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March 31st 2018

I measure certain things in life, things (and events) that are meaningful, on numbers. Numbers of countries visited, how many times I’ve been to Europe, places I’ve interviews, credit score, jobs held.

March 31st, 2018. That’s the date I came up with a few days ago. I was plugging away numbers. And that’s the goal, the end date, of my debt. If all goes well, in a year and 30 days I should be a free woman. I should have all my debts in 0, almost all my accounts/credit lines, reading a big fat 0 … should I keep them open.

Around this time last year I was well on my way to paying 2 debts: credit card #1 (our of 3) and not-my-loan-but-I-was-a-cosigner-hence-I’m-paying debt #1. I was hoping to have cc #2 cleared before the end of the year, but as usual, it didn’t happen. I have added a significant amount of $ to that debt, to the point where there is a comfortable amount of money free, should I have an emergency. I’m paying it off slowly, and hoping that this will be the year I erase that debt once and for all. I still have credit card #3 to pay off, and the send one of my ‘not-my-loans’ loan. Given that those two ‘not-my-loans’ loans were due to my father’s inability to stop himself from going deep into debt, he’s at least savvy enough to look at ways to help me finish that debt ASAP. Should his strategy work (I’m being cautious about it but a little optimistic), I should be free of that burden by early fall of this year.

If/when that happens, I should start making some serious dent on credit card #3. And by March of next year, I should be a free woman. I should be able to save as much as I want, for whatever I want. Some of my goals include: taking over the car payment for a new car my husband and I got (and he’s paying it, but we agreed to split the cost, so he’s paying “his half” until I can take over). It’s been amazing to add a second car to our family, since we’d lived for over a year on 1 car, and I had to do most of the driving. It’s great to be able to work late and for him to drive to my place, grab dinner, then relax at home for the weekend. My car has been paid off for nearly 10 years now (10 years!!!!), and it runs like a well oiled machine. I’m amazed at how taking care of the oil, doing its schedules PMs and fixing minor things (a new battery here and there, some cosmetic fixes, new tires every few years), had managed to get me a reliable little bug, that while old and basic, it takes me from point A to point B without a hitch. I’ve had my car since my first year of grad school. It lived with me in Canada, in NYC, at old job city and now at new job city.

I should be able to increase my contribution to my tax-deferred account, put $$ into my savings account and start working towards the goal of having 3-6 months the equivalent of my expenses, should anything happen. I don’t anticipate much of a chance in my work situation. Honey has a contract, and for now it looks good … but he’s got a new departmental boss taking over in the next year, and a new boss could mean new departmental goals/people (my hubs is not on the TT, he’s a FT lecturer).

It’s insane that nearly 6 years ago I was interviewing back in the States, hoping to get a job in a lab/facility, away from the TT, with benefits. Only to find out that, as I was starting to celebrate my new digs, my dad would admit he’d done really bad money wise and had gone behind my back and wreaked my credit.

It’s taken time to get back in the 700s (my credit got as low as mid 500s!!!).

I sometimes want to pinch myself and ask if this is all real, if I’m truly this close to being debt free. It feels crazy, and insane, and gives me all the feels.

I just hope I’m patient enough and smart enough, to follow through with something, for once in my life, and get to the goal without too many crazy turns.

Living while brown

My husband and I were not raised in the US. We’re (proud) latinos. We excelled in school, got good grades, went to the US and Canada for our fancy degrees. We do cool stuff in the classroom and in the lab.

I can sometimes pass as a white person .. until I open my mouth and start swearing in Spanish. Spanish is my mother tongue .. one I am proud to speak, celebrate, live and breathe.

My husband is brown. He’s got dark hair, facial hair, he’s tall, skinny, uses his hands  more than I do, and speaks Spanish even louder than me. He’s proud of everything he is and everything he does.

We both went to good schools, passed all our standardized tests, got into even better schools, completed PhDs. We’re hard working US citizens, we pay our taxes, he goes to church. We’re not on the lookout for trouble. We’re proud of who we are, but also recognize we’re part of a much bigger picture.

Yesterday, while driving around, he shared that he now carries his passport with him at all times. It’s on the briefcase he uses to carry tests and class materials. He’s even thought of carrying his birth certificate (in English), just so that if he’s stopped, he’ll have proof that he’s a law abiding, brown person, that happens to live in the US.

We don’t carry guns, we don’t like wars, we recycle, we don’t drink or smoke, we were both raised in Christian households …. one would think that all that would be enough to avoid some of the hate and intolerance.

But we know better. We know that the current political climate (and let’s not kid ourselves, as far back as 2001 (when my husband got stopped many times, even while not sporting a beard)), and especially after the 2008 and 2012 elections, brown folks, black folks, people with facial hair and/or hair coverings, they all get harassed and discriminated. A lot.

After the Women’s March we wanted to try a new place in town … a town that’s a liberal den, for the most part. A man saw our shirts (which identified us as participants of the march) and went on a tirade about how protesters should STFU, suck it up, and look for a job like the hard working AMERICANS who voted for the current ruler of this land. He added that if it was up to him, he’d shoot protesters for causing all this mayhem (referring to the people who vandalized property in DC the day before the march).

My husband and I looked at each other and repeated his words in our minds. We held hands, waited till Mr Patriotism vacated the premises and immediately left the local place we were excited to try … because we happen to like supporting local businesses and keeping our hard earned dollars in our town but decided to join forces with thousands of others to denounce racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia.

I feel tired, restless, but also afraid one (or both of us) will get shot. Our jobs (unfortunately) can’t be done by the average folk who depended on (sometimes local, mostly national) manufacturing or mining, or construction, industries. We’re too specialized, invested too much time, in learning a tiny niche, in the grand scheme of our areas of training, to be easily taken over by the fine man who threatened to shoot protestors. We’re part of the liberal elite, disconnected from the fears and struggles of the average Joe. It’s not like my husband teaches about what monopolies do to the local and national economies and why and how that contributes to Mr average Joe with a gun not having a job, a livelihood. It’s not like he teaches about power and class struggles and how lack of regulation of markets, economy and resources affects people’s everyday lives. Nahhh … he’s just smoking a pipe of fancy tobacco, wearing tweed, filing  his nails and telling his students to STFU and grow their hair like hippies … nahh, it’s not like he’s teaching rich kids from the rich parts of Nassau county how to make informed decisions about anything from the products they consume, the decisions that make it easy (or hard) for average Joe to actually get a job. Nahh.

I, on the other hand, scratch my imaginary balls, while killing unborn babies with my lab instruments (FTR, I’ve never worked with human tissue and hope not to). I absolutely DON’T work with local companies to help them understand their products and how to make them better, and expand their services to help revitalize the area. Nahh … that’s stuff big wigs in the cabinet of the emperor with no clothes do.

Ultimately, I don’t know if our differences will be resolved, IF we’ll get to understand each other. But while my living in your neighbourhood and going to work every day does not threaten YOUR existence, your shitty decisions, your hate for what my husband and I do, your lack of understanding, even when we try to communicate what we do … the very decision to call protesters terrorists and tell them to STFU and better yet, threaten to take me and my fellow human, peacefully assemble to protest injustice, to say that racism IS a problem, that sexism HURTS, that not protecting the rights of “the least among you” … all those DO threaten my existence. If you can’t see and accept that, then you may as well erase who I am …. because in your view, I don’t count. I’m nothing, not a human … because I’m not white, don’t practice your exact brand of Christianity, and don’t defend the “rights” that keep me oppressed, and worse, are a death sentence to everyone like me.

Credit scores

IDK if it was due to financial reform or what, but most, if not all, credit card companies seem to be offering (soft check) credit scores these days. I have two accounts that offer such a feature, and thankfully they’re both from different companies (one is Experian, the other is TransUnion). So, as I slowly crawl out of debt, I get to see the impact of being on time all the time. I’m very lucky in that I have a job that allows me to do this. I realize not everyone has this privilege.

If  you’ve been following my story for a while, then you know how much I hated (and still hate) my previous job, and how my economic situation has been since I started blogging (back in 2009!).  I chose to get out of the tenure track back in 2010-11 and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve held 3 jobs, in 3 different places since then, and I finally feel like I’ve found a place I like and where I see myself staying for (hopefully) a long time.

As a consequence of reining in my spending and being a bit more careful with my money, I’ve been able to pay off 3 debts (all of them in 2016, after contributing steadily for years) and I’m on track to finish the two biggest (and last) ones this year.

Based on what I mentioned in the first paragraph, I check my credit score whenever I want. In July of this year, both Experian and TransUnion said I was in the 660 range (my credit score got SO bad due to what I mention here, that I was honestly considering filing for bankruptcy). It got down to 520 at one point, and I remember seeing the letter from my credit card company and just holding my head and saying no. Something had to change. Once I found out what my dad had done, I asked him to give me full control of the accounts. I negotiated some lower payments to keep the cash flowing into those debts, but at the time (2011-2013), I wasn’t able to contribute even the minimum. Lucky for me, the guy in charge of my accounts was kind and understanding and he was willing and able to work with me (thank goodness for credit unions … I can’t say the same for you Bank of America … I hope you rot in hell and I can’t wait to finish paying off my account just so I can call you and say you can shove your card, your interests, and lack of humanity up your ass). Like I said here:

If things continue as they are, I should be nearly debt free by the end of this year. I honestly can’t wait to see what happens. I’m currently sitting at 705 …  not great, but definitely better than 520 or 660.

Near the end of the F year

I have to say that, career-wise, 2016 has been a good year for both my Mr and I. We’ve been doing pretty decently at work, managed to get away for about a week in the summer, got to spend a good chunk of the year together, and we’re gearing up to spend the holidays with our families. Phew.

But the world, the US, science, pop culture … well, it’s been a pretty crappy year all around.

I’m glad we’re near the end of this year. 2017 promises (at least in my head), to be a year of lots of achievements and completing goals … so we’ll see.

I think I’m ready to write down some resolutions for the coming year. As a reminder, here are the things I hoped/wanted to achieve by the end of this year:

  • Pay off/eliminate at least two of my 5 debts. Done and done. I eliminated two debts by June of this year. I really wanted (and worked hard) on eliminating a 3rd. However, I did charge some things (like getting a new battery, new brakes and some other work done on my car) to my card … so I didn’t do this third one.
  • Finish training (and feel confident in teaching) on a new tool in my  lab. It’s really a work in progress. Every week I learn something new … but I still have lots more to go through.
  • Get a good (if not great) review …. and perhaps a raise. Done and done!
  • Attend a conference, or at least a workshop. Done. It was so cool.
  • Have a mini emergency fund (ie. $1000) available before the end of the year. Was pretty close to achieving it, however, between the trip home and some other stuff, I’m only 20% done on this resolution.
  • Do our taxes ASAP (and find out IF we’re getting a refund). Did and applied the refund, in full, to my second of 3 credit cards. I hope that if I do get another refund this year, I can add to cc #2 and put it in the paid off list.
  • Go home for Christmas. ‘Nuff said. Yeah baby!!
  • Appear on a publication, even if just in the acknowledgements section. Always a fave resolution of mine. Not on a publication (yet), but I was acknowledged in a couple of presentations and posters … I call that a start.
  • Get a couch, or at least a recliner … since mine were left behind in the move (boo). Didn’t do. However, I did find the same couch I had, online and perhaps next year I can buy it.

Not on the list but still worth mentioning:

  • Finishing most months on the black!!
  • Visiting NYC for work and pleasure more than I thought possible 🙂
  • Getting a freakin’ new laptop!!!! I mean, I love my iPad .. but I still prefer having a physical keyboard and a bigger screen.
  • Buying a car. So hon can go to school and do groceries and not have to wait until I made it home.
  • Donated a lot of clothes. Recycled a good chunk of boxes and moving supplies. Organized closets and furniture. Trying to be a minimalist (still not perfect … not even close, but dang it, has the idea of minimalism been a catalyst for good things/changes.
  • Met a couple of Twitter peeps in the flesh.
  • Ventured into Canada twice! Both times were to places I’d never been!

For 2017, I hope to achieve/do:

  1. Pay off cc #2 and pay off a good chunk of cc #3. Maybe get rid of my not-in-my-name-debt-but-still-paying-anyway.
  2. Go on and spend some time with my students and pick up some of the cool stuff they do with their samples. Be better at troubleshooting stuff I’m currently not so well versed.
  3. Get another good review. A raise too, maybe?
  4. Go to a workshop or conference … hopefully a high profile one.
  5. Complete my emergency fund and finalize the rollover of my old retirement account into a new one.
  6. Do our taxes before mid-February, and if possible, apply whatever refund I get to cc #2, or maybe #3 if I stick to my guns and pay off what I can but I’m scared of (my mind is really a work of … who knows, I’m a little kooky).
  7. Go home for Christmas. And save money and not go through all my vacation time.
  8. Definitely appear as a co-author, or at least in the acknowledgements. I simply can’t give this one up.
  9. Go to the dentist and get a nice check up (after all, I do have dental coverage).
  10. Perhaps lose a few pounds.
  11. Put some of the money that (hopefully) will become available once I’m closer to being debt free into either my retirement account or a high yield savings account.
  12. Develop better organizing and scheduling habits so I can try to be available (and efficient) on as many instruments as possible (I do have a lot of instruments under my belt … kinda scary).
  13. Cook at home more often and bring leftovers for lunch.
  14. Get to work earlier/leave earlier.
  15. Open a separate savings account, perhaps with a local credit union/bank and deposit some $$ I have that’s been sitting in my drawer for way too long.

 

Money, money, money

You know what’s weird (but good)? I’m not shy about money. You can see how much I’ve written about money or salary related things here, here, here and here.  Not having to worry about money the way I was back in 2011 is yet one of the many parks I have at this job.

See, when I moved back to the US 5 years ago, I was making about $20k more than as a postdoc, but I truly didn’t feel that change because a) I moved ot NYC, and while the cost of almost everything was cheaper than in Canada … rent was a bitch (truly the only downside I saw of living in NYC) and b) I’d just learned that a loan I’d cosigned was not being paid and I took that duty on my shoulders so as to not fuck up some more my already battered credit score (I can’t give too many details, but suffice it to say, this involved more than 2 people and there was shouting and family issues involved). Eventually I had to move jobs as my first post-academia job didn’t pay enough, and we all know how that turned out.

I was making lots of money (compared to say …. when I started grad school … or even as a postdoc), but I wasn’t happy. I felt as if my wings were clipped, my dreams crushed and my soul stomped on. Luckily I got out and I’m doing much better.

Right before the end of my time in #toxiclab, I decided to get really, reeeeeally serious about debt. I mean, I was paying stuff off, but just the minimum, so it would take me until 2078 (an exaggeration) to pay it all off. I was spending money on covering household stuff because my husband was underemployed, I hadn’t taken a decent vacation in a while, and whatever money was left over was being spent on clothes and house decor BS … mostly because I was trying to fill the void that the job I hated had created.

Sometime in 2015 things started clicking and I decided to add more change to what I was paying on my cards and other debts. At first it sucked, but as I saw the balance getting smaller 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 debts.

I’d been plugging numbers for quite some time, and seeing one of those debts just whoosh out of existence gave me this high … a high I’ve been on for a few months now. That has served as inspiration to keep it going. I’m nowhere near done, but I can see a light, though small and faint, I can see it.

I’m trying for a final push this year to see if instead of two debts, I end up with 3 at 0 balance. While paying all those children of Satan I’ve managed to go on a really cool vacation with my hubs paid in cash. The first vacation I’ve come home from without a single penny charged to a card before or after. I finished paying a small loan I’d co-signed years ago and while I celebrated paying it off too, it didn’t feel nearly as good because I took responsibility for a debt I didn’t see a cent of (crazy, I know).

I went to a conference and used my savings to pay for it. Once I was reimbursed, a good chunk of that went into paying another card. That’s the one I’m trying to eliminate before December 31st. I don’t think it’ll happen, but I’m damn sure trying my best.

If all continues as it’s been, I should be debt free by December of next year. I don’t want to celebrate just yet, but I have set it as a goal and I’ll try my best to keep it going. I sometimes run my numbers on a sheet of paper (I’m old school, baby) and I can’t believe my eyes when I see how much money I’d end up seeing, and saving when all is said and done.

See, I never envisioned getting into debt, and when I did and was deep down, I felt so ashamed. And I kept piling it on and on thinking (foolishly) that somehow I’d get out and deal with it some other time. I guess it was my naivete or simply stupidity. But the truth is that pure effort, consistency and discipline have been the things to keep me going. It is sure easy to close my eyes, forget about it all and just open credit card accounts or loans left and right. But having tasted the goodness of paying stuff off and seeing how much money is left in my account, knowing that if I decide to buy a couch, or fix a small issue on my car I can do it and not fear that I won’t have enough money to eat or get to work …. I mean, it’s simply amazing.

I’ll continue posting as I get closer to my goal of being debt-free in 2017.

Near 3 months without a single update …. sheesh

As usual, I know I’ve been absent from both here and the Twitts. I guess that after the #tourofdepression2015 I needed to disconnect a bit, and while I’m doing better now … some of that disconnect appears to be here to stay.

Gosh, where do I start? I have a million things in my head. I went to a conference and a workshop. I got to see some former labmates from two jobs ago, and I still love them dearly. I got in touch with one of my top bosses from my previous job (but not #toxicboss) and got to tell him about the good review, the raise, how different things feel (but not in a way that painted my former situation all that bad … I didn’t mention once #toxicboss or anything. He said he’s genuinely happy that things are looking up.

Indeed … I’ve gotten to do, experience and feel so many positive things this year. Even with a loss in the family and a hectic schedule at times, overall, compared to the last 5 years, this year has behaved.

I’m happy at my job and feel useful. I get to hang out with some of my students off campus (both a conferences and at home, a time or two, and always keeping it professional, no getting drunk or showing boobs or ass around). I’ve instituted rules and procedures … and while I have to remind some of the students to book something far in advance, or be nice and tell others when they’re done using some equipment, overall, I’m happy with them.

I’ve made lots of connections, at school and away, and for the first time in a long time I haven’t looked at a job posting since I started a job. That’s so weird to me. I feared being mistreated again, or getting bored, or something else. But overall I’m happy with the way things are right now.

It’s so unusual, I sometimes don’t know how to deal with these feelings of being in the right place, with the right people. I no longer fear waking up and realizing it was all a dream, but it still takes me by surprise that I can *be* and *feel* happy to belong somewhere.

Been meaning to write for a while

But between the hectic schedule and instruments breaking down, and my energy levels at an all time low, I’ve been putting it off. Then I remembered how good it feels to let things out and feel like I’m coming up to the surface to get some air.

Earlier this year my husband and I came to the realization that moving for this job was a BIG mistake. Neither one of us is happy or feels like we’ve had some of our dreams come true. On the contrary, between health issues that send hubs to the hospital more than once, and my inability to submit and find a way to click with my boss, the heartaches and headaches have been enough. Earlier last week I realized that the only reason I took this job was because it paid more. Nothing else. My benefits at my previous job were comparable and the company ponied up the money for my retirement up front, instead of waiting 6 months or whatever (like my current job does) and deduct it from my paycheck. I know, this is silly. There are a host of other things that I’m not at liberty to discuss that make the job even less appealing, but that’s one that really pisses me off.

And sure, I butted heads with my previous boss on occasion, but he didn’t meddle in lab affairs, or wanted to control my every move, something that I’m constantly fighting against at my current job. The pay isn’t worth the heartache. The city is boring beyond compare, and the stress it has put in my marriage is simply not worth it. I’m a (semi) godless liberal … and this is most definitely not my turf.

Because of those things and more, I’ve decided to start looking for a job. I haven’t warned the boss and I don’t plan to until I have to … ie. until someone asks for recommendations specifically from them. I know it’s a huge gamble, and I’m banking on some of the senior people that I’ve worked on here to help offset my current bosses low opinion of me, the rebellious bitch.

Some of the things I’m thankful for having learned at my current job are that money will not ever buy me happiness. It certainly hasn’t alleviated my feelings of inadequacy, hasn’t funded long vacations home to decompress, let alone freed some time to spend with my husband away from work. I have learned that I’m not willing to submit to an asshole no matter how much money they throw at me (oh, I’m, starting to sound like a high paid escort). And that I was trained well and know my shit, even when the asshole boss is fixated on proving me wrong (time and time again I’ve proven them wrong, yet they continue to give me the evil eye). I’ve learned that I like the fixing part of the instrument more than I thought possible, but I would have to go back and earn a BE in mechE or EE to even attempt to apply to their company. I’ve learned that I love training students and that I can train them faster than I thought possible. I’ve updated web pages and lab protocols to help run things smoothly. I have created databases and started ways to document things that weren’t in place before I got here.

But even with all those little goals met, it’s still not enough. I’ve been asked (forced) to mold into something I’m not, into something that I thought I’d left behind. There’s a reason I didn’t pursue the academic dream, and I’ve been forced to stare at those demons in the face and reiterate that I’m not going to compromise. Academia is not for me. Never was, never will.

I’ve experienced some of the growing pains I’d faced before … when I was a postdoc. And while it hasn’t been nearly as devastating (possibly because I’d faced those demons), it has hurt, it has been painful anyway.

Sometimes I beat my chest and ask the universe, why, why didn’t I stay where I was. The comfort of what was known was reassuring. The demons I battled there were known and I could handle them. I gave myself the freedom to dream and think that I could still make it in academia, well, in the fringes. But I was wrong. There are things I knew I didn’t like and still came back … mostly because I wanted to feel needed. I wanted to know what it was like to go back to a place I’d been and dazzle everyone with my mad skillz. And that pride came to bite me in the ass. And in a way it is OK, because it means I have a couple more notches on my belt. I can lick my wounds and try to fight back. That I have a clearer picture of what I want and know my limits.

Growing pains, being an adult, being a facilities coordinator (my official title), they have all sucked pieces of me. But today I’m making the decision to stand up, to use the knowledge and skills learned and perfected over the last 1.5 years and fight back. I vow to not settle again, to not be dazzled by supposed past glories and by other people’s judgement. I vow to listen to my inner voice, the same one that warned me loud and clear that my boss was trouble; the same voice I ignored in favor of more money and prestige. Take it from me, apparent more money and prestige aren’t always what they are said to be. You need to be true to yourself and embrace your quirks and respect yourself enough to say enough, to walk back, to try to not burn bridges but still be willing to move away, for your family and your sanity.

I’m done.