27 and a PhD

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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Celebrating life

Yes, yes. I know that during the last year I’ve started more than a few posts with the words ‘live’, ‘living’, ‘alive’, ‘still here’, etc, etc …

But this is a different alive. This is current me looking back at this time last year and wondering how I didn’t jump off a cliff, how I managed to stay on foot and appear semi-neurotypical, given how nasty things were going in my professional life. I’m thankful for listening to my voice (and the voice of my other half) and seeking help, even when I thought there was nothing wrong with me.

There were many, many things going bad in my life. I just couldn’t feel. I thought I was sane (I was sane, and extremely anxious and depressed), but I was just going through the motions, and I didn’t even realize that! I was a zombie and I was too hurt to even realize it.

Looking back I can see that I’m miles away from that old me. I’m able to feel, able to celebrate, cry, stomp my feet when an instrument is being a jerk. I still have triggering moments … but not having to see the PI that made my life hell on Earth has been quite fantastic. I haven’t had a relapse, and my meds are a bit lower than they were 6 months ago.

I’m able to be who I am, warts and all. People don’t think I’m crazy when I do a happy dance if an experiment works. I troubleshoot with more confidence, and learning doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s fun. I haven’t had this much fun since my 3rd year in grad school (the year I did most of my data collection and trained other labbies) or NYC.

But more than work-related stuff, I feel content with where I am in life. I’m honestly happy with who I am, with what I do, with where I live … I’m really liking this new lease on life. I’m on my way to conquer many small hills that will teach me valuable lessons and contribute to my overall well-being. I signed up for a conference, and I’m preparing a talk for a department (a sales pitch). I am genuinely enjoying life; something I didn’t think possible just 365 days ago.

Be well. It does get better.

Resolutions 2016 – 3 month update

As I mentioned on my previous entry, I think I’m doing pretty decent, resolutions-wise. Without further ado, here are my updates:

  • Two (yes TWO) debts should reach the end of their lives. If you go back to 2011, you’ll see that as I was thinking I was making headway in life and starting a new job, with decent pay, etc. I got the news of my life when it turned out that I was not only saddled with my own debt, but that of a family member for which I’d co-signed a loan. When they lost their job, the lender came after me. I’ve been slowly but surely paying this (I can’t give more details, but suffice it to say, the other option was bankruptcy). A part of that debt should be paid off by this summer!!! And, a debt I’ve been slowly but surely paying off (done exclusively by me, by getting credit cards in grad school that I shouldn’t have) should also meet its end this spring. I can see the end of that tunnel. After that, and with the snowball method that I’ve been following (more religiously during the past 1.5 years), I should be chipping in more money into the next debts in this series. In total, I have 5 accounts/debts on my shoulders, two from my family, 3 of my own doing. I can’t wait for this to happen!!! I’m $278 from finishing my (first of 3) card debt. It feels amazing. Seeing such a “small” number compared to what it was at this time last year ($2450), I can’t believe my eyes. In the last couple of months I’ve done two payments/month, a little one (about $50) and a bigger one ($200). I’m rooting for me and I hope to make that last $278 payment before March 31st!!!!
  • Finish training (and feel confident in teaching) on a new tool in my  lab. I have some really snazzy toys at my current job, some that I’m familiar with, others that I’m not so well versed in. I envision that in the first quarter of 2016, I should be more confident in using one of the snazzy tools. Once I get to that level, I will be put in charge of another piece of equipment that is totes new to me. That is a bit scary but also cool. I am trying to become more independent faster and I hope that within the first 6-7 months here I will prove to be an asset (thus far I’m starting to feel like that). I’m in pretty good shape. I was put in charge of another tool that seems a bit less complicated to use. In addition, I have used 3 other tools in the lab, tools which I’d used as a grad student and have used often-ish in the last two years. The feeling of knowing the tools, collecting data and teaching students how to collect their own data is amazing. Hopefully I’ll master this second tool ASAP and I’ll start getting requests from outside users.
  • Get a good (if not great) review …. and perhaps a raise. There was both a freeze in hiring and salaries at my previous job and so, I was not given a raise. But before that, when I was in NYC, I did get a raise (~4%, which looks to be within the norm). I was told that, so long as there’s $$ available, I could get a 2% raise. Now, I know it doesn’t sound like much, but to me, it feels like a fortune .. and it also feels great to have my efforts recognized and valued in some way. I completed my own review … now I’m waiting for my supervisor to meet with me and talk about the goals I set, etc. Typically university-wide reviews happen sometime between mid-April and the start of May, so I should have a better idea as to how I’ve been doing. I feel good about the job, and have had positive interactions with the boss … but I’m cautiously optimistic until I see what he has to say.
  • Attend a conference, or at least a workshop. I had a fellow staff member approach me and remind me that there’s a national meeting on our topic of study … and while it’s in an up and coming city, I wasn’t sure I’d be “allowed” to go .. given that I’m a newbie. But he kindly reminded me that this that this is part of our job and we could be getting new ideas/techniques we could use and expand out repertoire here. In the works!
  • Have a mini emergency fund (ie. $1000) available before the end of the year. I’m $300 away!!
  • Do our taxes ASAP (and find out IF we’re getting a refund). Based on my quick and dirty calculations, we should … but I’m always skeptical until I see the deposit from the IRS. Hon has his W2, I have one of mine … still waiting on the one from my old job … they usually come out around this time of the year … hopefully it won’t get lost like the time it did on its way to Canada! Got all our W2s and did the taxes. We got a small refund, but it was enough to add to my emergency fund and put it closer to the $1000 goal.
  • Go home for Christmas. ‘Nuff said.
  • Appear on a publication, even if just in the acknowledgements section. Always a fave resolution of mine.
  • Get a couch, or at least a recliner … since mine were left behind in the move (boo).

Half a year

I just realized that it has been about half a year since I left my old job and moved to my new one. It feels like a lifetime ago. Last year around this time I was feeling despondent, restless, devalued … and a few weeks after that I’d be diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I look back and see how different things are, how far I’ve come … and I have to pinch myself because I think this is a wonderful dream and when I wake up I’ll be back in my old hell hole.

I’ve been happy for the last 6 months. I never thought I’d say this … but I am happy beyond measure. I’m not being constantly being praised or told how wonderful I am (though I won’t lie, it does happen once every week, I swear) every single hour of the day, but I don’t need it. My one boss consults with me, my other boss (there are always several layers of higher ups when you manage a lab) trusts my abilities … my users like working with  me. Even though I’ve had to learn some new ways of thinking about data, I’ve learned it from students and postdocs that love what they do and don’t mind sharing the knowledge. I have experience with other tools in the lab, and I’ve been able to help outside users get data on those tools. Right now we’re in talks about sending me to a national meeting this year … and did I mention I’ve only been here half a year? Unlike my previous position, I don’t hear people complaining about the place of work. I don’t hear them praise FSM for everything the uni does, but I’ve yet to meet someone that despises this place and wishes it burned to the ground. The interesting thing is that, in terms of national rankings and all that, both places are similar … except my current place is better known than my old one. Perhaps this was partly why my old job felt the way it did, because lots of people lamented that we weren’t a fancy pants ivy league type place. But that is silly because we had great tools, and smart people and wonderful resources.

I’ve assisted some of my old peeps every now and then, but it looks like my dream of leaving the place in good condition for my replacement came true! I wish nothing but the best to my old labbies … even the jerk boss.

I’ve done a lot of local traveling, and been to a couple of cities I used to visit when I was in the East Coast. I am in the East Coast and my town is pretty much a very big blue dot. The place is quiet, but has lovely natural resources around, and major cities (both in the US and Canada) are within a handful of hours from here.

I’ve grown a lot, went down on one of my depression/anxiety meds, have really good benefits and have decent public transportation! I’ve made friends with the building people, and they get stuff done in no time (unlike at my old job). I feel more fulfilled and competent than ever before … and my students and postdocs like me.

I’m  glad I didn’t give up on the dream of being back in the field and becoming a staff scientist (now manager). I really love what I do, and when I’m given the chance to stretch my wings and fly, I do it, and do it with passion and love.