was scheduled to move to the City (yeepee, I spent my last week in Canada weeping like a moron and wondering how the hell to get out of this one). My dad had asked this person and I to co-sign a loan for him (you know where this is going, it is not pretty). My dad had been faithfully paying this debt, until he lost his job, twice. Instead of calling me and saying that he’d be short on cash for a while, he thought he could get out without telling anyone. He convinced the bank (credit union, really) not to call me, that he’d figure something out. What I got instead was the angriest you could ever imagine email from said family member who said he was getting harassing calls and that I needed to pay for things now, or else (I was jobless at the time, in a foreign country, and I couldn’t collect unemployment).

The emails and the drama that followed wrecked havoc on my life, my peace, and my credit score (the least important of the 3). The credit union did manage to get a hold of said family member, who instantly blamed me for all his bad luck in not getting a loan to send his youngest child to college (his credit score is well over 710, while mine is 540). Said family member has been harassing my mom and my dad relentlessly. Said family member happens to live in the City, and also had enough time and anger to call my mom’s side of the family and tell them that I dislike paying credit agencies and that I’m an irresponsible asshole (among many other lovely things).

The reason I can’t go home is because I’ve been trying to dump as much money as I can to bring said loan up to date. My parents are at risk their house, and half of the family hates me (not that I was their favourite anyways, somehow they seem to hate me and my sister, even though we’ve been among the best sheep in the family). The money I was hoping to dump on the debts I made for myself is now being carefully divided to make sure everything gets paid, even if it’s only the minimum. The City is expensive and since the move-out from Canada, I’ve added even more things to my life that need to be paid (I need to sell my car, yet I can’t even afford to pay to transfer the title, let alone get my City driver’s licence, or pay for the basic repairs needed to at least put it in the market). New clothes or shoes are obviously out of the question. Getting married or having a kid won’t happen for (at the very least) 5 years.

I can’t go home because I can’t afford not to get paid, and I haven’t accumulated enough time to justify being away from work for 7 days. And I haven’t had a break since this time last year.

I know it’s a sad story, but I’m not alone in this. It could be worse, I could be unemployed. I could be missing a part of my body that wouldn’t allow me to do what I do, or I could be chronically ill. Thankfully the only things I’m allergic to are pain-killers.

Instead, I have many things to be thankful for (probably more than I have reasons to be bitter). I have a job and feel better about it than I did about my previous position as a postdoc. I’ve made friends at work; we all seem to genuinely like each other. I met a PI that I’ve admired for 10 years, and after dropping a seriously hilarious and nerdy line, he seems think that I’m somewhat sane. I have clothes, a roof above my head and warm food on my table, every day. I haven’t had to go without food a single day since I moved. Even thought it’s the minimum payment, I’m on time on all my debts, old and inherited. I got gifts and cards this year, even though my family is far away. I have legs that work, health insurance, a warm bed, a coat. My basic needs are covered.

I’ve been bitter for a while, and I hate the money situation like you have no idea. I’ll be looking for a (hopefully part-time) second job next year, so maybe I can visit the family and dump some more money on the debts. It’s tough, but somehow I hope to make it.

Don’t feel sorry for me, don’t pity me because I bitch and moan about not going home. I could be a lot worse, and I have many things to say thanks for.

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11 Comments

  1. Genomic Repairman says:

    That sucks cheer up and best of luck.

  2. I’m glad that you have things to be grateful despite the hard situation you’re in! Keep your head up πŸ™‚

  3. lin says:

    That is an awfull situation…. I think it is pretty freakin amazing/cool/awesome/responsible/loveable of you to (try and) save the day the best you can. Stay strong!

  4. *e-hug from a stranger* It’s good you can still count your blessings instead of being oblivious to them. And no condition is permanent, you’ll soon be able to see your family and the debts will be paid off πŸ™‚ Happy Holidays!!!

  5. Your family is lucky to have you, and you’re really a wonderful person. So few can look at a crappy situation and still have positive things to say about their life. (I know that I’ve been guilty of complaining when I have very little to complain about.)

    I hope you feel better for getting it off your chest…and I hope you’ll be having fun over new years.

    • Dr. 27 says:

      Thank you so much Cherish! You are so, so sweet. I think I inhereted some of that spirit from my mom. She hasn’t lost faith that things will get better, especially when I see the mountains of money that need to be paid. Luckily I’ll stay at my current job long enough to make a significant dent, if not erase a chunk of it. I do feel better by putting things like these out there. Writing it was hard, and pressing the send button (and not deleting it) was even harder. I hope you have a wonderful start of your year! Cheers and thanks for stopping by πŸ˜€

  6. […] changes. Lastly … because I don't have much sick time, and I can't afford much sick time anyways. If I don't work, my bills don't get paid. No bills paid, even more blemishes on my credit […]

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