27 and a PhD

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Resolutions 2016 – August update

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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I nearly forgot my username! That’s how long it’s been since I last wrote on here. Anyway, I’ve had a pretty good year job-wise. I got a good review and even got a tiny bump on my salary (while having the bump in salary is pretty good (even though after taxes is not quite pocket change, but it’s not really a HUGE difference either), it’s the thought that my efforts are noticed and rewarded … something that didn’t happen at my previous job). Last time I posted about my progress was back in March. An update is definitely past due.  Without further ado, here’s how 2016 has been shaping up:

  • 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 total, I have 5 accounts on my shoulders, two from my family, 3 of my own doing. I’m slowly rebuilding my credit, because after said family member was laid off, they failed to inform me of the situation and the debt went 6 months without being paid.  When I wrote back in March I was $278 from erasing credit card debt #1. My hope was that I’d pay it off before March 31st. I’m delighted to report that I did, mid month. It felt so freakin’ awesome!!!! I kept checking the card website to see when the payment would be posted, and I did a big jump when it finally did. I called the company just to be double sure that they’d close the account, which they did and a few days later I got the paid in full letter in the mail. Now it resides in a drawer where I plan to add all the other ones. I also paid one of the smaller two debts I was a co-signer for. That freed up nearly $250! With that extra money I was able to have some extra cash on hand when I went for a short vacation this summer, and now I’m adding an extra payment to credit card debt #2. It was relaxing to be able to pay stuff out of pocket and not have to use a credit card at all. I’m so proud of myself. I also got the paid in full letter for that smaller debt.
  • 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. Not totally mastered, but I’ve definitely gotten more experience and built up confidence in using the cool new tool. And now I have a gazillion pieces of equipment to care for. It’s insane how fast these people have put me in charge of things.
  • 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’ve 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. Done! I got a small bump in my pay and got a fabulous first review. I was able to put forward some ideas to attract new users that got the boss really excited. I need to work on this to make it happen.
  • 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. Holy crap, also done!! This summer I got to go to a really cool conference. Last time I’d been to a similar one I was pretty pissed at my job back then. This year people could tell that I was happy and fulfilled. I went to a gazillion talks and some of my students were present, so I got the chance to introduce them to some cool profs and managers in our field. One of them stopped later at school by to thank me for doing this as she’s a double minority and often feels ignored. It was so cool to be able to pay-it-forward for all those times I’ve been given a hand (or introduced to someone).
  • Have a mini emergency fund (ie. $1000) available before the end of the year. I’m $300 away!! Oy, I’ve been so consumed by paying off debt that I haven’t paid attention to my savings. I ended up using those what I’d saved to help pay for some conference fees, but once I got the money back, I threw it into the debt pile.
  • 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!  Done! Also got a decent refund, enough to throw it to the debt pile.
  • Go home for Christmas. ‘Nuff said. Bought my ticket last week!!!!
  • Appear on a publication, even if just in the acknowledgements section. Always a fave resolution of mine. Probably won’t happen this year. Oh well …
  • Get a couch, or at least a recliner … since mine were left behind in the move (boo). Bought a rocking chair and found the same model of that lovely couch I left behind but in a different colour. Have yet to bite the bullet and purchase it. Maybe I should just wait until I move next year.

All in all I’m extremely proud of myself. I’m thrilled to see that the years of hard work, tough situations, sacrifices and tears are starting to pay off. The momentum is there. I just need to be strong, be inspired and keep it going. I haven’t felt deprived or experienced FoMO. The newest thing I’m flirting with is minimalism. It’s a struggle. I’ve been able to donate clothes and shoes that I’d purchased years ago but never used and have been trying to tame my spending habits. I still purchase clothes on impulse. I’m slowly trying to change my mindset to: purchase what’s needed when it is needed, not before, learn to make do with what I currently have, look for better quality items that will last (ie. let go of the fast fashion/instant gratification mentality). It’s is a struggle, as those bad spending habits and my lack of self control were responsible for getting me into the debt hole I’m slowly climbing out of. We’ll see if I can stick to this.

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1 Comment

  1. […] and smaller, I started to feel like I was really on my way to being debt free. Back in August I updated my resolutions for 2016 and you can read up some more on how I felt about paying off one of my […]

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