27 and a PhD

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Monthly Archives: February 2013


It is with a heavy heart that I leave my first post-academic job in search of something new. Many feelings are in my head and my heart now. Did I make the right decision? Will my family survive yet another move? How will honey fare in new job city? Will I be able to deal (or avoid) all the knucklehead republicans I will find in this city? Will I deliver they way people envision I will?

I feel small, inadequate … like it’s Imposter Syndrome x100. The responsibility of a whole lab rests on my shoulders (no, I’m not becoming a PI). I have to make sure my instruments run, I have to train people, analyze data, help calm nerves of both students and postdocs … this, 4 years after I was last a grad student, and 2 after I left my postdoc to work in New York.

My heart feels heavy because I’m leaving NYC, the city of dreams. I’ve met so many wonderful people, I adore my co-workers, they’re seriously the best scientists I’ve worked with in some time. They’re patient and funny and I feel like I’m letting them down by taking another position.

In these last couple of days the most common words coming out of people’s mouths are: are you excited? how does it feel to be a manager? how does it feel to leave NYC?

While I am relieved that I don’t have to worry about alternate side parking again, or that I can kiss goodbye to overcrowded buses and trains, everything else about the city, from the good food to the great science, from the noises that make NYC well, NYC, to the ease of finding everything, at all times of the day, and everything you get to do here … all of it I will miss. I guess besides the worry about being able to produce and delivery, I am most afraid of adapting to a city I haven’t seen in a couple of years. I’m afraid I won’t mesh and that I’ll be bitchin’ about how great things were in NYC (even if I occasionally disagreed with my boss).

I’m afraid of change and I am afraid of me. Of being so scared out of my wits that I won’t move, won’t decide and will let a whole lab and a whole lot of users crash down and fall. I am not excited … I am terrified. The possibility of change and more money cannot shake the terror I have of looking like a complete idiot, and of making the profs that vouched for me, afraid and sad that they chose me and that they offered the job to me, instead of someone more experienced. My smile and excitement about science cannot, or are not, enough to keep a lab running. And I am once again afraid of not being competent enough.

When will the imposter leave my life for good??

Resolutions 2013 – revisited

As usual, I wrote some NY’s resolutions for this 2013. The first quarter of 2013 has been packed with lots of excitement and changes, and I’m hoping that things will settle a bit after that. Today, I’m pleased to share a little bit on how one of my NY’s resolutions went down. This one involves Mr 30 and a PhD … and the day we got married.

After honey proposed at the end of 2012, we discussed several things, including how to celebrate our union, our vision for our wedding day, and of course, the change in plans brought about by the new job which I’m starting in two weeks! One of the things we talked about was how the new job has similar benefits to my current one, which going from a postdoc to a staff scientist meant the world to me (hello vision and dental care, and oh, I have a 401K *finally*). In addition there are other benefits, including a reduced rate at the school’s gym, life insurance benefits, etc. And since hon will be freelancing while we get our act together in new job city, I want him to be able to take his meds and not worry about going to the hospital or paying retail price for meds.

I was also enamored with the idea of getting married at City Hall in NYC and we agreed to get married before we embarked on our new adventure. We looked into the possibility of getting married at home, but there are blood tests and things to sign, same thing in new job city, and it was more cost effective and shorter to do it here in the city. First we had to get our marriage license, which had to be signed by the two of us. I started that process a few weeks ago and printed my confirmation number to get that out of the way. We wanted to get married a wee before the move, to have some time as buffer in case we forgot our IDs or something worse. Hon then planned to get here for Valentine’s week so we could spend a few days together, pick up our marriage license and get married. But, winter storm Nemo delayed our plans, threatening to keep honey away from NYC. I was crushed.

Thankfully the storm didn’t wreak havoc in my neck of the woods, and hon was able to get here, the day after he was supposed to. That delayed our plans a bit, but we managed. First we picked up the marriage license. We stopped at my borough’s local office, waited, and waited, and waited and then chatty guy called our number. That’s when things started feeling real for me. The moment I saw our names printed out on the paper … that’s when it hit me. We were getting married in 24 hours!!!!!

The next day we woke up early and took a subway all the way down to City Hall. The area around City Hall is very pretty, with lots of big buildings, and the Brooklyn Bridge as its backdrop. We got there on time, me dressed in a borrowed dress, him in a new shirt and comfy shoes. The weather was cooperating a bit, meaning it didn’t rain or snow, but it was windy.

Then our witness and a friend who served as photographer, met us, and in we went to *again* get a number, wait for our names to be called, and wait some more. After checking our IDs, paying the ceremony fee ($25, in addition to the $35 we paid for the license) and checking that all the info was correct, we waited. And waited some more. And waited even more. After, our names were finally called, and we were ushered to the area near the chapels, were ceremonies are conducted. One cool thing I noticed was that many couples, both straight and gay, were getting married. I never imagined, not even in my wildest dreams, that the day I got here (which was close to the day that same sex marriage was recognized, *finally*, in NYC) and looked outside my window at the Empire State Building, beaming with the rainbow colours, that I’d be able to see any willing and able couple get married … or that I’d be married here too.

Finally, our names were called. The justice of the peace checked in with us and asked whether he was saying our names right, and off we went. The energy in that chapel was positive. Hon and I were holding hands, looking at each other, looking at our two friends, trying to soak it all in. The ceremony was short, sweet and funny. After saying our I do’s and exchanging rings, we finally kissed and embraced. We were husband and wife, at last.

I stopped for a second and reflected on how sad this day had been in the past. Almost a decade ago, my college sweetheart broke my heart, on the exact same day hon and I got married. My heart was broken, I was shaken and sad, and angry. And all those not-so-wonderful feelings we experience during a heartbreak. I remembered how sad I was at the prospect of spending time on my own, of being alone … and how sure I was I’d never love again, and of course, how I’d be single for the rest of my life. Oh the joys of being 21, right? And now, here I was, holding my hon’s hands, calling him my husband. Life indeed turned around, and happiness had come back into my life, even after some heartbreak.

I looked at my hon and realized how blessed we’ve been. How the city that reunited us, served also as the backdrop to the beginning of our adventure as a family. I’m truly blessed to know this man, to call him my husband, to be his wife. I’m still getting used to the words husband and wife. I can’t believe we’re married and that in two weeks we’ll live in another city, away from NYC, with new responsibilities … but we’ll be together at last. I’m delighted to know that I married my true best friend, my companion of 7 years (and counting) and that we have each other to lean on. I am also happy that one of my resolutions, the best one, is now off the list.

How are you doing resolution-wise?

And NYC reunited us

Even though it’s a bit late (as in, not on Feb 14), I wanted to share with you some tidbits about my relationship with Mr 30 and a PhD et moi, and also, our new family unit, established a few days ago here in NYC.

Mr 30 and a PhD, also known as honey on both this blog and Twitter, and I have known each other for more than a decade now. We met as high school students competing for our respective schools in a National Honour Society thing back in the late 90’s (oh dear, that’s a long time ago). After that, we saw each other once more in my home town church, which will serve as the stage in which we will profess our love for each other (again), this time in front of our families and more friends. We both started college the same year, and graduated at the same time. A few days before that, we’d exchanged numbers, not knowing that life would bring us together a couple of years later. He went to a school in the South, like I did, but in a different state. We’d randomly call each other, all in the true spirit of friends.

Then we broke up with our respective partners at the time. And a year later, on one of those random calls (one he wasn’t supposed to answer because he didn’t recognize my new number), we made arrangements to meet in NYC and go check out some film schools he was interested in applying. I was taking a vacation in NYC and he was looking for a school in which to start the PhD once again. He’d quit after his first year in grad school, gone into a different program, was now working on a master’s. He was ready to start the path down PhD lane once again. This time he wouldn’t be alone, I’d be there by his side.

Then, in August of 2005 all the stars aligned, and after some hesitation on my part, we became an item. One lovely, nerdy, PhD-bound entity. A few months later he moved in with me, lived 1.5 years with me in the South, once again, and after, he embarked on his path down the PhD, this in Canada. I didn’t try to stop him, even though we’d be in a long distance relationship. We weren’t sure what to expect, but I wanted my cake and to eat it too, so I kept the boy, even when he was far away, living in the tundra.

Then we reunited, and I did a bad postdoc. And then I found a job in NYC. The same city he’d been looking into for graduate programs. I left Canada, and with a broken heart I started my NYC adventure. He came to visit more than once, and fell in love with the great city that brought us together … just like I did.

Then last Xmas break, after 7 non-stop years of pure fun (with many long distance installments), honey proposed. It was the happiest day of my life. Here was the man of my dreams, talking about continuing our own little family unit for the long run, and with a beautiful ring, and tears and a sweet proposal to boot. A new job, again in the South, a ring was on my finger …. and just like in one of our favourite shows, a quirky justice of the peace, pronounced us husband and wife … in the city that saw us come together back in 2005. And now we’re embarking on a new adventure. An adventure that started in this City … one I am thankful to have called home for almost 2 years. One I hope keeps surprising us … perhaps even call us back in the future.

Hon and I are now husband and wife, united by a strong bond and a shared vision of the future. And a healthy dose of humour. We’re happy you’ve been part of it, and hope you stay tuned to see how things go from here on. Happy Valentine’s Day from NYC ❤

Questions on leaving my current job

I had a friend email me to say hi and congrats on the last few cool things that have happened (engagement, new job, move out of NY). In addition she asked a couple of questions about leaving my current job. Below are her questions and my answers. If you have a different perspective or would like to share your own experience, please share in the comments. This is aimed at people transitioning from one staff scientist position to the next, but is perhaps useful when navigating job transitions in other areas of academia.

Q. How did you justify going/flying for an interview somewhere else?

A. I told my immediate supervisor the moment I was asked to go on an interview. I consider him a friend. He has kids and occasionally has to take afternoons off, or come in late in the morning, so it wasn’t hard to justify in that sense. In addition, he understands that opportunities like this don’t come about just every day, so he was very supportive in that sense. But even if I didn’t consider him a friend, I still get personal days off at work, so I would have just said that I needed to solve a personal matter and gone anyway. I’m surprised I didn’t spill the beans sooner on both the blog and Twitter, but I was so concerned about making sure that the whole new job thing happened, that I didn’t want to jinx it, or get excited for no reason. If you’re not sure of whether you can confide in people, or about the results of the interview/visit, then there’s no harm in keeping it on the down-low. I know that other people would say that you have to tell someone, but I’m more of, if I’m not sure about something working out, I’d rather keep it silent in case it doesn’t come true. I didn’t tell my boss, just my supervisor and fellow staff peeps because I trust them. I don’t know how differently I would navigate the situation should I work in a different place or with different peeps.

Q. How did you tell your boss and coworkers?

A. I told my immediate supervisor and my fellow staff members. I warned them that I wouldn’t come for 2 days so they knew how to do the bookings and tend to the users. I definitely didn’t book my usual users on those days and even had to turn people down. I didn’t tell my boss-boss. I waited until I came back from the interview with an offer to spill the beans to him. And I did tell him then because a) I was sure I was moving from NYC to new job city and b) people are a bit hard to come by when it comes for interviews at my current place of work. My boss is special when it comes to offering interviews to people, and people above him can be hard asses when it comes to approving job searches. I wanted to make sure he had time to go through the proper channels and could start advertising to replace me ASAP. I know what a nightmare it was just to have my supervisor and me handle a ton of users 2 years ago, and even though we have more people now, it still gets chaotic at times, so I wanted to be considerate towards them and ensure they’d have someone ASAP.

Q. Was it understood that you might be able to leave when you wanted (like a postdoc kinda)?

A. Sort of. When I first got my offer it was understood that they’d want me to try to stay for at least 2 years. I’m not under contract but I do have to give sufficient notice before leaving. I’ve been at work for 20 months, so close to the 2 year mark and in that sense I don’t feel guilty about it. And though I’ve had a great time at work, if I’d found something similar that paid more, I would have left before. I did apply for a job back home and almost got it at around the one year mark, so I would have considered leaving sooner. I guess it all depends on the terms of your hiring, if there’s a contract, if there isn’t, whatever expectations are set before you sign. I’d just make sure that you talk about this topic with any future/prospective employers, just for peace of mind. And most importantly, have it in writing, because you never know if HR or the dean or your boss will harp on it to hold on to you for a little longer. That is one thing I’ve learned at my current position, be vigilant, be a hawk and have everything in writing.

Do you have a different perspective to add? Do you think my answers are how you would conduct yourself or what would you do different?

New habits (in the making)

Based on my NY resolutions, and how much I (sometimes) suck at keeping them, I’m trying to work on making sure I meet (or exceed) them. I’m trying to work on forming new habits, things that help keep my mind in order, my wallet and spending in check and will contribute in the long run to make my life happier and simpler.

My mom bought me a planner for Christmas. It has a motif I like and it has lots of space to write stuff. I love making lists and I decided to try, for the very first time in a long time, to fill that planner and keep it right next to my phone. I remembered that that’s what my PhD mentor did. She had her weekly planner next to her phone so that when she had to schedule a conference call or seminar or let us know when NOT to book a committee meeting, she didn’t keep us waiting. I’m also actively using Notes and Reminders on my iPhone (what a time saver!) and to keep my wedding inspiration in one place (or two) I decided to give Evernote a try, along with Pinterest (though I keep my account with just private boards to share with honey). These apps and measures are sure to help me stay sane in a year that’s looking nuts, between our wedding (civil ceremony, making sure we have a pre-nup to separate my debts from honey’s), the move, starting a new job and making sure that when I leave my current one things are in order, to paying the gazillion deposits for the wedding and the move.

And since one of my resolutions is to get active and eat better to hopefully lose the bulge, I hope to incorporate healthy things into my diet, avoid eating out for dinner and finally eat my fruits and veggies. I’m trying to find out if there is an app or two that would help. And I’ve been tempted to re-join WeightWatchers, which helped me lose almost 20 pounds a few years ago … but I’m worried that I’ll forget to log in and add my meals and my points … plus at times it felt a bit restrictive. Just like 4-5 years ago when I joined I did it while seeing a promo to join for free, that promo is running once again … but, I’m struggling with making the decision and sticking to it.

It looks like I’m also writing once a week, like I did last year and how I tried to do it in 2011. I’m afraid the blog is turning into a sort of diary, instead of just talking about my life in academia (or the fringes). But I’ve said before, (thankfully) my job is not nearly as stressful as the postdoc (or perhaps it is that I simply like doing what I do), so there’s not much to tell job-wise. I don’t want the blog to turn into a Save the Date thing, but inevitably I will gravitate to share wedding stuff here, just as I do on Twitter. The move will be stressful, that much I know. And I’m sure that while I get my footing at new job university once again, I’ll share my adventures and missteps. I guess is the natural progression of a staff scientist, you’re no longer a grad student, nor a postdoc.

Once I have some idea of how much my take home pay will be, I’ll try to start a regular schedule of saving some pennies, for when I want to go home, but especially for the wedding. I will try to save, damn it!

What apps or other resources do you use to help stay active and on track?