27 and a PhD

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No, I have not abandoned the blog

Wow, it’s been forever since I last posted here. I never thought I’d abandon the blog, but with the wedding and honeymoon behind me, I finally have time to sort of get back to tweeting and blogging (however sparsely I do both).

The wedding was amazing. Honey looked extremely handsome. My mom worked her tail off to correct a few problems with my dress (mainly, my boobs didn’t fit in the thing), my sister had her stylist do our hair and make up, and I wore uncomfortable but pretty shoes which I promptly ditched after our first dance). We didn’t have a very traditional wedding. The priest did a sanation, which means that our civil marriage was “elevated” in the eyes of the church, to a church one. We got a handy little diploma at the end of the mass/wedding and got to keep our marriage licence from NY State (woohoo!). My sister got late to the ceremony (the stylist took a long ass time with my hair), but she did get there, and my little nephew went down the isle with a cousin and behaved extremely well. Hon’s cousins’ kids walked down the isle throwing rose petals. It was awesome. Both of my parents walked me down the isle, and hon’s mom walked him (we had everyone walk down the isle, kids, two best men, my parents) and my FIL played Canon in D on his guitar. Tons of pictures were taken and eventually we made it to the reception.

At the reception we didn’t throw my bouquet, or did the garter thing. We didn’t do the traditional father-daughter dance (my dad doesn’t know how to dance and our relationship is not THAT amazing, I mean, we talk to each other, but the dance has never held any particular significance in my eyes). We had a DJ, but served food individually to our guests and the people at the reception hall were amazing, always asking if we needed anything, they got me beer, wine and even changed my plate since we served chicken and steak and well … if you know me, you know I’m not a steak person. We danced, with each other and with our guests and when the best men delivered their speeches, one of them mentioned that we wanted our reception to be a family feast, so everyone should eat, dance and spend time as they would in their own house.

Our reception ended early, as the hall was about 1hr away from our hometown and we had some old fellas there. We had lanterns, delicious cake which my sister arranged for and lots of laughter.

I do remember feeling overwhelmed by the dress. By the sheer weight of it. And since it didn’t have any pick up anywhere, I ended up carrying the tiny (but heavy) train all night. The next day my arm was sore.

We went to a hotel after and I begged honey to help me get out of the dress because I felt like I was going to die feeling all sticky and sweaty (I hate feeling like that). After getting out of all the compression garments which held the dress in its proper place, I washed my face like 5 times.

We were spent. Luckily there was a boxing match with helped keep us awake while we manage to sort through our overnight bags and some of the gifts we got. But we almost didn’t make it awake until the end of the fight.

We were asleep like pet rocks before midnight (definitely we don’t have the energy two 22 year olds would have). The next day we drove to the airport to catch a flight to the Caribbean and spend some wonderful time near the beach and near a historical part of South America. It was our first time there and it was awesome. And like I said on Twitter, avoid flying in an American airliner to SA. Fly Copa or any of the other airlines (Avianca, Condor). They way the treat you is amazing. On a total of 3.5 hrs of flying we were given lunch AND a snack, plus whatever alcoholic drinks we wanted. I foolishly asked the flight attendant how much a glass of wine cost and he kindly responded that they weren’t the type of airline that charged customers for their drinks, regardless how much alcohol they had (or lacked).

I hope to share later how my year end review went. And of course, a bit of how year 2 as a lab manager is going. I really like my job, even when there are tough times and tough decisions to make regarding science and equipment. We’ll see how things go. Hon is also doing much, MUCH better and both the wedding and honeymoon went well for him. Lots of stress but he handled it like a champ. I’m very proud of my husband.

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The day I almost died

Another year passes, another accident anniversary.

You see, 9 years ago, while I was in my first year of grad school, I almost died in a horrific accident. I came out of it walking, conscious and well, only some minor bruising and whiplash. But it was hard to believe I made it out alive when people saw pictures and video of the event. It was Mother’s Day 2004 and I was on my way back to my PhD lab from visiting my family. I’d spent a good week with my loved ones, nursing a broken heart. I’d seen my ex, the guy who broke my heart not once, not twice, but three times. I was broken and I wanted to die. I was pleading with God to kill me, or to align the stars so I’d be in a horrific accident and would not survive. I wanted the pain to go away. I was tired of crying myself to sleep for weeks. I think I went to bed crying every single night, from February to April of that year. I lost weight, it felt like I’d lost my reason to live … or what I though was my reason to live.

Eventually I resolved to live and rise from the depths of my depression. Millions of hearts had been broken before. I was not exceptional. I was going through a rough period that a lot of people go through when they’re in middle or high school. But since I wasn’t allowed to date until I was in college (and with restrictions!), I was experiencing my first heartbreak in all of its glory. It was awful.

Seeing my family gave me some energy. But seeing my ex and his new conquest fueled my resolve to do kick ass science. To move forward, to publish, to get my name known by important people in my field. And it definitely fueled my desire to live.

And then there was the accident. And my life changed. I remember as everything was unfolding in the longest minute of my life, asking God for forgiveness. Asking God for a chance to prove that I could do great things. I was afraid to die. I was only 22. It was not my time.

And live I did. I only went to the hospital to get a neck brace and some potent pain killers. All X-rays showed no issues or broken bones. I was embraced by my family, with tears running down their faces. They’d seen the news reports of the accident. They could not believe I was alive. They were happy to see me. I was in shock. I felt like God had listened to me. And now I had to face the pain of the broken heart, and the survivor’s guilt and I needed to move forward.

And I went back to school. I dumped all my anger, my rage, my frustration and my despair into working my tail off. And half a dozen papers came out of that. Some with lots of effort and tears, some with seemingly no effort. I eventually went to therapy to deal with some of the survivor’s guilt, with the feelings of anger I still harbored towards my ex, of the feelings of inadequacy, of the imposter. I’m pretty sure I had some PTSD, judging by the bouts of fear I had for about 1.5 years after the accident. They uncontrollable crying and lack of sleep I got moments before facing the same situation that had almost killed me. It was tough. I’m still dealing with the remnants.

I lived through a rough time when my self-worth was shot. I found love again. I found my calling in science. I found two amazing jobs after one bad postdoc. I am married. I’m an auntie. I’m healthy and I’m working on becoming physically strong.

Now, 9 years after, I am happy and thankful for being alive. I’m happy that I didn’t die on that dark day in May. I’m happy to have a family that loves me, a job that needs me and fuels my interest in science, and I am happy I have a better man, a best friend, a wonderful murse ;-). I am resolved to not go down without a fight.

Sometimes life changes in an instant. And what we thought was our happily ever after becomes a nightmare. A broken heart, a cheating ex, an accident. They all happen at once and you’re left considering the what ifs, and now whats. It is worth going forward. It can be one hell of a transforming experience. And I am happy to be able to tell it.

Hang in there …. it does get better. I am living proof of it.

The new job

My goodness everything here is new. I swear. Well, not everything. But, I feel like everything’s new. I can’t believe the move is done and I don’t have to worry about roommates, alternate side parking or crazy cab drivers anymore. That said, I *freakin’* miss NYC. I really do. For a moment now I thought about hopping on the train to go to Whole Foods and get something to eat. Then I remembered that I’m not in NYC anymore. Sigh. <Insert another sigh.>

The place is bare bones. We have a lot ahead of us in terms of furnishing the place and making sure we make it our own. I am happy we kept some of the things that made our beautiful place in Canada our very own lovely dwelling. But we’re in need of pretty much everything, from a microwave, to more pots and pans (not too many), to a BED, tables, etc, etc. I’m sure we’ll make it happen as time goes by. It just looks SO bare.

So, I guess I should back out a bit. I’ve been in new job city for two weeks now. Most of our stuff was in storage and what wasn’t was in my tiny little room in NY. I’d tried packing as best as I could and then hon helped finish it off. Early on a weekend two weeks ago we went to our storage unit, took out all of the boxes that had been sitting pretty since September of 2011, packed even more boxes at home, took the cat and left the wonderful world of NYC. Hon was awesome as a co-pilot trying to get us out and safe of the craziness of Brooklyn and Manhattan, and then off to cross a bunch of states.

It seemed as though we had to drive forever (it sort of did at times). We drove for a couple of days until we got situated into a small hotel room in new job city, waiting for our place to become available. Hon had to go and finish some business at home, so I spent the rest of the time alone until  days later our new dwelling was ready. I paid the first month’s rent (thank goodness they don’t require 2 or 2.5 or heck! 3 months to rent a place here), took my keys and off I went.

While hon and I did all the manual labour in NY, here I contracted some guys to unload the boxes. I counted and there were over 30 boxes of stuff. Stuff I hadn’t seen in 2 years. Stuff I didn’t even remember I had. That should tell you how much I need the stuff … but, all of the places I lived in NYC had everything (except a bed) and I had roommates. Never once did I get to live alone in the city. Ugh.

There are still about 15 boxes around the apartment. We have some closet space, so I’ve been trying to make the most out of that. Some boxes didn’t survive the trek (or dare I say, 3 treks) to new job city, so out the door they went. I’ve decided to keep some (I always do) because you never know. I do hope we get to live at this place for a year.

The place we’re renting is in a community we’d lived before, so I was familiar with the layout. I get giddy every time I open the door and see space and don’t have foul smells courtesy of my roommate cooking crab or shrimp (hon is allergic and I can’t stand the smell of seafood, yuck).

Right now I’m living on nothing, courtesy of spending the money on the move and on gas and other expenses. Hon is letting me borrow some money until I get a deposit back and my reimbursement for moving expenses gets approved. Even with that, I’m happy we have a roof above our heads and food on the table (or floor!) and that life seems a bit less stressful (for now).

Tons of different places have opened in town and some old staples have new locations. I’ve taken public transport a few times and it is great to leave the driving to someone else (thanks NYC for getting me used to taking the bus and subway!). I have taken the car to work a few times and for some reason I have the same classification as faculty for parking purposes, so as soon as a faculty spot opens, I can get it. Woohoo!

Benefits are good, though a bit different from NYC. Hon and I are still navigating  the waters of health, dental, eye and other types of coverage. And I think I’m opting in for life insurance … because you never know and I’d hate to leave my hubby penniless (he doesn’t like to talk about the subject).

The job is … well. Technically I just started. I had to endure a long ass orientation cycle. Got my ID, got an email, met with a bunch of people from the school, saw my boss (an old prof of mine) and have met one of my supervisors (I have a couple of ’em). I’m looking for things to do. The lab has some equipment that I know how to use,  and some I don’t. I’ve answered a few questions for my previous co-workers (I’m missing them a TON), and planning how to tackle this new lab, with all its intricacies and issues and stuff. I’ve started contacting people and I’m hoping that the sequester won’t do a whole lot of damage (Damn YOU Congress). We’ll see.

I hope to continue posting once a week, usually on Mondays. We just got internet.

I hope to write some more about the lab, my responsibilities and my impressions on coming to this place as an employee, not a trainee. We’ll see how this goes.

Changes, so many changes

When I moved to NYC almost two years ago, I knew that my position wouldn’t be a forever-type thing. I wanted, I needed to have some security, to get out of the training loop. I wanted to have benefits, to have a job that involved doing science, training, sample prep, and of course, learning new skills to add to my repertoire.

I knew the position would only be a temporary fix to my situation at the time (frustrated with academia, hated my postdoc, etc). I also knew, or at least expected, that the separation from honey would be a temporary one, especially while he finished his PhD. He’d be looking for work, hopefully in NYC or nearby, and we’d reunite after a while.

Hon was struggling for a few months to try to find work. He lived with his parents in the meantime, as my salary could not sustain the two of us. We went back to the long distance thing, with him doing most of the traveling to NYC. We’ve had a fantastic time in this city. This city is amazing. I’ve met some super fantastic folks, I’ve made contacts that I never even dreamed would be possible. I’ve met some of my favourite scientists, connected with emerging ones, in general, I’ve had a grand ole time.

I hadn’t been looking for work, or at least actively, since joining my current lab. Since I did such a short postdoc (in my opinion), only 1.9 years, I was afraid of doing a bunch of short stints at a couple of places, and creating the impression that I couldn’t hold on to something for a while, and improve my publication profile, network, present, etc.

Back in October I was contacted by a somewhat new hire at one of my previous places of training. I know this PI because they started in this place just as I was finishing. This PI’s postdoc lab is rather famous in my field, and has been very prolific in method-development. In addition, this lab has had a shit ton of trainees, some of which I’ve gotten to work with or meet since moving to NYC.

People at this previous place of training have been searching high and low for someone to be a manager of a lab in one of my disciplines of training. There have been some major changes (faculty-wise) and some of the people in power know of me and my work.

A couple of weeks ago I flew in for an interview, not sure of what to expect. I hadn’t seen these people since I left for my current job and I wasn’t sure how I’d fit in (if at all). Granted, I was trained at some point of my career there and people know the calibre of work I did. I was sure that all I’d get would be a free trip to say hello and goodbye and that’d be the end of it. I was oh-so wrong.

A few days ago I got semi-official confirmation that the position has been opened … for me. In essence I was asked to name everything I needed In order to leave NYC and join them. Yup. I’m still trying to pick my jaw off the floor.

I’m switching jobs once again. I’m going back and (hopefully) getting a do-over of some of the things I didn’t get to do, or did wrong. Hon will be relocating also, which means I get to have my cake and eat it too! Yeah, pinch me. I’m still trying to understand how the heck did this happen.

This new job has the potential for incredible amounts of growth. I’d be heading a lab I worked in, not as a PI, but as a bona fide manager. I’d be training people, creating protocols, collecting data, interacting with PI’s, postdocs and students of all levels. There would be no middle man like there is now. I’d basically become the female version of my current immediate supervisor, a person I adore beyond measure.

Yeah. I’m still freaking out. I can’t begin to wrap my head around the whole thing. I’ll be leaving NYC. That saddens me terribly. But what I earn now is not enough to live with hon, let alone cover the debt I have. I’d be getting access to the same level of benefits I currently have, along with more responsibility. I’d have access to a kick ass library, to decent sports teams, good food, and a whole new wave of talent.

I’m both excited and terrified. I’m excited about the possibility of working once again with people I know, but in a new aspect of my career. This is not a soft money position and I’m thrilled that the school/department/faculty kept me in mind when the whole change in faculty/department structure happened.

I also have some worries. I’d be the only woman in the lab, in a conservative environment where most of the faculty are white bearded dudes. And while I’ve been trained well in the science and in some admin stuff, I have no idea how to confront white bearded dudes, should they get out of line. I’m half their age at best … this shit is crazy.

I’ve certainly changed a bit from my old days there, so I don’t know how my “new” personality will mesh. I’m worried about that too. I’m worried about how I’ll be able to head the lab and move things along to show that the lab is self-sustaining and that we can bring more staff to help me. I’m worried about the pace of things, and about meeting the expectations. I don’t want to let anyone down. And of course, my imposter syndrome is acting up.

I’m happy about the change though (well, except the part about leaving NYC), about living with honey and being able to afford a place where we’re each others’ only roommate, of continuing our own little family, mamma, dadda and kitty. I’m happy to be able to drive places once again. I won’t miss living with total strangers (thankfully all of them have been sane!), the noises of the street, the crazy, stinky people during rush hour. NYC has been a tremendous adventure, but it’s my time to go.

We’ll see how things happen. But rest assured, I’ll keep writing about life in school, and life as a staff scientist, now loaded with moar responsibiliteez. Omai. I hope the new job, and the new me will still shed some light on the post-academic life. I hope y’all hang in there while I figure out my new roles, as a wife and lab manager.

Oh!? Did I mention that honey proposed and that we’ll be getting married in NYC before the move? Yeah …. totally. But that’s for another post, hehehe

Much love from my family to yours and a very merry 2013.

Not much to report

Same old, same old. Working on a lot of different things, meetings at work left and right. I am excited though to go home in 2.5 weeks. I can’t wait to be with my mom, my sister and my nephew, eat yummy food, go on dates with Mr 30 and a PhD and take it easy. This year has been full of good stuff and the occasional kink, but otherwise it’s been better than 2011.

What are your plans for the holidays?

I should be home for the holidays

Compared to last year, money-wise I’m doing a tad better. Not great, but better. I’m paying a little less in rent (though I live in a place that not even Sandy could get to … thankfully). A few months back I paid off one of my credit cards, and now I’m continuing, though it’s hard. There are many temptations here in NYC and I’d like to rewards myself with nice things every now and then, but the future is much more important, something I try to remind myself as often as possible.

Honey had been paying close attention to the prices of tickets to go home and finally, after a bit of convincing he twisted my arm a bit to travel with the airline I *hate* the most in the world to (hopefully) get me home. I hate this airline (which starts with U and ends with nited) because they’re always screwing this up, but, they had the best price and it’s a direct flight. So I bit the bullet and said yes and now I’m going home in December, in time for the holidays. Last year I was bitching and moaning about staying in NYC and not seeing my family thanks to my father. But this year I still had some vacation days left and the hell with it, I’m going home. The director (dictator) of where I work won’t have my days, hell to the no. I’m taking each and every vacation day I have left and making the most of it. I do need to find a place to leave my kitty cat and square out some other details. But I am going home even if I have to fly myself to hell and back. I’m so relieved and happy. Christmastime is my favourite time of the year. People that haven’t seen me in forever shower me with love and alcohol. Hon and I go on dates. I get to play with my nephew and my mom and I spend some quality time together. I can’t wait to get home.

Most of my resolutions for 2012 have come true in one way or the other. I still have a few left to mark off. I promise to update this as we get closer to the end of 2012. I’ve also decided that 2013 is the year that will bring honey and I together once and for all. I don’t know how but mark my words, Mr 30 and a PhD and Miss 27 (plus 4) and a PhD will be together by this time next year. This is happening.

Science-wise, I have my busy days and my not-so-busy days too. Mostly I’m prepping instruments for people, doing some PM here and there and writing lots of documentation on how to use the different tools available in the lab. I also got a call from one of my previous PI’s. They’re in the market for some equipment and wanted my opinion on it. Maybe in the future they’ll collaborate with my lab. Maybe. It did feel nice to talk to them and talk, on a different level, about lab stuff and my opinion on it. It’s odd, but I felt useful, like the expert they said I’d become.

Also, I finally got an iPhone. Yes, I got the newest one. No, I can’t compare with the old ones, though I giggle when I see the smaller screen of the old ones (I know, I’m a snob .. but hey, it’s the nicest thing I’ve bought for myself this year). I’ve downloaded a couple of apps (including angry birds and the one for the PDB … it is fawesome! yes, fawsome … you know, f-ing awesome).

What’s new with you?

I guess I was wrong

Due to money constraints, I thought I would not be able to attend a conference or a workshop this year. Earlier in the year I went to a workshop a few hours away which was super informative and a great place to network. That resulted in visits from a couple of applications/engineering people who helped a lot with one of our renegade instruments. That beast had been tamed somewhat.

Then my boss and supervisor had a budget meeting and turns out there’s money left to go somewhere, not too far, but still. So, by the end of this month I’ll be flying away from NYC to attend a little conference in my field. I have nothing to present, which is both good and bad. I’m going into new turf and will be talking to peeps who do this thing I do in the lab but which I’m still new at (and apparently the only one right now to do it in my division), so I’m looking forward to getting pointers from more senior people in the field. This was a totally unexpected and very welcomed surprise. I hope to make new contacts and maybe get in contact with a couple of corporate people too. I guess I gave up too soon on the traveling to a conference (however small).

Hon was here for 2 weeks. It was bliss. We went down to DC to celebrate 7 years of being together and we loved it. I apologize for not getting in contact with of you lovely DC tweeps, but we had a little over 30 hours to do some tourism in the area and felt it would have been too short on you to make it memorable. I hope we can go back for a little longer some other time. Hon is still looking for work. I’m also keeping my eyes open for any opportunities that arise at home. I miss my hon, and I want to be near him once and for all.

The air is getting chillier. I’m not looking forward to a bad winter, though I suspect this will be. Bummer.

I’m liking the new place and my roommates. The apartment is homier and I get to interact with the roommates more than I did with my previous one. I’m finally getting used to the new place and settling into a routine. Things seem more normal.

Science-wise, there are lots of projects going on and I’m trying to keep my head straight. Been doing lots of data collection, lots of samples and learning lots too. It’s incredible how much I’ve learned in a year as a staff scientist compared to being a postdoc stuck in a rut. Don’t get me wrong, doing the postdoc taught me many things, but mostly about me and my limits. In this lab I’m learning tons technique- and science-wise.

What’s new with you?