27 and a PhD

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Monthly Archives: May 2012

2012 has been sucking the life out of me

Aaaaaaargh. I really don’t know if 2011 was crappier than 2012 thus far. I know, I have a new job, and I shouldn’t complain, but every month something happens that leaves me out of breath (and mostly, out of money). In January I started the year pissed off … somewhat. I didn’t get to see my family for Christmas and that had me in a bad mood. In February, I lost my unlimited metrocard two days after purchasing. I had to call the MTA and they did a partial refund, but I still had to purchase another metrocard (not unlimited) until I got the refund. Then we got a new staff member in the lab, and of course, my boss had to display his superior skills of being a bully in front of the new person. I was very happy that day. Then in March I applied (and got an interview by phone) for a job back home. The prof was so-so, and I didn’t get an offer (that’s OK, I still have my job that I really like). Then I did my taxes. I got a federal refund which had to be completely funneled to paying Canadian taxes. And because I only lived in Canada part of last year, I didn’t get the usual standard deduction. I had saved some money, but still, it was a bitch. And I ended up with over 2K to pay to the Harper and his cronies (why Canada, why the hell did you vote for this idiot, the clear choice was the NDP, as the liberals had no standing, come on!). And because NY is a great state to live in (hell to the no), I was slapped with a State AND city tax bill. Luckily my tax guy was able to help me cut the losses on the state by  adding what I paid in Canada, but I still ended up paying city taxes because guess what … the idiots at HR didn’t give me the state form. I had a tiny, tiny raise at the beginning of the year, which is now non-existent, as what I got is exactly what’s taken out for city taxes. Finally in May I got to see my family thanks to my wonderful sister’s generosity. But I almost didn’t make it because when it came time to move my car to the alternate side parking place for the days I was going to be away, I discovered that it didn’t start. Some mice ate some cables and stuff and I ended up paying 300$ in repairs. You may say, but 27, you can get rid of it. I sure can, but when every time you’re going to do what needs to be done to sell it, you get slammed with a new issue (be it the car, the city taxes, illness or your missing metrocard), it really sucks all the air in your lungs. It’s like being sucker punched every few weeks.

The best part is that now I have to move. I signed a lease for about a year last year and I was ready to renew it. In truth is a sublease with my roommate. It worked great because I got the city view without being in the city. I know and love the neighbourhood, I had kitty with me and I had a big room with an A/C. And now she needs to move in with her BF, as she’s expecting. I found about it days after returning from my break at home. I left me speechless and breathless. Now I’m apartment hunting again, a “sport” that I hate. And because my savings account are low, it’s going to suck some more if I have to pay several months of security and this and that. And don’t even get me started on the move itself. I should have a tipping jar for my blog. But it feels wrong to ask for money. I need a second job for sure. Ugh.

Oh, and I forgot … I accidentally dumped some food on my little computer. Now half of the keyboard doesn’t work. It makes strange noises whenever I restart, and the brightness control doesn’t work, so it’s always dark. I managed to get a tiny and cheap keyboard … but I do need a new computer. Now I just need to sell my soul on eBay to get it. DFS

The difference a year makes

I started this entry on May 14. I decided on the title because while talking to honey the other night, I mentioned how different Sunday afternoons felt, compared to when I was a postdoc. I decided to look back at what I’d written exactly a year ago, and found this. My state of mind was all messed up, and I had given up on finding a job. I was just relieved that my postdoc was ending and I’d be out of the lab soon.

The difference a year makes. On my last day as a postdoc, I had a lot of work to do. Since my worker’s visa expired on that day, I didn’t want to break the law and do anything to jeopardize the end of my stay in Canada (or spend one more day in the lab). I was running from side to side, trying to finish everything up to show the boss, grab my things and leave. The Saturday before I’d gone to pick things up and tidy up my space, I didn’t want to do that in front of my labbies. I wanted to hand over my notebooks and go.

Then I got a call from NYC. A somewhat excited future boss was checking on how things were going, and he couldn’t hold back the happiness when I told him that the search was crap, and I’d been offered postdoc positions, but not the coveted staff scientist position I wanted so, I had no job. He asked then and there if I was interested in moving to the city, and I said yes. I needed a job. I wanted a job in my former field of training. It made me happy to have someone show some interest in my skills.

The next few days were a blur, and all I could remember was the going back and forth of emails, trying to make the offer more appealing. Then I moved. I left the suburban life behind me, a teary boyfriend, two broken hearts.

I don’t remember much of my first few months in the city. My mind was still in shock. Some family problems didn’t let me enjoy much my first official, grown up, job offer. I didn’t want to leave honey, my life, my surroundings, even though I was moving to the most amazing city in the world.

I still made an effort to socialize. I attended a few SONYCs, I met awesome tweeps, I started working hard. I wanted to prove to the boss and my coworkers that they’d made the right choice. I developed calluses, and courage to confront the boss when he’s being an asshole. I developed great friendships, lived in two boroughs, went back to Canada, got my stuff back. I worked until 10pm sometimes, and others I Ieft early. I didn’t see my family for Christmas, yet got wonderful, friendly cards from tweeps, gift cards from friends and my in-laws, and many special visits from my honey, my soul mate.

While talking to honey yesterday, I realized that this last year has been a whirlwind of emotions and tests. I’ve been squeezed emotion-wise and money-wise to the end. But I’ve managed to meet some of the most amazing scientists ever. I haven’t shied away from introducing myself to some big wigs. I realize now that I don’t know nearly as much UNIX and Linux as I thought, but that with great teachers I can learn. I’ve learned to answer emails about possible collaborations graciously and engage people in conversation, I’ve gone to a lot of local workshops, and found ways to surprise my boss (especially if it involves saving money). A lot of my tweeps have been great sources of information and I can’t thank you enough. My partner has been extremely supportive, and because of his fantastic parents, I’ve been able to see him, and join in the celebration of his PhD.

Sunday afternoons are not as bad as they used to. While walking in Midtown yesterday, I realized that I don’t dread Mondays as much as I used to. I don’t get as depressed either. The only thing I complain about is that I know I’ll be too sleepy in the morning. My (somewhat still new) job is mentally stimulating, and forces me to think outside the box, to be resourceful, to lean on my coworkers and for them to lean on me. I have a boss that (though pissy at times) likes to engage in conversations about science and the lab and keeping things moving. I feel like he’s interested in my success, because it means that my lab is successful. I have direction, more than I did a year ago. And that makes a difference.

Resolutions 2012 – 5 months in

Here’s how things are going five months into 2012. The changes are crossed and have a comment. Enjoy!

Even though I complain all the time about hating to do resolutions, I still manage to make a list. I like lists, I enjoy making them and I enjoy crossing stuff off even more. So, without further ado, here’s what I hope to accomplish have accomplished in 2012 (in no particular order):

  1. Get bangs. I love bangs, but after a while I get tired. I found a haircut that I love and back in October, I found a stylist that I like, so I hope to get into the spirit of spring with a new haircut and bangs to match. Finally I’m sporting bangs, a little long, but that’s better than ending up with Audrey Hepburn’s bangs on hair that’s thicker than thick.
  2. Sell my car.
  3. But first I need to *finally* get the papers in order. It still has an ON title.  *** I did get my driver’s license and I got the papers for transferring the title … one step at a time.
  4. Ask for a raise, because I deserve it, and I want it. After having the results of my year end review, I ended up with a few more pennies in my pocket. Not too shabby :-)
  5. Visit the family and stay a few days without worrying about money. Possibly attend my nephew’s birthday. I did, and I did attend my nephew’s birthday. I love that little bundle of awesome 🙂
  6. Attend hon’s defense and graduation. We can call honey Mr 30 and a PhD.YAY!
  7. Make a dent on credit card debt #3, the smallest one (thought it’s still pretty significant).
  8. Attend a national meeting of my discipline or at least sub-field. I have no money to attend, and work won’t cover it unless I pay in advance, so not this year.
  9. Appear on a publication, even if it’s just in the acknowledgments.
  10. Write an entry once a week.
  11. Make dinner at home, at least 1 week of every month (it costs me as much to dine out as to buy groceries and cook, so I opt to (mostly) eat out and work late).Woo! Achieved. I’m cooking most days in, not 7 days a week, but most days a week, every week. Not too shabby here either. I’ll take eating in most days, rather than cooking for 7 days just one week a month.
  12. Tell annoying family member to fuck off if he keeps harassing me.
  13. Try a few new places to eat, especially around my neighbourhood (not that I don’t love you y’all, but you know, I need variety).
  14. Walk more, eat less, drink more water. Not eating less, but I’m opting to walk more whenever I can (and soon I should be getting my orthotics! finally done, yay!!!) and I’m drinking water most days at work.
  15. Find a good, local brewery and try a new beer every month (suggestions are more than appreciated, also #drunksci).

Gift-giving for the newly minted PhD

A couple of days ago I got a very interesting question in one of my posts as to what would be an appropriate gift for a newly minted PhD. That got me thinking that, since not many people close to us (family, non grad school friends) may be in the academic realm, they are probably scratching their heads as to how to show appreciation during this momentous occasion. Thus, here’s a little post intended for our family and friends … in case they’re inclined to share their happiness and pride with a little something.

Now, a PhD is a big, big thing. We’ve spent years slaving away in the library and/or the lab, or field, or underwater, or wherever. We’ve grown a lot and have faced some of the most challenging times ever. Thus, it’s a wonderful time to celebrate the good times, and drink a bit to drown the sorrows. But, as a family member or friend, what would be an appropriate gift to give, if you’re feeling like giving something?

Here are some ideas, accompanied by the rationale behind them (in no particular order):

  1. Money – I know, it sounds like an easy way out, but trust me, ask any grad student (besides your grad student) or postdoc and they will gladly admit that they’re broke. So money is a safe bet, and totally appropriate, I’d say. Think about it, your grad may be moving across the country, or the pond, as it is they have to get rid of a lot of things, and they’re broke (have I stressed this enough). A little bit of money will be greatly appreciated, it doesn’t take much space, it’s not insulting (IMO), and will be put to good use. The amount … it really doesn’t matter, as long as you’re comfortable with what you’re giving. It doesn’t have to be a lot, it’s the thought that counts.
  2. Good food – again, this goes back to the fact that a lot of people are broke by the time their defense rolls in. And chances are they’ve been doing the ramen noodle and coffee diet for a long, long time, thus, a good, real, wholesome meal will be greatly appreciated. It doesn’t have to be a really big fancy restaurant, as long as it’s good and comes from the heart. If you’re so inclined, feel free to invite them over to your place, or if you’re far away, take your graduate during their next visit to town. It’s thoughtful and gives you the time to share and celebrate with your graduate.
  3. Jewelry – a new watch, a nice pair of earrings, maybe something engraved. It will for sure make your graduate feel special. One of my grad school’s BFFs got a cute pair of diamond earrings from her husband to wear during the defense. They were a nice touch to her outfit and it gave her a bit of a boost too.
  4. Help – chances are the grad will be relocating, they will need help moving, boxing stuff, throwing away most of their Ikea furniture. Volunteering your time to help the grad will be greatly appreciated.
  5. Some sort of spa treatment – again, this goes back to grad student’s being broke. So, if you can or are so inclined, maybe a 30-minute massage for a stressed body, or a hair cut are a good salon, or a mani/pedi, or something similar. The grad will feel very pampered after it, and will thank you for years to come.
  6. A gift card – if giving moolah straight out sounds a little eefy, then maybe a gift card to their favourite store, or electronics place makes you more comfortable. Again, the amount is up to you. But to give you an idea, in my family, gifts ranged from 100-200$.
  7. Something electronic – a tablet, a smartphone, a fancy set of earphones, a portable gaming system, an e-reader. Whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be too expensive, maybe their iPod is falling apart, or maybe they’d like to eventually read something not so sciency … again, maybe a gift card for any of the above electronics is a good idea.
  8. A fancy piece of clothing – chances are, your graduate has been wearing the same jeans for 3 years non-stop. They may have a new job lined up, or they’ll be going on interviews. Maybe a nice shirt, or a new pair of (non-athletic, non flip-flop) shoes is in order.
  9. A vacation – my in-laws helped a bit to get me and hon to Spain two years ago, after my graduation. If you’re so inclined, and can do it, maybe the whole family or set of friends can pool money to send the grad on a short trip away from all-things grad school related.
  10. Booze – or the grad’s favourite drink. The grad will need some booze to celebrate (or drown their sorrows), so feel free to sponsor a night out, or get a bottle of something (or a nice bag of coffee, a fancy tea, ice-cream for our Mormon crowd).

Hope this helps. Feel free to add or ask anything I may have forgotten. And congrats!!!!

Ask 27 and a PhD

My second Twitter anniversary, and third bloggiversary are fast approaching (both in May). I’ve been thinking that since some of you crazy people out there are either new to my blog or my Twitter stream, maybe, just maybe, you’re interested in learning more about me, my career choices, or quirks (what are y’all thinking??). So, for the next week I’ll be checking my comments and tweets for any questions you have. I know, who do I think I am, right? No, I’m just genuinely interested in connecting with y’all, so feel free to @ me or email me, or leave a message and I’ll be glad to answer, as long as I don’t reveal too many details about my life (personal or professional) which could put my job, or that of those around me, in jeopardy.