27 and a PhD

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What a month

I’m looking around and there’s still stuff in boxes in my house. I got my moving expenses reimbursed and between registering the car in the state and sending payments to my credit cards for the expenses I went into to get here, I feel that whatever momentary riches I got are already gone (not all of it, but sheesh, moving sucks, and not only physically, but the actual cost). At least I’m fed and clothed. Some of the money has been spent on updating my wardrobe, even though I haven’t gotten to the point of actually wearing the clothes because I’m at my fattest once again. And then I read this in the morning, and all I can do is nod in agreement and almost cry because I feel the exact same way. I know that as director of my lab, I need to play the part and act like it. In fact, I’ve been gently reminded that I am not a trainee anymore and that I must look and act professional, because I am one of the first faces PIs, students and postdocs (not to mention all the MDs that hang around my neck of the university) see. But I’m tired as hell and I don’t feel like ironing. And I have to get on my hands and knees a lot, and change pump oil and dust stuff and install stuff and move stuff. And slacks just don’t cut it for that. So, between being fucking fat (trademarked) and not having time (or inspiration) to iron, my new managerial acquisitions are just sitting pretty in my closet.

Besides that, I’ve started going to the torture chamber (aka, g-y-m). I refuse to say the g word for fear of sounding like I’m training for a marathon or something. And for fear I’ll give up. I’m sure I will. I always do. I’m pretty sure I’ll also be fired from my job because I just have too many things to do, too many expectations to meet, and not enough hours in the day. In fact, after spending almost 12 hours at the uni today, training and helping collect data non-stop since 10am, as I sit here in my chair, at 10pm, I don’t feel anywhere close to being accomplished or done. Yet I have to project a confidence and a light that will attract new people to my corner of the struct bio world. Maybe I’m just tired, or frustrated of being fat, or missing my husband too much while he’s somewhere else for 1 more week, or maybe it’s the lack of PMDD medication … or a combination of all. I feel trapped, like I left this cushy place in dreamy NY, to come to bible-carrying folks territory, while having to meet everyone’s expectations and also keep sweet while doing it. It is hard. Being a director of lab is tough stuff, especially when you’re supposed to be working on your own on 15 different projects at the same time. I now understand my poor previous supervisor and why he took 30 minutes as his lunch break on most days, why his eyes look tired and why he tried to smile, even when he was facing too much stress and too many demands. This job is fucking hard, and I am all alone doing it. And it warms my heart when grad students come and visit and when they see what I do as the greatest help and training they’ve ever had and the individual attention I give them … but it is tough people. And because of all this I barely tweet … even when I consistently get new followers. I’m amazed people still come and read … even when it is rants like this one … I guess there’s an interest in seeing how your next door lab manager falls apart not one month into her new job. Maybe I’m too close to my period to feel happy … or maybe I just need to let it out somehow. Dear God, when I look at the mountain of work ahead of me all I want to do is cry. And I also want to ask other lab managers and directors … how do you do it? How do you stay sane and meet expectations? Is there such a thing as balance? How do you handle the stress and not feel down when you can’t seem to get ahead on things, no matter what you do?

Sorry for the sad note … good things have happened, I guess I just want a bit of the weight off my shoulders … and to let you know that this is tough stuff. Being a lab manager is the biggest, scariest battle I’ve ever faced … and I don’t know if I’ll make it through it while staying sane and providing consistent results.

PS I’m seeing my doctor tomorrow to perhaps rethink my PMDD medication or adjust dosage. I’m being a total wimp and also a bitch and I don’t like it. And I know that something’s off and I need to fix it, so tomorrow I will see the doctor (not only do I promise I will, I have an appointment confirmed and a reminder set on my phone). Despite the guilt I feel about not being in the lab for more than 10 hours a day, I try to make time to take care of me, of eating a bit better, going to the g-y-m and seeing a medical professional about my emotional issues. Perhaps with the right dose and treatment I won’t feel as down and my judgement won’t be as clouded by mental bullshit.

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New habits (in the making)

Based on my NY resolutions, and how much I (sometimes) suck at keeping them, I’m trying to work on making sure I meet (or exceed) them. I’m trying to work on forming new habits, things that help keep my mind in order, my wallet and spending in check and will contribute in the long run to make my life happier and simpler.

My mom bought me a planner for Christmas. It has a motif I like and it has lots of space to write stuff. I love making lists and I decided to try, for the very first time in a long time, to fill that planner and keep it right next to my phone. I remembered that that’s what my PhD mentor did. She had her weekly planner next to her phone so that when she had to schedule a conference call or seminar or let us know when NOT to book a committee meeting, she didn’t keep us waiting. I’m also actively using Notes and Reminders on my iPhone (what a time saver!) and to keep my wedding inspiration in one place (or two) I decided to give Evernote a try, along with Pinterest (though I keep my account with just private boards to share with honey). These apps and measures are sure to help me stay sane in a year that’s looking nuts, between our wedding (civil ceremony, making sure we have a pre-nup to separate my debts from honey’s), the move, starting a new job and making sure that when I leave my current one things are in order, to paying the gazillion deposits for the wedding and the move.

And since one of my resolutions is to get active and eat better to hopefully lose the bulge, I hope to incorporate healthy things into my diet, avoid eating out for dinner and finally eat my fruits and veggies. I’m trying to find out if there is an app or two that would help. And I’ve been tempted to re-join WeightWatchers, which helped me lose almost 20 pounds a few years ago … but I’m worried that I’ll forget to log in and add my meals and my points … plus at times it felt a bit restrictive. Just like 4-5 years ago when I joined I did it while seeing a promo to join for free, that promo is running once again … but, I’m struggling with making the decision and sticking to it.

It looks like I’m also writing once a week, like I did last year and how I tried to do it in 2011. I’m afraid the blog is turning into a sort of diary, instead of just talking about my life in academia (or the fringes). But I’ve said before, (thankfully) my job is not nearly as stressful as the postdoc (or perhaps it is that I simply like doing what I do), so there’s not much to tell job-wise. I don’t want the blog to turn into a Save the Date thing, but inevitably I will gravitate to share wedding stuff here, just as I do on Twitter. The move will be stressful, that much I know. And I’m sure that while I get my footing at new job university once again, I’ll share my adventures and missteps. I guess is the natural progression of a staff scientist, you’re no longer a grad student, nor a postdoc.

Once I have some idea of how much my take home pay will be, I’ll try to start a regular schedule of saving some pennies, for when I want to go home, but especially for the wedding. I will try to save, damn it!

What apps or other resources do you use to help stay active and on track?

Fitness, the elephant in my room (or my belly)

I guess like most people everywhere, one of my new year’s resolutions is to lose the bulge, get fit and look awesome once and for all. But this year this has a special meaning. I’m getting married next year and I want to look (and feel) awesome on the special day. I want Mr 30 and a PhD to look at me and see the same girl he asked to be his girlfriend 7 years ago. I want my dress to fit (a dress I already bought and I’m not planning on altering it much, ie. letting out), I want to not have a belly that makes me look preggers ( I wore a dress for my interview back in December and one of my dear friends from back in the day commented that she was so happy I was pregnant … FML).

I hadn’t realized how fat I’ve gotten in the last 6 years until my friend made that comment, and I realized that no compression garment could hide the bulge. I’m tired of feeling tired, of the jiggly this and that, or wearing compression garments and of course, of the double chin.

I want to do something, but gosh darnit, it is so damn tough to get out of bed and to eat right. Ever since taking the job in NYC I’ve been fighting money problems, and part of making sure that there’s something in my stomach while the debts get paid is to get as much food for as little as possible. Fast food has become a staple of my diet (or lack of it) and although I don’t drink coffee, the daily shot of caffeine courtesy of my regular Coke or Pepsi is something I look forward to help combat the post-lunch slump.

I do get to walk quite a bit in NYC and I adore it. Now that I have my feet in better shape thanks to the custom orthotics my podiatrist made, walking is a lot easier. But that’s about it. I’m eating worse, and with this winter weather in full swing, I don’t like walking outside. I do my bit of walking to the bus in the morning and to work and from work to the subway station, but that’s the extent of my walking. Paying for a gym is out of the question, and living with multiple people who like to cook food I hate (yuck, seafood) makes it harder to eat at home.

I know. Excuse after excuse after excuse.

With my upcoming move in a month I’m looking forward to the new job and especially the benefits. As a student, and later a postdoc, I had access to pretty darn good gym facilities, a pool, and running/walking areas. There were also lots of chances for intramural this and that. I’m not such a huge team player, so I prefer to mind my own business and get on an elliptical, which helps my knees, and burn 300 calories.

I’m surprisingly looking forward to having access to a gym once again (especially one for employees, not crowded by valley girls in skimpy clothes), and heck! even paying for it so I can battle the bulge. I’m not getting younger, and should hon and I decide to conceive, I want to have a healthy weight before we have a baby (though as I’ve mentioned before, we would  be cool with adopting).

I don’t cook meat at home (though I’m open to the option of hon making burgers this summer at the grilling area near our future home). And watching The Biggest Loser the other day (I know, shallow of me, but hey, I get inspired by the show) I realized that I’m not a vegetarian so much as a carbotarian. While you’ll never see me doing the Atkins diet, it’s time I reign in my non-stop consumption of empty calories and carbs. I’m looking forward to making tons of veggie-filled soups, including my new fave lentil and my trusty hot and sour soup with tofu. I’m looking forward to making spring rolls at home once again and definitely eating lots of fruits and veggies. That has me excited. And I definitely want to create a schedule where I incorporate physical activity and strength training (who knew that wedding dresses are SO heavy!).

Let see how I stick to this. I’m currently at 195lbs, jumping all the way to 200lbs before my period. I’m tired of being a size 14 and the XXL tops, the granny undies and the 40D cups. I’m tired of the pain on my knees and perhaps losing the weight will help with my flat feet. I’m tired of being tired and I want to look beautiful on my wedding day and feel totally hot on my wedding night. I won’t turn my blog on a weight-management journal, but I do hope to chronicle my weight loss, perhaps posting a photo of when I finally fit on my wedding dress (because damn it, I’m fitting on that bitch!).

Let see how this goes. As soon as I get my hands on a measuring tape I’ll post my current digits along with those of my wedding dress. Here’s to being below 170lbs before Spring 2014 and fitting on my beautiful wedding dress!

Resolutions 2013

Seeing as I did pretty good (IMO) with last year’s resolutions here’s a list, in no particular order, of this year’s resolutions:

  1. Get new tires for the car that (thankfully) I didn’t sell and will need at new job city.
  2. In addition, get the title of my car from new job city as soon as I can (ie. within 30 days of moving) and not delay it like I did in NYC (still waiting on the stupid title, oh how I dislike NYC’s bureaucracy).
  3. Pay off credit card #3 (the one with the lowest balance, which is still pretty high, IMO) while saving money for the wedding (and perhaps the honeymoon, though for now we’re not counting on having a honeymoon immediately after the wedding).
  4. Marry Mr 30 and a PhD in City Hall before we embark on our new adventure in new job city.
  5. Leave everything I need to in order at my current place of employment so my labbies feel a bit relieved that I didn’t leave them hanging.
  6. Take advantage of the free public transportation initiative that new job institution offers; hopefully I’ll save some money by not filling up my tank as often, keeping the environment cleaner, and of course, avoiding cursing others as if I still lived in NYC.
  7. Attend a conference, workshop or some such networking thingie outside of new job city.
  8. Get my tubes checked. Once and for all. I hate having painful periods. Grrrrrr
  9. Lose 20 pounds, no more, no less, so I can fit in my wedding dress.
  10. Cook at home as often as possible. I’d lost some weight in my previous apartment and with me previous roommate, who was never there. At the new place I have more roommates, and they’re almost always there. I hate not having a kitchen for myself.
  11. Appear in a paper coming out of the new lab.
  12. Prove that my new lab is essential for the institution and hopefully score a tech, even if it’s just part time. I know I’m going to be a busy bee.
  13. Start saving for a DSLR or a Macbook Pro (I know, with the wedding and the kicking a debt in the groin it seems almost impossible, but even if it’s just 300$, I want that money put away for just that purpose).

What are your resolutions?

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.

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?

2012 has been sucking the life out of me

Aaaaaaargh. I really don’t know if 2011 was crappier than 2012 thus far. I know, I have a new job, and I shouldn’t complain, but every month something happens that leaves me out of breath (and mostly, out of money). In January I started the year pissed off … somewhat. I didn’t get to see my family for Christmas and that had me in a bad mood. In February, I lost my unlimited metrocard two days after purchasing. I had to call the MTA and they did a partial refund, but I still had to purchase another metrocard (not unlimited) until I got the refund. Then we got a new staff member in the lab, and of course, my boss had to display his superior skills of being a bully in front of the new person. I was very happy that day. Then in March I applied (and got an interview by phone) for a job back home. The prof was so-so, and I didn’t get an offer (that’s OK, I still have my job that I really like). Then I did my taxes. I got a federal refund which had to be completely funneled to paying Canadian taxes. And because I only lived in Canada part of last year, I didn’t get the usual standard deduction. I had saved some money, but still, it was a bitch. And I ended up with over 2K to pay to the Harper and his cronies (why Canada, why the hell did you vote for this idiot, the clear choice was the NDP, as the liberals had no standing, come on!). And because NY is a great state to live in (hell to the no), I was slapped with a State AND city tax bill. Luckily my tax guy was able to help me cut the losses on the state by  adding what I paid in Canada, but I still ended up paying city taxes because guess what … the idiots at HR didn’t give me the state form. I had a tiny, tiny raise at the beginning of the year, which is now non-existent, as what I got is exactly what’s taken out for city taxes. Finally in May I got to see my family thanks to my wonderful sister’s generosity. But I almost didn’t make it because when it came time to move my car to the alternate side parking place for the days I was going to be away, I discovered that it didn’t start. Some mice ate some cables and stuff and I ended up paying 300$ in repairs. You may say, but 27, you can get rid of it. I sure can, but when every time you’re going to do what needs to be done to sell it, you get slammed with a new issue (be it the car, the city taxes, illness or your missing metrocard), it really sucks all the air in your lungs. It’s like being sucker punched every few weeks.

The best part is that now I have to move. I signed a lease for about a year last year and I was ready to renew it. In truth is a sublease with my roommate. It worked great because I got the city view without being in the city. I know and love the neighbourhood, I had kitty with me and I had a big room with an A/C. And now she needs to move in with her BF, as she’s expecting. I found about it days after returning from my break at home. I left me speechless and breathless. Now I’m apartment hunting again, a “sport” that I hate. And because my savings account are low, it’s going to suck some more if I have to pay several months of security and this and that. And don’t even get me started on the move itself. I should have a tipping jar for my blog. But it feels wrong to ask for money. I need a second job for sure. Ugh.

Oh, and I forgot … I accidentally dumped some food on my little computer. Now half of the keyboard doesn’t work. It makes strange noises whenever I restart, and the brightness control doesn’t work, so it’s always dark. I managed to get a tiny and cheap keyboard … but I do need a new computer. Now I just need to sell my soul on eBay to get it. DFS