27 and a PhD

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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.


April 2018

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As usual, it’s been a hell of a long time since I’ve posted anything. Life in general is good. Some aches and pains that are par for my age. Lab is running, equipment is mostly working, people are getting trained, and lots, and lots of emails are getting answered.

I don’t know how exactly this happened, but in the last few months I’ve made it to the end of each pay period in the black. Like seriously in the black. I’m not talking thousands of dollars, I’m talking a couple of hundreds … but it’s added up. Enough that this month I was able to pay the last $407 to credit card #2.

You may or may not remember (or know, if you’re new), that in 2011 I started my post-academic journey by leaving the tenure-track and seeking opportunities as a staff scientist. That same year, just as I was accepting the offer for my first job, I learned that my dad had lost his job (due to the economic downturn) and 2 loans that I’d co-signed for came to bite me in the ass. All of a sudden my careful plans to be debt-free in a handful of years just vanished. You may ask: why didn’t you declare bankruptcy? Well, there is still a lot of guilt and stigma associated with that, and I felt a sense of responsibility that caused me to want to show my face, talk to the companies and start on a payment plan.

Since then I’ve liquidated about $30k in debt from my dad’s loans (which I’m sure he won’t repay because although he’s employed, he’s still barely making ends meet), plus over $10k in credit card debt. I’ve had two plastectomies (Dave Ramsey lingo), though I have opened two more credit accounts which currently sit at $0 balance.

But I still have my giant one, the one who caused me hours and tears to come to grips with. That one sits currently at $10,440 and some change. If I applied myself enough I could finish paying it before the end of the year, but there are some life decisions the Mr and I have made and they may make this more difficult.

What I can tell you is that I’ll be getting a tiny raise, which will go into my savings account each pay period. Thus far I’m operating on the salary I had back when I started this job in 2015, and the bits of extra money I’ve gotten as yearly raises, have gone into my debt repayment journey. I look back and can’t believe nearly 7 years ago I was drowning in debt and felt like I was deep in a hole from which I would never be able to leave. 7 years sounded like an eternity … and at times it’s felt like that, especially when I had that job from hell a couple of years back.

Emotionally, personally and professionally, I am in a better place than I’ve been in a looooong time. Just last weekend I was telling my husband that I moved back to the US in the summer of 2011 with my credit cards maxed out and about $600. That, and the prospect of my first paycheck a week and a half later kept me alive. I don’t know how I did it, but I was able to pay for food and transport in NYC, and was able to pay rent for a temp place, with barely a cent to spare. I compare that to now, when a couple of months ago my vacuum cleaner went kaput and I was able to order one from my local department store and go pick it up and have it paid in full that same day. I feel like a queen, a warrior. I have scars still, like my relationship with my dad is still so-so, and I feel like a recovering addict. I know a false step here or there could put me into the same place I was less than a decade ago. My savings are slim, as I’ve been solely focused on repaying stuff. And the Mr and I are finally moving in together  after nearly 3 years of working on opposite ends of the state and seeing each other on weekends when we can. So, I know some of the little savings I have will be swallowed up by deposits and moving equipment and transport. I know I will recover, but it still scares me to contemplate that I may have to temporarily charge stuff to one of the cards that’s currently sitting at $0. I know I’ll pay it back, but it still makes me shiver.


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